Seventeen-year-old Scotty McCreery and 16-year-old Lauren Alaina both love country and are still under the legal voting age, but that's where the similarities end for American Idol's Season 10 finalists. Scotty has had the confidence (and the camera mugging skills) of a seasoned performer from the start, while Lauren's nerves have gotten the best of her on multiple occasions. Scotty has never hit the bottom two, but Lauren saw her fate flash before her eyes the night Jacob Lusk got the boot. The big question is how will these two measure up when America finally picks a winner? Going into Tuesday's performance round, we looked at three of the most important Idol components: song choice, stage presence and vocals, to see just how Lauren and Scotty stack up.
Lauren: Lauren has been more willing to experiment throughout the competition, but her range could hurt her in the end. Some of her most memorable performances came when she pushed herself to try different genres (see: "I'm the Only One," "Trouble"), but in recent weeks, she's returned to the safe country bubble that Scotty has been locked in all along. So when voters are forced to pick between two predominantly country singers, are they going to choose the consistent country crooner or the girl who just got to the party?
Scotty: Thanks to his deep voice and natural twang, everything Scotty touches turns to country whether it's Stevie Wonder or Elton John (granted, the song was "Country Comfort"). However, the judges took him to task weeks ago for simply not challenging himself enough. Since then, he's explored the higher range of his voice to dazzling results, but has yet to really branch out genre-wise. A weakness? Sure, but Scotty has yet to meet a country song he couldn't do justice this season and has probably fallen victim to bad song choice less times than his competition precisely because of his stubbornness.
Win: As much as it bores us, Scotty.
Lauren: When she's on, she's on fire, but when Lauren's not on her "A" game, it shows. Case in point: Her fumble last week during "If I Die I Young." She became so focused on the staging of the song and the moment that she completely missed a big key change. Then there are her pesky nerves, which Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and pretty much every other guest mentor has tried to help ease, but it's still obvious when her fear gets the best of her and she visibly freezes in place on stage ("You Keep Me Hangin' On").
Scotty: Scotty is much more consistent — albeit less exciting — in this category compared to Lauren. He's been a pro at camera mugging and moving around the stage from the beginning, but sometimes he takes the ballads a little too slowly and fails to get the energy up. And don't even get me started about the peculiar way he holds a microphone (it's not a flute!). However, following a downright awkward lesson from Lady Gaga, Scotty appeared to even improve on that small issue during last week's performances.
Win: Scotty, but Lauren could take this with a good showing on Tuesday.
Lauren: It's performances like "Unchained Melody" that remind us why Lauren was an early standout in the competition. Sure, Scotty's deep register is unique, but just one listen to his and Lauren's duet earlier this season, "Up on the Roof," shows who has the more impressive pipes. As mentioned earlier, Lauren's nerves have played a major factor. If she gets nervous enough, they keep her from hitting the high notes she would be able to otherwise (as was the case with "The Climb"). So while her voice span is greater than Scotty's, her fear sometimes punishes her for being ambitious.
Scotty: His more limited range may put him at a disadvantage, but Scotty has gone to great lengths to step outside of his comfort zone, i.e. the lower part of his voice, and hit the higher notes in the last few weeks. That effort has definitely paid off with the judges, who feel Scotty is "in it to win it" even more than they did before (a feat we didn't think was possible) and has shown fans his softer side. Plus, while Lauren, Haley and James experimented more — to sometimes good and other times bad results — Scotty quietly became one of the competition's most consistent performers vocally.
Win: Lauren, unless her nerves strike again!
Who do you think will win? The American Idol finale kicks off Tuesday at 8/7c on Fox.