Scotty McCreery and the other two "American Idol" finalists sang three times each tonight as they sought spots in next week's finale. And guess what? Randy Jackson declared that all three of them are "in it to win it!" Because Randy thinks everyone is in it to win it! (And if you weren't in it to win it, why would you be in it at all?)
In any case, Scotty won good marks for all of his performances -- one personal pick, one judge's pick and one selection from "Idol" mentor Jimmy Iovine.
Scotty's personal selection was Lonestar's "Amazed," which allowed him to show off a higher range than we're used to from the low-voiced 17-year-old. The judges called it a smart choice that was sung well.
Iovine picked "Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not" by Thompson Square for Scotty to sing in the second round. It was a fun song, and Scotty, a Garner High School junior, clearly was enjoying his newfound status as a heartthrob for young girls. Judges Randy and Jennifer Lopez, plus Iovine, said Scotty easily won the second round. (Steven Tyler thought Lauren Alaina was better in Round 2, which makes us really wonder what Steven has in that official Coke cup on the judges' table.)
For the third round, the judges' picked Kenny Rogers' "She Believes In Me" for Scotty. Not a particularly great song selection and not Scotty's best performance. Still, it was good. Steven Tyler said Scotty "put it over the top."
We also had JLo telling Scotty she wants him to shave his head if he's in the finale next week, and we got to hear Scotty's dad, Mike, sing a little "Baby, lock them doors ..."
How the others did:
Haley Reinhart's personal selection, Led Zeppelin's "What Is and What Should Never Be," provided her with a classic rock "Idol" moment. Joined by her father (a dead-ringer for character actor and former "Lenny" Michael McKean) on guitar, Haley rocked it. Even falling down in the middle of the song couldn't stop her. The judges unanimously declared her the winner of Round 1.
Iovine picked Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon" for Haley, and it was good. Not blowing-you-away good, but good. The judges generally praised it. Alanis Morrisette's "You Oughta Know" was Haley's judges' selection. She snarled her way through it, but it was easily the worst of her three performances.
Lauren Alaina's judges' pick -- Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance" -- was her best song of the night. She seemed more mature than usual, and her voice sounded great. (And unlike Scotty's performance of the same song earlier this season, Lauren had no problems with the lyrics.)
Her other two songs tonight weren't anywhere close to that. Lauren's personal pick, Faith Hill's "Wild One," was just kind of meh. Iovine's selection for her, The Band Perry's "If I Die Young," started out OK. But Lauren missed a key change in the middle that left the song a mess. The judges tried to pass her mistake off as "real" and "genuine." Maybe so, but it's not something an "American Idol" should be doing.
So, if Haley took Round 1, Scotty Round 2 and Lauren Round 3, which two will advance? Who knows? Until last week, I was one of the many expecting a Scotty-James Durbin finale.
--A Scotty-Lauren finale would be unusual in that both are so country. Would all the non-country fans in "Idol" Land let that happen? Plus, Haley has been peaking in recent weeks.
--A Lauren-Haley finale might be understanding, but you've got to remember that a lot of young females vote for "Idol," and they like to vote for the cute boys. In nine previous seasons of "Idol," only one has featured a finale with two females.
--A Scotty-Haley finale would be interesting, because everyone thought Lauren would be in the mix. Her wide-eyed Southern girl makes good story line is the kind that "Idol" loves. But I say Lauren will be eliminated Thursday night, with Scotty and Haley competing next week.
Thursday's show will air from 8 to 9 p.m. on Fox. Garner will hold an "Idol" viewing party at Garner High School from 7 to 9. Last week, 1,500 fans turned out. Expect that number to grow Thursday night. Get there early.
And let's hope that "Idol" is saving a lot of the Garner homecoming footage shot last weekend to show on Thursday night. We barely got to see Garner tonight!
Join us Thursday night for our recap.