Lauren Alaina gets it hands down from 'American Idol' judges
Alaina, who is just 16 and has dreamed of being on the show since she was 6, appeared set to become the show's first female winner since Jordin Sparks in 2007 as well as its youngest ever 'American Idol.'
Los Angeles: Overcoming a blown out vocal chord, Lauren Alaina has become the judges' favourite to win the "American Idol" title on Tuesday, topping rival country singer Scotty McCreery with an emotional song dedicated to her mother.
Alaina, who is just 16 and has dreamed of being on the show since she was 6, appeared set to become the show's first female winner since Jordin Sparks in 2007 as well as its youngest ever "American Idol."
"Lauren gets it hands down," judge and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler said after the two contestants each sang three songs.
After what the judges deemed a close run first and second round, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson joined Tyler in saying Alaina had sewn up the competition with her performance of "Like My Mother Does," an original song that will be released as a single if she wins.
"It is a very tight race tonight, but Lauren with that song you may have just won," Lopez said.
The winner, chosen by the public, will be announced on Wednesday at the end of a two-hour broadcast and gets a guaranteed recoding contract.
Alaina stepped down from the stage during the performance to embrace her weeping mother, Kristy, who was in the audience.
Backstage following the show, McCreery, 17, said he, too, had been moved by Alaina's final performance.
"I was about to cry when she was singing because both of our moms have been here throughout the whole thing because we're minors and we had to have a parent," McCreery told reporters.
Lopez described McCreery's performance of his potential single, a ballad called "I Love You This Big", as "an amazing job".
Alaina hurt her voice during rehearsals, sparking reports that she might not be able to compete on Tuesday. "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest brought the show's doctor onstage to explain that Alaina had blown out a vocal chord but had been given medication.
"I'm here, I'm ready to sing, and I'm fine. Don't worry about it," she said.
And sing she did, though backstage following the show she answered reporters' questions by writing answers in a notebook and having McCreery read them aloud.
Alaina and McCreery beat out 125,000 contestants and survived months of competition rounds to reach the finale of America's most-watched television show. It was "Idol's" youngest finale match-up ever and the only all-country face-off in its 10 year history -- a major showcase for the genre.
"Country fans have been so great to both of us," McCreery said backstage. "The only reason we're still here is because of them."
McCreery won over fans during the season with his deep voice and a low key, poised personality that belies his age. Alaina was seen as an all-American girl but was sensitive to criticism and shed tears several times during the season.
In the first round, the contestants performed their own choice of numbers; for McCreery, it was "Gone" by Montgomery Gentry, and for Alaina it was "Flat on the Floor".
In the second round, songs were chosen by country music legend George Strait, who picked 'Check Yes or No' for McCreery, while 2005 "American Idol" champion Carrie Underwood chose 'Maybe it was Memphis' for Alaina.
After four years of falling ratings for broadcaster Fox, the "Idol" audience is up about three percent this year at 24.8 million regular viewers.
That's partly due to a shake-up on the judging panel that brought in pop sensation Lopez and rock legend Tyler to join veteran Jackson — and with them a kinder, more supportive vibe.
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