So this was it. Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina were competing for all the marbles–the coveted prize of being the next American Idol. They were also, at 17 and 16 respectively, the youngest two contestants ever to reach the finale. They would sing three songs each–the first being their personal favorite from this past season; the second a song chosen by their own idol; and the third being the lead single if they won. In the latter case, that meant a craptastic formulaic country song (apologies to my songwriting pals in Nashville).

So here we go…..

Round 1: “Gone” by Montgomery Gentry. Scotty nailed this one a few weeks back, and that performance vaulted him into contention. Last night it wasn’t as magical, but still very strong and a good way to kick things off.

Round 2: “Check Yes or No” by George Strait. Strait chose his own song for Scotty, and I thought it was a good choice but was kind of a bland performance–good but not great.

Round 3: “I Love You This Big,” the single. Wow, this song was brutally horrible. Scotty did it justice, but let’s face it — you just can’t polish a turd.

Round 1: “Flat on the Floor” by Carrie Underwood. Now, they had mentioned that Lauren blew out a vocal cord during rehearsal. Yikes. It’s not like she needs that or anything. But they brought the staff doctor out, who said he gave her meds and that she’d be fine. I don’t want to know how much cortisone they gave young Lauren. Anyway, she was tentative, but still gave a kickass performance.

Round 2: “Maybe it was Memphis” by Pam Tillis, chosen by Carrie Underwood. I thought this was a better “idol” choice than Scotty’s, and Lauren delivered it nicely.

Round 3: “Like My Mother Does,” a way better single than Scotty’s and even more appropriate for Lauren since her mom has been with her every step of the way. Lauren spontaneously walked out to her mom in the audience and hugged her while singing through tears, and I said to Mrs. Mike that she may have just won.

So interestingly, they blazed through the one-hour show, but so much so that there were over 30 minutes remaining after each contestant sang two songs. And at that point, they asked the judges to comment. Randy said he gave round 1 to Scotty and round 2 to Lauren; J-Lo agreed, saying it was an explosive start; and Steven gave both rounds to Lauren, telling Scotty that Lauren was “prettier.” Ha!

Then they had Taio Cruz sing the show’s song contest winner, “Positive,” complete with a heavy dose of auto-tune. Blech!

After Scotty’s single performance, Randy said it was a brilliant vocal but he didn’t love the song. I love it. J-Lo said Scotty is a great storyteller; and Steven said he nailed it again. Translation–they both agreed with Randy that the song sucked.

Lauren made more of an impression in round 3–Randy said it was an amazing choice; J-Lo said it was a tight race but that Lauren “may have just won.” Hey, I said that first! And Steven pointed out that he thought she was “the one” way back in the Nashville auditions last summer, and he still believes that and that she will win.

Me, I give Scotty a B+ and Lauren an A-. So yeah, I have Lauren winning too, in large part because she had a better single, but also because she played to everyone’s emotions, a powerful vote-gathering move.

But wait, there are five minutes left. Oh, David Cook would sing the Simple Minds classic, “Don’t You Forget About Me,” Cook’s version that was the exit music for each contestant booted off this past season.

So tonight is the finale. Last year they had all kinds of big names show up, and they will no doubt try to out-do themselves again. It should be interesting to see who shows up and performs. See you back here tomorrow with the results!