‘American Idol’ Recap: Lauren Alaina Sets The Season Standard In Nashville

OK, “American Idol.” Time to pack it up. No need to bother going through the rest of season 10. As far as “Idol” producers are concerned, we have met our next champion and her name is Lauren Alaina.

The first 52 minutes of Thursday night’s (January 27) Nashville audition episode — filled with quarreling ex-lovers, former Donald Trump trophy teens and far too many “delusional” people who were obviously in on the joke — was like that one time in ’97 when I went to see Blur and they had their friend’s terrible band open for them so that they looked amazing by comparison.

Like Blur, there was no need for the weighted build up to the headliner. Truth is, Lauren Alaina’s voice was the first one this season to make me cock my head sideways (a la Little Forrest Gump) and make my arm hairs tingle. She demonstrated control and conveyed emotion like a seasoned pro during Faith Hill’s “Like We Never Loved at All.” Then she naturally bantered with a misty-eyed J. Lo, quipping, “You’re too pretty to cry!” Was she created in an “Idol” test tube or what?


Alaina even came equipped with a heart-tugging past. Her main inspiration, cousin Holly, is battling a brain tumor. Even more tragic? Her main hair inspiration is Ke$ha, judging from the crunchy rat’s nest that sat atop her pretty little head. Perhaps most tragic? Her dress inspiration was the B-52’s Cosmic Thing album cover. Somebody needed to bang bang bang on the door, baby, and tell Lauren that fluorescent psychedelia ain’t happening for her.

(I feel like such a jerk for blatantly mocking a bubbly 15-year-old’s fashion sense. Why did you have to make my job so dang difficult with this new lowered age limit, Nigel Lythgoe?)

But oh, that voice! Lythgoe has been openly campaigning for this girl on Twitter, saying her pipes are better than Kelly Clarkson’s. With her Southern roots, twang and blond hair, I leaped to Carrie Underwood (if former “Idol” winner comparisons had to be made). But, as a commenter on MJ’s Big Blog astutely pointed out, Alaina also has “a big spoonful of [Kellie] Pickler warmth and a dollop of Jordin’s youthful enthusiasm.” Ding ding ding!

I could have done without the “spur of the moment” Steven Tyler duet, and I definitely rolled my eyes as Tyler gushed to cameras that they “may have found the one.” The pimping is getting old already, sure. But aren’t you at least happy that you don’t feel lied to when the show claims she was the best they saw out of 17,000 Nashville hopefuls?

The other judges’ fave, 28 year old Jackie Wilson, was more of a head-scratcher to me. I heard accidental key changes and shrill notes as she warbled Aretha Franklin’s “Until You Come Back to Me,” but Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez fawned over her like she was the second coming of, well, Jackie Wilson, the long deceased soul singer who helped make the “Scrooged” finale so magical. Wilson is definitely an intriguing one, what with her being in a relationship with Hugh Hefner’s older brother. Maybe her voice sounded better “in the room,” as they say.

I was more stoked about 22-year-old Adrienne Beasley, also known as the opposite of Steve Martin in “The Jerk.” You see, she’s an African-American raised on a farm but was adopted by white parents. Wacky! (Only not really.) Okay, okay, so this “Jerk” parallel doesn’t really hold water, but screw it. I’m keeping it going only because I want Bernadette Peters to become intimately involved in this girl’s life. Wouldn’t you just love to see Bernie sitting in Adrienne’s cheering section (next to Chris Medina’s girlfriend, obviously)? Make it happen, universe!

Beasley’s rich voice was full of pleasant, indescribable qualities. Steven Tyler couldn’t put his finger on what made her “American Honey” so moving, and since Beasley was over the age of 16, he couldn’t fall back on his usual stockpile of creepy come-ons, either.

Speaking of Tyler-isms, earlier in the night he told ex-lovers and current duet partners Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks Chelsee Oaks and Rob Bolin, “Sometimes the deepest passion comes from friction.” I’m fairly certain I’ve read that exact sentence in a romance novel in a description of intercourse. If Mr. Tyler uses the words “bulging” or “throbbing” in next week’s episode, we’ll know he’s getting his critique vocabulary from Danielle Steel books.

Is it even worth mentioning Allen Lewis, the tattoo artist with an accent that Christian Bale would devour if given the chance to play him in a biopic? Probably not. Is it even worth mentioning Stormi Henley, the Miss Teen USA winner who wanted to make it on her “talent alone” until faced with a “No” from Jennifer Lopez, at which point she vamped it up and pouted her lips to get a “Yes” from Randy? Probably not. (Although it is worth mentioning that if Stormi looked like Vernika Patterson from Milwaukee, she would have been laughed out of the room with that atrocious “Father Can You Hear Me.”)

Is it even worth mentioning Paul McDonald, Jimmie Allen or Danny Pate, all singers whose positive auditions were whittled down to seconds in order to make room for the delusional Latoya “Younique” Moore, whose voice could have been mistaken for this? Probably, since one of those boys will probably win this damn show. (Both Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze were shoved into similarly short audition montages.)

Although how could I forget already? It’s 15-year-old Lauren Alaina’s season to lose! I certainly hope the “Idol” producers remind me how good she is in future episodes. Because, you know, I can’t form an opinion on my own.

What did you think of Nashville? Is Lauren Alaina better than Kelly Clarkson? Did you catch Jennifer Lopez adorably bracing herself before that dental assistant began singing? Were you surprised to see Bubba Sparxxx trying out under the name Matt Dillard and singing a Josh Groban song? (OK, it wasn’t Bubba — hey just shop at the same big-and-tall overall outlet.) Leave a comment below! And for more “Idol” insanity, follow me on Twitter @jambajim!

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