MARK KENNEDY: According to various oddsmakers, Rossville’s Lauren Alaina Suddeth is something of a long shot to win “American Idol.” To boil it down, the bookmakers think she has about a one-in-three chance of winning. By definition, that means Scotty McCreery, the other finalist, has a two-in-three shot of winning. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t really matter. This is likely to be an amicable week on “Idol,” without the built-in tension of previous years. Viewers will be treated to performances by two supremely talented, middle-America kids, both of whom are likely to have long, country-music careers. My advice to viewers is sit back and enjoy.
• Prediction: McCreery wins “Idol.” Later, in the big world, Suddeth wins the first CMA award of many for both singers.
CLINT COOPER: If my favorite, James Durbin, can’t win — and since he finished fourth, he can’t — America will have a difficult choice in picking its favorite countrified American Idol. Both Lauren and Scotty seem to be good, clean-cut, down-to-earth teenagers, both sing well and both probably have good shots to make it — at least make a dent — in Nashville. It will be a pleasure to watch them compete, and it will be a shame one will have to finish second. Before the season, viewers — including me — were ready to abandon the show after it lost its bankable star, Simon Cowell, and seemed on a several-year slide into mediocrity. This year’s talent and an interesting, if far less critical, panel of judges made the show worth watching again.
• Prediction: My heart goes with the hometown girl, and my head goes with Scotty. Scotty wins in a closer-than-expected finish.
SUSAN PIERCE: My head tells me Scotty McCreery is a lock; my heart wants the hometown favorite to win.
How can you not root for a guy like this: MTV reports that after last Wednesday’s results show, Lauren and Scotty joined Ryan Seacrest backstage for the coin flip to see who would sing first tonight.
Scotty won ... but he deferred to Lauren and let her choose. What a Southern gentleman! She, naturally, chose to sing last, a savvy move that means her voice is the last viewers will hear before voting.
He has been the front-runner all season, and I like to listen to him. But he’s becoming a one-trick pony as far as his vocal range, while she has the potential to become so much more.
• Prediction: The blonde dark horse wins. Lauren becomes the first woman in four years to wear the “Idol” crown.
KAREN NAZOR HILL: Having been one of the reporters to cover “American Idol” since its beginning, I can say in all honesty that this has been, by far, the most interesting season. To have a hometown girl slide into the finals is phenomenal. There were times I didn’t think Lauren Alaina was mature enough to handle the pressure, but in the last few weeks she has stepped up to the plate.
My admiration for Lauren and Scotty skyrocketed when I saw their hometown videos that aired last week. Scotty’s emotional visit home was equally as compelling as Lauren’s. When Lauren visited the tornado-devastated Ringgold, she had me in tears.
• Prediction: I’m going for the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School sophomore. I think she has more versatility in her voice and will be able to reach a wider audience than Scotty.
LISA DENTON: I can’t remember when “Idol’s” final two singers have been so equally paired in terms of likability and talent. No matter how the voting goes, this year’s competition is a win-win situation for Scotty and Lauren, laying out his-and-hers steppingstones into country music careers.
I’ll be glad when the cameras are off and they have a little time to actually relax and rediscover the joy in singing. Trying to make sense of the judges’ often conflicting comments, as well as those of producer Jimmy Iovine and the various guest mentors, was a little like riding a Tilt-A-Whirl for the audience, so I can only imagine how disorienting it was for the singers.
• Prediction: My heart’s with Lauren, who has more crossover appeal and voice potential that has yet to be tapped. But winning “American Idol” comes down to demographics, and the screaming teen queens who make up a vast share of voters will crown Scotty their king.
Staff writers Mark Kennedy, Clint Cooper, Susan Pierce, Karen Nazor Hill, and Lisa Denton contributed to this report.
Mark Kennedy is the editor of the Times Free Press opinion pages and writes the Sunday “Life Stories” column. He also writes a Saturday automotive column, “Test Drive,” for the Business section. For 13 years, Kennedy was features editor of the newspaper, and before that he was the newspaper’s first Sunday editor. The Times Free Press Life section won the state press award for Best Community Lifestyles four times during his tenure. Before Chattanooga’s newspapers ...