And the 'Idol' winner is … EVERYONE!

Finale season is now in full swing, and I have to say, call me biased, but nobody does it like “American Idol.”

Watching each new year oddly feels like going back to high school. There’s always a new batch of people, a new batch of talent, different backgrounds, different dreams. Yet everyone is working toward the same goal: Trying to figure out how to “make it” in the real world.

Since I graduated from the “Idol” stage eight years ago now, I look back on my own reality “alma mater,” and I am right back there with them on that stage, living a life within a life.

The stars were definitely out Wednesday night as Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery got set to learn their fate as to who would become the mile marker Season 10 winner this year.

But before that …

The top 13 girls and boys came back and kicked off the show by singing Lady Gaga’s hit “Born This Way” dressed all in white, an Idol tradition dating back to my season. I think Season 10 was the most diverse season thus far, showcasing not only pop and country genres, but also rock, reggae and jazz. I loved the diversity of this group — there was truly something for everyone.

(Chris Pizzello, Associated Press)

First up was James Durbin, who commanded the stage in leather and metal with the band “Judas Priest,” reminding us all that he really knows how to slay a tune. And after his blood-pumping and adrenaline-infused performance, I don’t think there’s any question that this rocker has now staked his claim in the music world — scarf tail and all.

(Chris Pizzello, Associated Press)

Appropriately following the sinfully sensational slashers was Jacob Lusk, bringing the audience back into the gospel light singing the tune “I Smile,” with Gladys Knight and his Idol, God.

OK, not really … more like gospel star Kirk Franklin. I actually really liked the song! It was churchy but that is Jacob to a “T” and it fit his style and voice like a glove.

After a few “Praise the Lord!” and “Halleluiahs!” we were immediately transported into the wacky world of Casey Abrams … and Jack Black, who sang “Fat Bottomed Girls” by Queen. Wildly weird and always entertaining, this duo had the audience on its feet and singing along by the end. Although I was a bit surprised we weren’t “jazzercised,” Casey still remains of my favorites — vocally, performance wise and musically. He’s in a league of his own.

(Chris Pizzello, Associated Press)

Then it was back to the top 13 girls, who sang a Beyonce medley before introducing the queen of pop herself, who is so ridiculously talented and beautiful it makes me crazy.

(Chris Pizzello, Associated Press)

Haley Reinhart and Tony Bennett were paired for Bennett’s cool hit “Steppin’ Out With My Baby,” proving that sometimes less is more — and they kept me wanting more. I absolutely envy the versatility and color of Haley’s voice and think she’s got just the right amount of power and sass to hit it big.
Probably my least favorite performance of the night was TLC’s “Waterfalls” with some of the Idol girls. It just wasn’t memorable.

I did however, think Tim McGraw and Scotty’s performance of “Live Like You Were Dying,” although somewhat “pitchy” (in the words of our dawg, Randy Jackson) was touching and actually brought me to tears. I don’t really know why. Just some good ol’ country music at it’s finest.

(Chris Pizzello, Associated Press

One of my favorite performances of the evening was Marc Anthony featuring the “Most Beautiful Woman in the World” … his wife and Idol judge Jennifer Lopez, who did a smokin’ hot dance number around him while he sang, prompting the statement from Ryan Seacrest, “Now we know what they do at home!”

(Chris Pizzello, Associated Press)

I have to admit that when Tom Jones came out to sing “It’s Not Unusual” with the top 13 boys, all I could think of was Alfonso Ribeiro doing “The Carlton” from “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

The most uncomfortable moment of the evening was, here’s a shocker, Lady Gaga’s performance of “The Edge of Glory.”

(Chris Pizzello, Associated Press)

Besides a very unflattering … how shall I put this … er, crotch shot (which the cameraman did his best to stay zoomed out on seeing that it’s supposed to be still be a “family friendly” show) there was also an awkward love scene in which Gaga …”Gaga-ed” all over a fellow male dancer before jumping off “the edge” with him … all righty, then.

I must admit that Tuesday night and Wednesday night was the best I’d ever heard Miss Lauren Alaina sound. While she was doing the duet “Before He Cheats” with Carrie Underwood, I caught a glimpse of the country megastar she could become. And need I remind you she’s 16 years old? ‘Nuff said.

(Chris Pizzello, Associated Press)

Then it was back to Beyonce, who sang her latest hit “One Plus One.” Her killer voice and unmatched stage presence made up for the horrible cheesy lyrics (“I don’t know much about algebra, but I know one plus one makes two …”) and so on.

I was surprised to see Bono on stage with Spider-Man (yes … you read me right) not only because …well, it was Spider-Man (the singer’s name is Nick), but because Bono was just in Salt Lake City with U2 at Rice Eccles Stadium. Bono and Spider-Man both performed a song Bono wrote for the Broadway show, and it wasn’t too bad.

I was thrilled to see Steven Tyler sing “Dream On” before the results were revealed. He sounded GREAT — it almost felt like a good ol’ family reunion, celebrity style, where some of the “parents” (judges J-Lo and Tyler) got in on the action and performed right alongside the “kids” (contestants.)

(Chris Pizzello, Associated Press)

Finally, after two hours of music madness, it was time to “dim the lights”…

And the winner of American Idol Season 10 was …


And in a snow of confetti falling from the theater sky, Scotty fell to his knees and wept, thanking God for “getting me here in the first place.”

(Chris Pizzello, Associated Press)

A class act, Scotty will go far, not only because he is the 2011 “American Idol,” but also because he is true to himself, his family and his values. And that’s really what country music is all about.

So, in the words of Steven Tyler: Until next year…

Dream on.

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