‘American Idol’: Nashville Was All About Lauren Alaina

Seventeen thousand hopefuls showed up when American Idol rolled into Nashville looking for possible contestants, but only one chanteuse truly blew Season 10 judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler away in last night’s episode: a 15-year-old Georgian named Lauren Alaina. She was the final audition during the show’s two-day stint in Music City. So what was so great about her? Head below. Our trio of judges sat through the usual parade of audience-pleasing freaks (the not-so-camera-shy LaToya Moore—aka wannabe soulstress “Younique”—and some dude who walked in wearing what looked like a blue Pulp Fiction gimp suit and was billed simply as “?”).

There were also the pleasant-enough crooners who earned their golden tickets to Hollywood (22-year-old farm girl Adrian Beasely, super country boy in denim overalls Matt Dillard and Miss Teen USA 2009 Stormi Henley, who gave a so-so performance of “Father Can You Hear Me.”)

One standout audition from the night was former couple Chelsea Oaks and Rob Bolin, both 23. The exes showed up together (with Chelsea’s new beau along for the tense ride) to try their luck—both as duet partners and then, at the judges’ request, on their own.

The pain caused by their split seemed more apparent on Rob’s part, and they each truly did sing well. But if we had to toss one, it’d be Chelsea. At any rate, both made it through.

By the time Lauren Alaina arrived, Randy, J.Lo and Steven seemed worn out from being presented with the highs and lows Nashville offered up. But the producers spent so much time ensuring that we knew something amazing was on the way (a tease of Steven Tyler saying they might have found “the one” and a lengthy duration allotted for Lauren’s back story) that we truly were hoping to be as blown away as the judges seemed to be by this young talent.

Ms. Alaina came packaged with a tragic background—her older cousin Holly, who had encouraged Lauren’s budding singing career, found out three years ago she had a brain tumor and had to undergo treatment that involved chemotherapy.

So when the charismatic teenager sang Faith Hill’s “Like We Never Loved At All” (with Holly in the room to watch) it was good. But, in all honesty, it wasn’t as mind-blowing as the show had set it up to be.

Here’s a hint, American Idol: subtlety (yeah, right) is a good thing sometimes. We probably would have been more impressed with Lauren Alaina had there been way less bells and whistles touting her sheer awesomeness. But at least we got the highlight of the night out of this segment—watching Lauren sing Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing” (her parents’ favorite song) with Steven Tyler.

Next week: Idol heads to the state capital of Texas, and we have high hopes that the city will live up to its “Keep Austin Weird” slogan.

But before that, let us know what you thought of Lauren Alaina, Rob and Chelsea, and the rest of the folks Nashville offered up last night.