McCreery, the 17-year-old baseball-playing high school student of Garner, N.C., will face off against Lauren Alaina, the 16-year-old cheerleading high school student of Rossville, Ga., on the Fox talent competition's finale beginning Tuesday evening at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles. The teenage matchup marks the youngest in "Idol" history.
Producers lowered the minimum age requirement before the 10th season launched, allowing Alaina and other 15-year-old singers the opportunity to audition for the first time last year. McCreery and Alaina will perform a series of tunes Tuesday, and after viewer votes are counted, one of the young country crooners will be crowned "Idol" on Wednesday.
The pair have both delivered consistently smooth performances since their attention-grabbing auditions when McCreery wowed with his deep register on Josh Turner's "Your Man" and Alaina impressed with her soaring range on Faith Hill's "Like We Never Loved At All." McCreery never appeared as one of the low vote-getters, and Alaina did only once three weeks ago.
The duo have managed to outlast more seasoned and experimental finalists, such as 22-year-old songstress Pia Toscano of Howard Beach, N.Y., 22-year-old rocker James Durbin of Santa Cruz, Calif., and 20-year-old singer Haley Reinhart of Wheeling, Ill. Reinhart, who was eliminated last week, isn't sure whether McCreery or Alaina will win the grand prize.
"It's so close because they're in such a close lane together, as far as country goes," Reinhart said.
Throughout the competition, McCreery has maintained his old-school country style with renditions of such songs as Travis Tritt's "Can I Trust You with My Heart" and Garth Brooks' "The River," while Alaina has presented herself as a potential pop-country princess with performances of Shania Twain's "Any Man of Mine" and Miley Cyrus' "The Climb."
The show's judges - Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler - have equally heaped praise on the upstarts. However, without ever facing elimination this season, McCreery is expected to strike Alaina out after Tuesday's installment with a bigger base of voting fans, joining the likes of past "Idol" winners like David Cook, Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze.
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