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Fantasia keeps on keepin' on

"American Idol" winners tend to wind up everywhere, or nowhere. At the pinnacle, you have Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, who probably would have had substantial careers even if they'd never been on the show. And down at the bottom are past winners like Lee DeWyze and Kris Allen, who are showing little sign of staying power beyond their moment of "American Idol" glory.

Another winner will be crowned on May 16, and it's too early to say which end of that continuum that Garner homeboy/season 10 winner Scotty McCreery will wind up at. If he's lucky, he'll come to rest in a middle ground somewhere in the neighborhood of season three winner Fantasia, who still has a surprisingly healthy commercial career nine years after winning "American Idol." The High Point native is on her fourth album, "Side Effects of You," which just became her second straight album to debut at No. 1 on Billboard's R&B chart. It also ties her best showing on the main Billboard 200 album list, debuting at No. 2.

The "American Idol" tour comes to Raleigh

RALEIGH -- Wednesday night, a gamut of show-business possibilities played out on stages across the Triangle. Raleigh's NC Museum of Art had a show by country-rock singer Lucinda Williams, whose current balance of respectable commercial success and critical respect would be the envy of any artist. In Chapel Hill to the west, meanwhile, the much smaller nightclub Local 506 had Sanjaya Malakar -- still trying to wring what he can out of a seventh-place finish on "American Idol" four years ago.

And in between, Raleigh's RBC Center played host to the official "American Idol" concert tour, starring 11 performers who would all like a career arc closer to Williams than Malakar. Years from now, maybe some of this year's finalists will get there. But while these kids seem likable enough, chances are good that this is the last you'll hear of most of them.

If nothing else, the "American Idol" tour represents one last victory lap within the show's protective cocoon before the participants scatter to the stages of cruise ships, casinos, state fairs or whatever other fate awaits. A few of them should just head in that direction and get it over with, especially this year's crop of guys.

Paul McDonald was once again a black hole, especially when he skipped. Casey Abrams should be forbidden from ever again attempting any kind of scat/beatboxing, upon pain of death. Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child o' Mine" is a song that's almost impossible to ruin, but James Durbin certainly gave it the ol' college try. And warbly ol' Jacob Lusk proved yet again that he is not, repeat not, the second coming of Luther Vandross.

As for the gals, Pia Toscano came across better live than on television (while also showing impressive balance on heels that looked like a couple of broken ankles waiting to happen). Then there's Lauren Alaina, this year's runnerup, who has a decent voice but almost no presence. Third-place finisher Haley Reinhart showed more vocal prowess and charisma than the rest of the field combined; it was interesting that she, rather than Alaina, got the penultimate performance slot.

Of course, this year's big question mark is what will happen with Garner homeboy Scotty McCreery, who won the competition back in May and has been trying to convince country radio that he's not just a deep-voiced party trick ever since. As his fellow finalists performed, McCreery spent most of the opening set in one of the arena boxes. When security walked him through the concourse to a tunnel beneath the stands to get backstage, it elicited shrieking squeals worthy of Beatlemania from about 50 camera-wielding girls who had staked out his door.

Actually, the locals probably wished they'd gotten more of Scotty Wednesday night. Every reference to him or flash of his countenance on the video screens drew huge roars from the sold-out crowd. But he didn't appear onstage in the flesh until two hours into the evening, doing all his big numbers from the show -- Montgomery Gentry's "Gone," Thompson Square's "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not" and, of course, Josh Turner's "Your Man" (a song he must be truly sick of by now).

Scotty sang fine and showed an onstage ease that will serve him well. And he represented the hometown as you might expect, coming out for the finale medley in a Carolina Hurricanes jersey. For one night, at least, Scotty definitely owned his hometown.

But how long he can hold the nationwide mainstream's attention will depend on his debut album, which he's been working on during the tour. Right before Scotty came onstage Wednesday night, the video screens played clips of all 10 "American Idol" winners being announced in an NFL Films-style treatment, with lots of dramatic pauses and slow-motion interludes. Watching that, it was sobering to ponder how many "Idol" winners already seem done.

Glory can be fleeting -- just ask Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze or Taylor Hicks. But we'll find out, in the long run.

The "American Idol" on his home turf

Ever since Garner homeboy Scott McCreery popped up on the "American Idol" radar way back at the beginning of the season, my N&O colleague Thad Ogburn has been all over the story -- and working the angles to try and score an interview. The network's publicity minions can be incredibly controlling and difficult to deal with, but Thad kept at it and stayed in touch with Scotty's parents. On Sunday, he got his reward, a nice long interview session with McCreery and family during his quick and hush-hush visit to the Triangle (and he even got to bring along his daughter Parker, a huge fan). Read the interview here.

Scott McCreery: And so begins the task...

With Scott McCreery's "American Idol" victory Wednesday night, you might think that he has reached the top of the mountain. He has, but even bigger mountains loom -- and now he's up against established stars rather than fellow amateurs. To read more about his prospects for a long-term career, see this story from Sunday's paper.

Meanwhile, the comments to the story offer up the usual mixture of weirdness and delusion. The very first one reads thusly:

I wondered how long it would take the Nuisance and Disturber's so called reporters to try to make something negative out of this. This is why the N&O has outlived its usefulness. Time to close down and send the reporters to the National Enquirer.

ADDENDUM (6/1/11): Followup.

All the way with Scott McCreery

Jimmy Iovine predicted a guy would be in next week's "American Idol" finale -- and he was right. Garner's Scott McCreery was the first contestant sent to safety at Thursday night's results show, an emotional hour-long segment that showed footage from all three finalists' homecoming rallies from last weekend. He'll compete for all the marbles next week against Lauren Alaina.

Counting down: Top-three for Scott McCreery

You get used to loud noises on the music beat, but every now and then you still hear one loud enough to take your breath away. Like the sound that went up at the Garner High School gymnasium at about 8:58 Thursday night -- when it was announced that homeboy Scott McCreery had made it through to the "American Idol" top-three.

The 1,500 or so people who had assembled at McCreery's alma mater to bear triumphant (they hoped) witness gave a deafening, animal roar tinged with relief, because he was apparently in the bottom-two this week. At the end of the show, it came down to McCreery or James Durbin for the last spot. So now, he'll get the big Saturday homecoming, including an afternoon pep rally/concert at Garner's Lake Benson Park. See details on that here; and a more detailed report on the scene at the Garner gym here.

Meanwhile, Thursday night's results might have sealed the rest of the competition in McCreery's favor. I could imagine him losing to Durbin, but not to either Haley Reinhart (who I expected to get the boot this week) or Lauren Alaina. Right now, this year's title looks like McCreery's to lose. But we'll see...

Scott McCreery coasts on

Well, it's down to crunch time on "American Idol" for our Garner hopeful, Scott McCreery. Wednesday night found the four remaining contestants singing for a spot in the top-three, and this weekend's triumphant homecoming trip. The format called for each singer to do one song that inspired them; and one from the Leiber & Stoller songbook, as coached by pop star Lady Gaga.

McCreery, who Ryan Seacrest called "Scotty the Body," began with Alan Jackson's 9/11 ode "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?" It was fine, though not revelatory -- the fiddler did him no favors and sounded a bit off, and McCreery himself started shaky. But he finished strong, earning unanimous praise from the three judges.

As for the meeting between McCreery and Gaga, it was a true culture clash that had him kissing his cross afterward. His song was the Coasters' "Young Blood," and she coached him to envision the microphone as his girlfriend. Hmm... But his rendition was fun and personable, and the judges liked it, too.

If McCreery makes the top-three, he promised to "kiss the grass" when he gets here for his big homecoming pep rally. That will happen Saturday afternoon at Garner's Lake Benson Park. More details will be announced if he makes the top-three tomorrow night -- and if you want to vote for him, the numbers are 866/436-5703 or 866/436-5707. And even if McCreery doesn't advance, he'll be at Raleigh's RBC Center on July 27 with the "American Idol" tour. Tickets for that go on-sale at 10 a.m. Friday.

You can't stop Scott McCreery, you can only hope to contain him

Well, we're back to no drama for Garner's Scott McCreery. He was the first contestant declared "safe" at Thursday night's "American Idol" results show, at which Jacob Lusk -- he of the excruciatingly off-pitch, cringe-inducing falsetto -- finally, mercifully got his walking papers. So it's on to the top-four for McCreery. See you next week!

Top-five for Scott McCreery

Well, so much for the lack of drama for our man Scott McCreery. Garner's "American Idol" finalist made it into the top-five after Thursday's results show, but not until the very end -- and not until after the producers milked it for all the tension it was worth. McCreery was one of three contestants left hanging as to whether or not they were safe for another week. Then it was down to just McCreery and Casey Abrams, and Abrams was the one who had to go.

So on to next week. In the meantime, a Raleigh date for this summer's "American Idol" tour has been announced for July 27 at the RBC Center. Tickets go on sale May 13.

Top half-dozen for Scotty McCreery

Another week, another advance for Garner's Scott McCreery, who moved on into the top-six at Thursday night's "American Idol" results show. But at least there was some drama to it. Perhaps because McCreery's Wednesday-night performance drew a cool response from the judges, the producers waited until the last two contestants to declare that McCreery had made it through and was "safe" -- and he looked very nervous while waiting out the announcement.

Anyway, on to next week, when the remaining half-dozen contestants will take on the songs of Carole King.

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