Garner's Scotty McCreery has passed his final test with the "American Idol" judges. Starting Tuesday, it will be up to viewers whether the deep-voiced baseball player advances in the competition.
In the episode aired Thursday night, Scotty, a 17-year-old Garner High School senior, was named as one of the 24 finalists in this, "Idol's" 10th season.
He and the other 11 male finalists who will next perform Tuesday night. Viewers can then cast their votes by phone and, new this year, by Facebook. On Wednesday, the 12 female finalists will perform. Then on Thursday, those with the lowest votes will be eliminated.
In the shows that aired this week, which were taped last fall, Scotty's performances were mixed. Contestants had to form groups to sing Beatles songs on the stage of Cirque du Soleil's "LOVE" in Las Vegas. After initially choosing "If I Fell" -- and being bluntly told it wasn't working for them -- Scotty's group performed "Hello Goodbye." His voice sounded good -- and he remembered the lyrics -- but the overall performance of the trio, right, was a bit kitschy, even by Vegas standards.
Scotty was much, much better in his final solo performance of the audition week -- Josh Turner's "Long Black Train." (The boy loves him some Josh Turner. His previous go-to song was Turner's "Your Man," aka "Baby, Lock Them Doors ...") Scotty also won over the judges, particularly Jennifer Lopez, with the way he stood up for younger contestant Jacee Badeaux.
After letting Scotty know that he has advanced, JLo tells fellow judges Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson that Scotty proves there are still good people in the world. Awwww! (Cool little footnote: The song playing as Scotty celebrates is from another North Carolina group -- the Avett Brothers' "Head Full of Doubt, Road Full of Promise.")
Scotty's showing is the best by a Tar Heel since 2009, when Chapel Hill's Anoop Desai was in the show's final seven. Scotty joins an elite group of "Idol" finalists from North Carolina that includes Fantasia Barrino (winner in Season 3), Clay Aiken (runner-up in Season 2) and the trio of Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler and Bucky Covington (all finalists in Season 5).
She's not a Tar Heel, but Naimi Adedapo, left, who performed here in December for Burning Coal Theatre Company, also made the Top 24. Her last solo performance was a great version of Corrine Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On."
Final thoughts from this week's shows:
--Producers and the judges are often just cruel to the contestants to create a little TV drama. They make them take a lonely walk the length of an air hangar before getting to the silly "star chamber" where the judges sit. Then, the judges tease them with stupid little tricks like saying, "I'm sorry to tell you ... that you've made the Top 24!" Worse, they make the final contestants come in groups of two or three and then sweat out that only one of them can go home. That's just mean.
--We know it's hard on the contestants, but we don't really need drama from the judges, too. So JLo has a near breakdown because she has to send people home? Pu-leaze! Suck it up. You're getting paid a lot for this.
--Glorifying contestants who are obviously a little unbalanced is an "Idol" staple. (And a bad one.) But tagging along as one of the unstable hopefuls decides to have a fast Vegas wedding? Really the wrong call. (And no, it's not a good sign that the contestant is thrilled that the wedding chapel is the same place where Britney Spears had a quickie wedding!)
--And finally, how in the world can contestants in a singing competition get to be 15 years old and have never heard a Beatles song? That's just some bad parenting on someone's part.
"Idol" will air Tuesday, Wednesday at Thursday at 8 p.m. on Fox.