On a stressful results show tonight in which two of the 11 finalists would be going home, Scotty McCreery, right, got to breathe easy early on. He and fellow Southerner Lauren Alaina were sent to safety shortly after performing a duet to open the show.
Scotty’s performance of the little-known Elton John song “Country Comfort” was praised on Wednesday’s show. Tonight, he and Lauren, who also knows her way around a country tune, sang “I Told You So,” the song by fellow North Carolinian Randy Travis that also has been covered by Carrie Underwood.
Host Ryan Seacrest then came out to tell both Scotty and Lauren, a Georgia teen, that they had advanced to the Final Nine.
The remaining finalists also performed in groups:
--Jacob Lusk and Naima Adedapo, left, did a version of Ashford and Simpson's "Solid," complete with lots of choreography that made them look like the Will Ferrell-Cheri Oteri cheerleaders on the old "Saturday Night Live" sketch.
--Thia Megia, Pia Toscano and Haley Reinhart sang Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream" -- a performance that would have seemed more at home on "Glee."
--James Durbin, Stefano Langone, Casey Abrams and Paul McDonald -- who apparently have formed a band(?) since being named finalists -- sang "Band on the Run." Meh ...
Other performances included North Carolina's Fantasia Barrino, the only Tar Heel to win "American Idol," with a musical ode to "Collard Greens and Cornbread." (No, really -- it's a song on her latest CD!) Jamie Foxx and will.i.am performed an unmemorable song that was basically an infomercial for "Rio: The Movie." (A "Rio" commercial followed the song. That old Fox synergy at work!)
We also saw a video clip in which Scotty and the other finalists got to meet Muhammad Ali and Reba McEntire at a charity event. Plus, they had to move from the “Idol” mansion to a hotel after the home’s roof started leaking. (What kind of cost-cutting mansion were they stuck in, anyway?)
In the end, as most viewers expected, Naima, Thia, right, and Paul were in the bottom three. After Paul was sent to safety, the two women went home.
That leaves six men and three women in the competition. They'll be back at it next Wednesday, with someone going home next Thursday.