Scotty McCreery was just declared the 10th "American Idol" winner, but as the past two seasons' Crystal Bowersox and Adam Lambert can tell you, winning isn't everything. Both of those runners-up have sold more albums than the respective contestants who beat them, and I have a feeling this season's runner-up, Lauren Alaina, will continue that pattern when she and Scotty release their albums later this year.
Why, do you ask? Read on.
1) Lauren May Get More Airplay - "Idol" fans loved Scotty, yes, but country radio staffers don't seem to be quite as enthusiastic.Stark Radio recently reported that country radio broadcasters are already resistant to Scotty; WFRE's Jess Wright even said, "If Scotty McCreery gets signed, I'm gonna need to change my phone number," and KUZZ's Toni-Marie quipped, "I'm calling in sick the day they bring Scotty by on the radio tour." These same programmers also seemed to think Lauren has a good shot, with the right material and proper handling.
2) Lauren May Get Better Material - For her first single, Universal Records honcho Jimmy Iovine gave her "Like My Mother Does," a catchy, heartstring-plucking ballad about a young girl's admiration for her mom. Aw. Scotty, on the other hand, got the grammatically awkward "I Love You This Big," with a silly chorus a boy might sing to his mom at age 5, not age 17. Were the "Idol" powers-that-be, who clearly wanted a girl winner this year, trying to sabotage him by giving him the weaker song? I don't know--but I don't think "I Love You This Big" did him any favors, and if he gets material like that for his first album, those above-mentioned radio programmers aren't going to change their minds about him.
3) Lauren May Get More Label & Management Support - It's been proven that if the "Idol" powers-that-be don't get the winner they wanted, they'll proceed with their original plans anyway. For instance, Taylor Hicks won Season 5, but all the 19 Entertainment marketing efforts that year went into making Chris Daughtry a star. Way more support was given to Adam Lambert than Kris Allen, and we all see how much effort the "Idol" machine put into launching Lee DeWyze's career. On this week's final showdown it was obvious how hard Lauren was pimped over Scotty, and while that attempt failed, that doesn't mean Lauren won't get a bigger marketing budget and bigger push later on.
4) Lauren Has More Crossover Potential - Let's face it, most modern country music nowadays doesn't sound very country at all, save for a bit of steel guitar buried in the mix and the teeniest hint of twang in the singer's Pro-Tooled voice. I personally like the fact that Scotty doesn't try to mix too much pop in his country, and keeps it old-school, hearkening back to the classic hat acts of yore. But Lauren's poppier style does seem more in tune with today's country scene. Those radio programmers' comments cannot be discounted, nor can the fact that two of "Idol's" most successful alums ever are Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler. (Lauren has also been compared to that other mega-selling "Idol" lady, Kelly Clarkson.) Carrie and Lauren's finale night duet almost seemed like a staged symbolic torch-passing, and Lauren later told reporters backstage that Carrie told her, "Wow, that was incredible. We should take that on the road!" So Lauren has the potential to become Underwood 2.0.
5) Girls Dominate The Charts - The biggest sellers right now are Adele, Lady Gaga, Nicki Minaj, Katy Perry, Beyonce, Rihanna, and the like, and ladies rule the country charts, too (Taylor Swift, Miranda Lambert, the female-fronted Lady Antebellum, and of course, Carrie Underwood). Girls don't tend to do too well on "Idol" anymore--we've had four male winners in a row now--but they sure do well in the real world.
Of course, this is no diss on Scotty; he is the superior performer of the two, a real showman, so he may pick up even more diehard (read: record-buying) fans as he headlines the Idols Live Tour this summer. But hopefully getting all the way to "Idol" finale gave Lauren a confidence boost, and the sassy girl we saw back in Nashville, the one who had the guts to challenge Steven Tyler to a "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing" duet, will soon reemerge onstage and on record. On "Idol" Lauren sometimes seemed like a butterfly turning back into a caterpillar, as the pressure of competing got to her, but now it's time for her to her to break out of her cocoon. So don't rule out Lauren just yet.