LOS ANGELES (AP) - The lights aren't out for Scotty McCreery on "American Idol."
The deep-voiced 17-year-old country crooner of Garner, N.C., who first became known to "Idol" viewers this season for bellowing the lyric "baby, lock the doors, and turn the lights down low" from Josh Turner's "Your Man," flawlessly performed a trio of tunes on the Fox talent contest Wednesday, while his two competitors briefly botched their songs.
"You're approaching that Garth (Brooks) level," judge Randy Jackson told McCreery.
The finalists were tasked with performing tracks chosen by the show's judges, mentor Jimmy Iovine and the singers themselves. McCreery launched with his personal pick of Lonestar's "Amazed," following it up with Iovine's choice of Thompson Square's "Are You Gonna Kiss Me or Not" then sealing it with Kenny Rogers' "She Believes in Me" from the judges.
"You put it over the top for me just now," judge Steven Tyler said after McCreery's last performance.
It wasn't as effortless for Lauren Alaina, the twangy 16-year-old ingenue from Rossville, Ga., and Haley Reinhart, the feisty 20-year-old fatale from Wheeling, Ill. Alaina missed a key change on The Band Perry's "If I Die Young" from Iovine, while Reinhart slipped on the stairs - but kept on rockin' - during her pick of Led Zeppelin's "What Is and What Should Never Be."
"It's not about how many times you fall," Tyler advised. "It's about how many times you get up."
That moment didn't seem to trip up Reinhart, who's appeared as a low vote-getter four times. She won praise from the panel for her moody, wind-swept rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon" from Iovine and her energetic take on Alanis Morrisette's "You Oughta Know" from the judges, though the panel noted that Reinhart struggled with the wordy verses.
"I think we all heard the same thing in the middle parts," judge Jennifer Lopez mildly scolded.
Alaina's flub on "If I Die Young," which Lopez dubbed "a very honest moment," didn't deter her from later taking on Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance," chosen by the judges. Lopez said Alaina, who's appeared at the bottom once, gave her goosebumps, and Tyler noted that the pop-country princess waltzed onto the stage like she "owned the Grand Ole Opry."
One of the three finalists will be eliminated Thursday with the other two advancing to next week's finale, where one will win a record contract and be crowned the 10th season "Idol." McCreery, who's never appeared at the bottom, is the presumed front-runner, likely leaving Alaina and Reinhart to duke it out to sing in the final round next Tuesday.
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