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'American Idol': Showing country patriotism -- through country music

May 12, 2011 | 12:52 pm

MB1_9187 “American Idol” is coming closer to the finish line and this is the moment –- as the judges continue to remind the contestants –- that matters the most, and when you truly compete.

Jennifer Lopez for the last few weeks has offered a piece of advice that can be taken a few different ways: It's not just about hitting those big-money notes, it's about selecting songs that people at home can really connect with (i.e. hits).

Taking this approach is the textbook way of earning votes, unless you're James Durbin.

Wednesday was another double theme night (songs that inspire you, and selections from the Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller songbook). When it came to selecting an inspirational song, no one seemed to understand Lopez’s advice better than young Scotty McCreery.

McCreery, perched with his guitar, took on Alan Jackson’s “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).”

“Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke,” he sang. “Risin' against that blue sky / Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor / Or did you just sit down and cry?”

Jackson’s 9/11 tribute, at the 2001 CMA awards in November, was a huge hit for the singer. The song sat at the top of the Billboard country charts and reached Top 40 on the pop charts. He also won the Academy of Country Music and CMA trophies for song of the year and single of the year and landed his first Grammy for best country song -- he lost song of the year to Norah Jones.

The teenager, who would have been eight years old at the time of the attack, couldn’t have picked a better time to sing the song.

American patriotism is at a high after last week’s killing of Osama bin Laden at a compound inside Pakistan, which ended a decade-long manhunt. President Barack Obama's approval rating is at its highest point in two years after the triumph -- 60%, according to an Associated Press poll.

As news stations are still covering the terrorist leader's take down, the moments from that day are fresh in the minds of most Americans –- especially as the 10 year anniversary looms. The judges praised McCreery’s performance and song selection with a standing ovation.

“That’s a great, amazing song, it’s a great lyric. Dude, I think it’s a perfect song choice for where we are as a country,” Randy Jackson said. “I applaud you with that big time, heart to heart. I think you’ve set your mark, you’re ready for super-stardom and I hope you make it.”

Lopez did ask for a song that people could connect with.

RELATED:

'American Idol': Lady Gaga steals the show without being present, thanks to Jimmy Iovine

'American Idol': Contestants open up about 'big balancing act' of juggling producers' opinions

'American Idol': Songs from the 21st century? With help from the Billboard Hot 100, we offer our picks

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Twitter.com/gerrickkennedy

Photo: Scotty McCreery performs in front of the judges. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox

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