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'American Idol': Steven Tyler, producer Nigel Lythgoe convinced Nashville holds 'the one'

January 28, 2011 |  9:56 am


Though much of the buzz (for better or worse) for the last few days has been for the emotionally charged audition of Chris Medina back in Milwaukee, after spending two days in Nashville -- only the second time the show has made it to Music City -- judge Steven Tyler proclaimed he thinks they may have found “the one.”

Quite a promising statement for such an early phase of the competition (there is still a few more rounds of auditions before Hollywood Week), despite it coming from one of rock’s elder statesmen, who’s undoubtedly seen his fair share of talented vocalists on the road.

The judges made one thing clear when they arrived to the famed Ryman Auditorium, former home of the Grand Ole Opry: They were hoping to find someone to fill Carrie Underwood’s multiplatinum heels. 

When Underwood took the crown in Season 4 back in 2005, the country queen subsequently became the show’s singular most bankable winner as she’s become a multiplatinum success -- snagging five Grammy Awards and 11 Academy of Country Music Awards along with a cornucopia of other accolades in her post-Idol career. 

It’s understandable that the competition would want to replicate the success Underwood achieved after taking the title by turning to Music City in hopes of cashing in on the big voices of the city. 

Though viewers were treated to a barrage of backstories -– a former couple who were now auditioning together, a “recording artist” who touted copies of her disc (sans any packaging) and an overall wearing country boy who surprised the judges with a little Josh Groban -– the judges finally tightened the reins and were tougher on contestants.

Jennifer Lopez wasn’t impressed by a beauty queen (Miss Teen USA 2009 to be exact) and told the hopeful, before giving her a “no,” that “the voice is not strong enough,” and when she was outvoted by her male counterparts, Lopez dismissed her as the “smallest voice we’ve ever heard.” The tough love weighed heavily on Nashville with Randy Jackson asking one contestant “what kind of joke is this” after an audition -- he is later chided by Tyler for being too mean and warned that he shouldn’t “tell people they are not good.”

But with so many wannabes flying out of the double doors (host Ryan Seacrest was mum on how many actually made it to Hollywood from Nashville), Twitter might have long ago spoiled who the chosen one might be.

Back in October executive producer Nigel Lythgoe took to Twitter to gush his excitement about a certain contestant during the filming of the Nashville auditions.  

“We have just seen a really gifted 15 year old that may well win #AmericanIdol this Season. Brilliant talent in Nashville today,” he wrote without naming names.

But unless producers decided to only feature one talented 15-year-old during Nashville (a theme we explored Thursday), all signs point to Lauren Alaina. Saved for last –- as has become customary for the show’s most emotional personal narratives -– Alaina was inspired to sing by a cousin who became stricken with cancer and whom she treats like a big sister.

After belting Faith Hill's “Like We Never Loved at All” the judges lend her an emphatic “yes.” Lopez is in tears. Alaina –- who brought her cousin in to see the audition –- is in tears and Jackson proclaims she’s one of the best they have seen and she hasreal natural God-given talent.” She even leads her family in for an impromptu performance of her parents' song –- which happens to be Aerosmith’s power ballad “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” for which she gets Tyler to duet with her. 

Could Alaina be enough to follow in Underwood’s footsteps?

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy


Photo: Allen Lewis, 26, performs in front of the judges on Thursday, Jan. 27 on FOX. Credit: Michael Becker / FOX.