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Guest Blogger and 'American Idol' Alum Elliott Yamin: 'I'm Baffled By The Final Two'

While still coming to terms with the results of this week's Top 3, season 5's second runner-up recalls his own elimination night: "I didn’t give the Chris Daughtry or a Haley look -- I wasn’t that surprised."

elliott yamin publicity 2011
Nick Spanos
Elliott Yamin

After months of competition, more than a dozen eliminations and a trip home that culminates in one giant love-fest with attendance in the tens of thousands, Top 3 week is American Idol's most fulfilling hurdle, no doubt, and also its most exhausting. The few that have sat in that position --  be it on the couch or a golden stool -- recall doing their damnedest to table the stress of the contest while trying to concentrate on the three songs plus group numbers they would perform on the finale. Elliott Yamin was one of the fortunate few to make it that far when he came in third on Season 5. Alas, a strained rendition of Journey's classic "Open Arms" would send him packing. But while he gets what the final 3 were going through on Thursday night -- "an hour of nerves" -- he doesn't quite understand Idol's current country predicament. Read on for Elliott's assessment...    

I really don’t know what to make of the Top 3 results last night. On one hand, I don’t want to take credit away from the final two since we all know how hard it is to make it on that show and all the work that goes into it week in, week out. Then again, when it comes to country music -- and I’ll risk sounding ignorant here -- it’s the most loyal fan-base and the most widespread, so I think that bodes well for cats like Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina, who both have that twangy country style to their voice. Look at what Carrie Underwood has done. That lane of music is still very much thriving and with the help of a show like American Idol, I think they go hand in hand.

Clearly it wasn’t about the voice this season, because if it was, Haley Reinhart would in that finale. I think she’s got a real sexy tone and I’ve been a fan of hers since jump street. My favorite moment of the whole entire season was that jazzy number she did with Casey Abrams – it showed people that there are cool jazz songs! And I thought she really rocked the Led Zeppelin song, but “You Oughtta Know” was a bad choice. I didn’t like the way she sounded on it. That was a weird one.

As for Scotty, the cool thing about him is that he’s been allowed to stay in his own lane, where in the past, you’ve had so many country singers that have been forced to sing all these different genres of music. He’s been able to basically sing a country song every week. I thought “Amazed” was a wise choice on his part, although I’m not a big fan of his voice. It doesn’t wow me -- there’s nothing unique about it, other than it’s really deep.

Lauren’s second performance of The Band Perry’s “If I Die Young” was her best of the night. Leeann Womack's “I Hope You Dance” is a really beautiful song, but I don’t know if she did it much justice. She wasn’t tender enough for it. That’s the one thing all season that’s been bugging me about Lauren: she doesn’t know yet how to emote. It’s like she’s not quite understanding what she’s singing about. It’s something I had to learn and I’m still learning even after the show. Anyone who can sing can get up there, but you also have to make that connection. I think it comes down to one thing with Lauren: age. She doesn’t know how to use her voice yet. She hasn’t found her identity as a vocalist because she hasn’t been around that long.

To be honest, I’m kind of baffled by the final two. I’m sure Jimmy Iovine will find hits for these kids, but I just don’t see anything that unique about them, and I think we’re learning more and more that oftentimes, it takes a lot more than just a good voice, or even a great voice. I don’t hear a great voice in either one and it’s a singing competition.

In a perfect world, Lauren and Scotty would have split the vote allowing Haley a chance, but a multitude of things could explain the final two. For one thing, the show is really gearing towards the younger and younger singer. Youth is a big part of this business when it comes to discovering and developing talent. And there’s the country realm, which is it’s huge in America -- bigger than people realize. You can see from Lauren and Scotty’s hometown visits; it’s like they were headlining their own country concerts.

And that’s another reason for the sometimes weak performances on Top 3 -- like when I totally butchered Journey’s “Open Arms” -- it’s because that week is really busy. And these three seem busier than ever! I remember that week we were whisked away on a private jet to be home for 20 hours, we get back home, step off and shoot B-roll with Clive Davis, we go right into the studio to do background vocals for group song… I think it all caught up for me and I was ready for whatever. But when they announced my name, I didn’t give the Chris Daughtry or a Haley look -- I wasn’t that surprised.

But I also remember feeling a lot of pride. I couldn’t wait until they showed my video package, I felt like I really represented the city well and I was real loose. It’s like being on a plane with turbulence, I’m always calm because it’s out of your hands. If the plane is going to take a nose dive, there’s nothing you can do about it. Not that I’m comparing a nose-diving 747 to Top 3 night… In all honesty, Top 3 was probably the least nerve-wracking because I knew that no matter what happened, I had exceeded all the goals that I set out to accomplish. I made everyone proud, even myself.

One of the great things about Idol is, when the show’s doing well, or when anybody from the show has success, it gives the rest of the Idols the opportunity to keep doing their thing, This year, they worked really hard at developing these contestants and getting them ready for the real work of the music business. I thought that was really interesting, and even when I wasn’t so impressed with the talent, I was with the way the show harnessed that talent.

So who’ll win this thing? I’m going with Scotty. He seems to be the heartthrob, he’s very well-liked and he’s got the more unique voice of the two, I guess. They’re both really good kids. The night that Casey got saved, they invited me, Mikalah Gordon, Carly Smithson and Michael Johns to give the kids advice on what to expect on tour and in this business. They were supposed to air it and never did, but it was really cool. I had a good time talking to Scotty and Lauren, who was really sweet. The best of luck to them, it’s another season in the books. 

Twitter: @ElliottYamin