LISA DENTON: "American Idol" has sucked me in again. I had to watch the whole hourlong episode Thursday night before it happened, but the minute I heard 15-year-old Lauren Alaina (Suddeth) of Rossville sing and saw how poised and confident she was onstage at the Nashville auditions, I was sold. And so were the judges.
CLINT COOPER: Young, perky and talented, Lauren certainly fits the profile of what producers were apparently looking for when they lowered the age of contestants to 15. With her segment reserved for the end of the show and the promotion of it throughout the show, the producers evidently see big things for her in the Hollywood rounds and beyond.
KAREN NAZOR HILL: Her audition on Thursday night's episode blew me away. Not only is she incredibly talented, she's equally as friendly. I loved it when she asked the judges to meet her family. Having been an "Idol" fan since day one, I've always loved the hometown sequences. If Lauren makes it to the top, you can bet she's going to have not only North Georgia residents cheering for her but Hamilton County folks, too.
LISA: She has sort of a husky singing voice that reminds me of Kelly Clarkson's. And her initial song, Faith Hill's "Like We Never Loved at All," is a vocal workout, but Lauren made it look easy. Randy Jackson called her audition "the best we've seen in Nashville." She made Jennifer Lopez tear up. And she sang an impromptu duet with Steven Tyler. All in about five minutes. Wow.
CLINT: The real test will come first in the Hollywood rounds, which may have been completed already, and then in the later rounds with the addition of live television. Lauren and her fellow 15-year-olds may have sung in front of talent competitions, church congregations and school assemblies, but they've never faced that kind of pressure. Of course, most of the 20-something contestants haven't either, but 15 years old is still very young.
KAREN: Judy Garland was 16 when she starred in "The Wizard of Oz," so I don't think age is a factor when it comes to talent. Lauren has been performing in the North Georgia and Chattanooga area for years. In fact, she has competed in local talent shows including our newspaper's Kid Talent Search at Riverbend in 2007. She was a 12-year-old winner who performed on the Bud Light Stage. Judging by her performance and personality last Thursday night on "Idol," I think the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School cheerleader has a good shot of making it to the top.
Contact Lisa Denton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6281. Contact Clint Cooper at email@example.com or 423-757-6497. Contact Karen Nazor Hill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill.