A lot is riding on the results of tonight's "American Idol" for local teen Lauren Alaina Suddeth.
If she advances into the top three contestants, the Rossville teen will return to Chattanooga for a homecoming celebration Saturday that is taped for next week's episode. It will be her first chance in four months to see friends and extended family.
The Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School student turned to country music's queen of the power ballad, Martina McBride, to draw inspiration Wednesday night. She performed McBride's "Anyway," dedicating it to victims of the April 27 tornadoes. She said their determination to rebuild has inspired her.
Judge Steven Tyler told the teen, "Your voice is so pure and perfect. You deliver a song like a blue-plate special."
Randy Jackson told Suddeth he was a bit worried about her chance of elimination after her performance last week, but that she was "back in it to win it."
For her second performance, Suddeth said she was stepping out of her comfort zone. She put her bluesy twist on the Elvis hit, "Trouble," from the songbook of Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller. Stoller was in the "Idol" audience.
Judge Jennifer Lopez exclaimed, "I saw a performance quality in you I haven't seen before. We saw maturity."
Students at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School have faith the school's famous alumna will be coming home. Wednesday they were painting signs to welcome her.
Senior Taylor Moulton, an LFO cheerleader with Suddeth, said students have held weekly viewing parties to watch their friend and vote.
"We always get together. The parties are for anybody. We just come together in one of our homes," she said.
Tyler Suddeth, the singer's brother and an LFO senior, said his kid sister used to dance around the house, singing into the TV remote control and putting on a show.
"Since 'American Idol's first year, she's told us she was going to be on that show at some point. She's living her dream," he said.
LFO senior Carlye Ezell said Lauren's talent is well known.
"Everybody who knows Lauren knows she would have gotten to where she is whether or not she made it to 'American Idol,'" she said.
Principal Terri Vandiver said a parade with Suddeth is tentatively scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday, along with a school fundraiser from 3-7 p.m.
"This is contingent on her making it through, which we feel very good about," Vandiver said.