Dear Lauren,

You don't know me, but my name is Chad Benefield and I do mornings at 92.5 WBKR, a country radio station in Owensboro, KY.  We are situated just about 120 miles from Nashville, TN, where you stood on the stage of the historic Ryman Auditorium and knocked the socks off of Jennifer Lopez, Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler and the rest of the America with your version of "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing."  I watched that performance, saved it for days on my DVR, and proclaimed YOU the person to beat in this year's season of American Idol.  I am writing to you today because I don't think you listen to my radio station and apparently you didn't hear me. 

Here's the deal, Lauren.  You are pretty much the last hope for the ladies.  Look around.  They're all gone.  Well, except for Hayley, who sings like an 80-year-old dude who chain smokes Winstons, so I am not sure she really counts.  A lot of us American Idol fans are ready for a female contestant to win again.  After all, with the exception of Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert, the only really successful Idol contestants are Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood (two ladies who won the whole shebang) and Jennifer Hudson, who is the most successful 7th-place finisher in history (or herstory).

Lauren, you don't seem to realize this, but YOU, more than any other female on this year's season of the show, have what it takes to win.  Let's look back at history.  Kelly Clarkson won the first season of Idol because of her combination of Texas charm and that HUGE voice.  Did you watch the first season?  Any time the contestants had to sing those sucky group numbers, Kelly just laid it out and made everyone around her look like amateurs!  Look, as good as Scotty McCreery is, you made him look like an amateur when you sang rings around him during your duet of "I Told You So."  I'm telling you . . . you've got this.

Carrie Underwood won Season 4.  She did it with a combination of Oklahoma charm and a HUGE voice.  And, here's the deal with Carrie.  She, like you, had no clue just how good she is.  I remember when Simon Cowell made his bold prediction and told Carrie that she was going to go on and become the most successful contestant in American Idol history.  She didn't believe him.  But she should have! 

And that's what YOUR American Idol legacy boils down to, Lauren.  You have to believe in yourself!  You already know you have the personality.  Trust me when I tell you that America LOVES when you goof on Ryan Seacrest and make him look like a great big goober!  Personality plays a HUGE part in who wins American Idol and you have that part nailed.  Your friend Pia had the personality of a piece of driftwood.  That's why she got sent packing.  Yes, she had the voice, but she didn't have the personality to boot . . . so, guess what, she got the proverbial boot!

Now, hear me out.  This is the most important part of my letter. (And I am sorry I didn't have any stationery or any cologne to spray on this.  But, you're 16 and that would have been a little To Catch A Predator anyway!)   Listen VERY CAREFULLY, Lauren.  YOUR VOICE IS HUGE TOO!  In fact, I think you actually have a better voice than Pia!  Really!  I'm not kidding!  Quit laughing!  I'm serious!  You're voice is AMAZING and I cannot believe it's coming out of a pair of 16-year-old lips!

But, Lauren, it's time to let that voice FLY!  You've made the Top 8 and that rocks!  But I have a hunch you want to go all the way to the finals and YOU CAN!  But you have to start trusting in those crazy 16-year-old pipes and letting that big old voice loose!  Quit singing "Any Man of Mine" and "I'm The Only One" and "Turn on the Radio" and "You Keep Me Hanging On."  Those are songs any drunk girl in any karaoke club in the country can sing!  (Just ask my friend Jaclyn!)  Pick songs you can kick the s#$@ out of!  And start kicking the s#$% out of them NOW!

The world is tired of people like Taylor Hicks, Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze winning this show.  After they win, they have about 2 minutes left in their 15 minutes of fame!  But, Lauren, you have the voice and country charm that can take you all the way to the The Grand Ole Opry, the CMA's, the ACM's, CMT, GAC, and WBKR!  Trust me.  I know what I am talking about.

Look at Kelly Clarkson.  A Texas girl with a big old pop/country voice rooted in country music.  Look at Carrie Underwood.  An Oklahoma girl with a big old country/pop voice rooted in country music.  And look at you! A Georgia girl with a big old pop/country voice rooted in country music.  You have a lot in common with Kelly and Carrie, Lauren.  YOU have what THEY have.  Give my apologies to Simon Cowell, but you, my dear, have the X Factor!  So, do me a favor . . . and start singing like it!

With all the sincerity in the world,

Chad Benefield (a big fan . . . potentially!)