Kyle Anderson
May 26, 2011 AT 05:40 PM EDT

It’s telling that American Idol runner-up Lauren Alaina’s first single was originally recorded by fellow countrified Idol contestant Kristy Lee Cook, since her performance of the song on Tuesday night (which included a guest appearance from Alaina’s actual mother, who had become something of a supporting star in her own right) was about as pandering as Kristy’s take on “God Bless the USA” back in the show’s seventh season. (Though apparently the stars and stripes are more bulletproof than mothers—Kristy was safe that week and Lauren lost out in the end.)

The silliness of the performance distracted from the song itself, which might have been a blessing. Even as far as inspirational country ballads go, “Like My Mother Does” is pretty paint-by-numbers, with all the nods to classic country (those fiddles, that banjo) tucked neatly behind walls of over-produced guitar so as not to upset the crossover potential.

Alaina’s voice is perfectly functional and pleasant, and she is able to carry the melody quite well, though that little bit of rasp that snuck into her performance on the show this week is deeply missed in the recorded version (country usually sounds better when soaked in whiskey and cigarettes, though Alaina isn’t old enough to buy either).

Alaina certainly has the potential to craft a lovely collection of modern country tunes, but “Like My Mother Does” doesn’t do her any favors, nor does it clearly play to her strengths the way rival Scotty McCreery’s “I Love You This Big” does. Really, “Like My Mother Does” is a lot like Alaina herself: Sweet but bland, pretty but forgettable. C+

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