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Idol Worship: The Final Two Face Off

Allen_lambert Between the Lakers game across the street, a 4.0 magnitude earthquake underground (the second in a week), and, of course, American Idol’s final showdown, downtown LA was literally bouncing last night. And amazingly, it was smooth sailing in and out of the Nokia Theater. For us, anyway. Who knows how long Adam Lambert and Kris Allen had to stick around for more rehearsals, interviews and glad-handing. But before we get to our post-show exploits with the guys (which lasted all of five minutes and was shared by a hundred or so other journalists) and some backstage scoop we were able to gather, we offer our final rundown of the season that brought back fingerless gloves and showed that a sparkling personality isn’t always a must when it comes to advancing in this competition. As for who the American Idol will be? Admittedly, we’re torn. We’ve always insisted that Kris will be more marketable, radio-friendly and easier to swallow on a mainstream level, but Adam pulled out all the stops last night and cemented his superior showman status. Read on for more of our take…

Round One: Kris Allen

We’re going to agree with Simon on this first round. Kris Allen’s personal choice, “Ain’t No Sunshine,” brought out that sweet spot in his voice and proved that Kris’ subtle phrasing is truly a trademark at this point. Of course, you could say the same of Adam, whose voice is undeniably recognizable, but something about his presentation on “Mad World” felt very staged, you could even say insincere (and we’re not just referring to the tawdry up-to-the-elbow gloves and trench-coat ensemble). Simon commented that it was theatrical, but what in the Adam Lambert songbook isn’t? For all the judges’ praise this whole season, you’d think they would be used to the Phantom Of The Opera vibe by now? Maybe there was no way to go up against Adam’s original performance back in the Top 8, which was truly outstanding, but the finale version lacked that emotional connection, which Kris most definitely had with his choice. You also have to give Kris bonus points for his piano skills, which proved he’s not just a singer, but a musician. We know Adam has great taste in bands, but can he play in one? We’re not so sure.

Round Two: Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert’s secret weapon has been and forever will be his range, and nowhere was that more evident than in round two. Here was Adam’s big chance to show off, with a soulful, almost Janis Joplin-like rendition of the popular Idol audition number, “A Change Is Gonna Come.” But he also took the opportunity to tone things down and exert a little more control, especially in the opening verses, which were perfectly executed. Good calls all around for Adam (including his more subdued Jonas-esque attire), which we can’t say for Kris. True, there was a Phish show parking lot feel to his take on the Marvin Gaye classic “What’s Going On?” (one guy was playing a box, for Christ’s sake!) that may have been a little too low-fi for the massive spectacle that is American Idol. And let’s face it, if you have a full orchestra at your disposal, why not use it? Still, there’s a genuineness there you can’t deny, and, again, the skillz (on guitar, this time). 

Round Three: Draw

How do we put this nicely? Kara Dioguardi, Cathy Dennis and Mitch Allan are all top-notch, super-talented songwriters, but come on! Could they compose a more difficult song to sing? Both Adam and Kris seemed to struggle endlessly with “No Boundaries,” missing notes, over-reaching, falling flat… Of course, this is nothing new. Idol has yet to produce a truly memorable winning single (though Fantasia’s “Believe” does get a decent amount of spins at our local supermarket), which makes us think they should just do away with the coronation song and transfer the buzz to both finalists’ already recorded, non-victory-specific first singles. It would be a time crunch, but if anyone can jam an already-packed schedule, it’s the Idol team. In the end, it was unfortunate that on this final performance, our two candidates seemed least confident and, when it was over, simply looked relieved. No wonder there was chatter in the press room about the finale being “anti-climactic.”

So it’s a tie, and now it comes down to that sticky question: who’ll get Danny Gokey’s so-called “Christian vote” and will it decide this contest? Is Adam Lambert simply too flamboyant for mainstream America? We have but one thought to offer: while it wasn’t considered an upset last year, David Archuleta was also the frontrunner and expected winner, but we know how that turned out. Lesson learned? Don’t count out the underdog.

May 20, 2009 in American Idol | Permalink

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Comments

There is no evidence of a Christian voting block going to Kris. I think that it will come down to what kind of music you prefer. AC-Country fans will go to Kris. And since there are a lot of AC-Country fans, that's an advantage for Kris. IMO Adam won the night. Kris was a close second. And Kara was the loser for writing that terrible song.

Posted by: Kay | May 20, 2009 10:28:38 AM

Very nice article and a good representation of the night. I thought Kris Allen won the night by a slight margin. He has beautiful vocal skills and musicianship. I love him on both guitar and piano and also when he just simply stands there and sings from his heart. The guy has a beautiful, understated presence on the stage. I can't wait for his first CD to come out. I do like Adam, but for me Kris is much better suited to the style of music I buy and enjoy.

Posted by: ShariG | May 20, 2009 2:33:56 PM

They both were great it is a shame that we have to choose. Oh well some one has to win and some one has to loose, either way they both should feel very proud that they made it this far. Because dealing with Simon oh my God! He is only doing his job though. W
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