Pop Culture

‘American Idol’ crowns newest winner

Kris Allen’s smooth vocals and boy-next-door image propelled him to “American Idol” victory Wednesday, turning the theatrical powerhouse Adam Lambert into the most unlikely of also-rans.

“I’m sorry, I don’t even know what to feel right now. This is crazy,” said a stunned Allen, 23, of Conway, Ark.

As host Ryan Seacrest said in announcing the result of the viewer vote, “The underdog, the dark horse, comes back and wins the nation over.”

More than 100 million votes were cast after Tuesday’s singing showdown between Lambert and Allen. A record-setting 624 million votes were cast over the season.

Lambert’s commanding vocal range and stage presence — and the judges’ adoration of him — at times turned “Idol” into “The Adam Lambert Show,” with the other contestants mere guests. But it turned out that “Idol” viewers could embrace a gifted performer like Lambert, one who sported black nail polish and bold self-assurance, only to a point.

Simon Cowell tipped his hat to both contestants Wednesday.

“To both of you, and I don’t normally mean this, I thought you were both brilliant. .... The future’s all yours,” the judge said.

Before the results were announced, Lambert and Allen had a moment of musical camaraderie: They joined together with Queen on the rock anthem “We Are the Champions.”

“Adam did win. So did Kris. Nobody lost tonight. These are two champions,” said Paul Stanley from KISS backstage.

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    Chris Pizzello / AP

    Image: Adam Lambert, Kris Allen

    ‘American Idol’ finale

    Adam Lambert and Kris Allen faced off for the crown in Los Angeles.

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    Final two -

    "American Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert, left, and winner Kris Allen pose together before the "American Idol" finale in Los Angeles on Wednesday, May 20. Lambert, from San Diego, was a favorite all along, while Allen, from Conway, Ark., was a dark horse who came on strong as the season progressed.

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    Kris goes country -

    Kris Allen sang a duet with country star Keith Urban, performing "Kiss a Girl."

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    Ready to pass on the title -

    Last year's "American Idol" winner, David Cook, performed his new song, "Permanent," on the finale. Cook later presented Allen and Lambert with Ford Fusion hybrid cars as gifts from the "Idol" sponsor.

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    Joining the KISS army -

    Adam Lambert, in gigantic platform boots, performed with KISS on their classic hit, "Rock and Roll All Night."

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    Bleep! -

    Singers Fergie, will.i.am, and Taboo of Black Eyed Peas performed "Boom Boom Pow" during the finale. Midway through the song, TV viewers heard only silence and saw the "Idol" logo, the assumption being that an expletive was sung. But the Associated Press reports that will.i.am simply stayed silent during that moment.

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    Hello...is it me you're looking for? -

    Lionel Richie and recently voted-off finalist Danny Gokey performed some of Richie's big hits.

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    The second hand unwinds -

    Allison Iraheta, left, was the last female contestant on the show, reaching the final four before she was voted off. She joined Cyndi Lauper for a duet on Lauper's hit, "Time After Time."

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    Play that funky music, white boys -

    Adam Lambert, left, and Kris Allen, right, wore all white outfits for their introduction by host Ryan Seacrest, center. The episode also showed clips of each contestant's hometown cheering him on.

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    'Magic' moment -

    Carlos Santana performs "Black Magic Woman" during Wednesday night's finale.

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    Wild and crazy finale -

    Steve Martin showed he's more than just a comedian when he performed his own composition, "Pretty Flowers" with some help from competitors Megan Joy Corkrey and Michael Sarver.

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    Kris is the king of Queen -

    Queen's Brian May and winner Kris Allen perform "We Are the Champions" on the finale. Both finalists, along with all the hopefuls, got a chance to sing with Queen.

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    Adding swagger -

    Rod Stewart performed "Maggie May" on the finale, after being serenaded by the finalists who sang Stewart's "Do You Think I'm Sexy."

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    The winner is ... -

    "American Idol" winner Kris Allen reacts to the news from Ryan Seacrest, right, that he is the new champion, on Wednesday, May 20.

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The outcome echoed last year’s contest, when Cowell all but crowned David Archuleta after the performance finale — but the victory went to David Cook.

Lambert’s triumph was never inevitable. When Allen and Lambert were declared the finalists last week, just 1 million viewer votes separated the pair out of 88 million cast.

Allen bloomed during the season, gaining more assurance onstage and winning viewers over with his smooth, heartfelt vocals, modest demeanor and well-scrubbed good looks.

Did Allen gather up Gokey votes?There was also the Danny Gokey factor. Gokey made it to the top three before he fell out of the contest, leaving his supporters up for grabs.

“After the third one leaves, you wonder where do the votes go from that third contestant,” Paula Abdul said backstage after Tuesday’s singing showdown.

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    F Micelotta / Getty Images North America

    American Idol Season 8 Top 2 Performance

    Kris Allen plays it cool

    Whether strumming his guitar or playing the piano, the “Idol” winner always stayed low-key.

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    Pushing the 'Boundaries' -

    Kris Allen performs the Kara DioGuardi-written "No Boundaries" on Tuesday, May 19, his final performance of the season on "American Idol."

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    Guitar man -

    Kris Allen was ordered to sing the Marvin Gaye anti-war classic “What’s Goin’ On” by "Idol" producer Simon Fuller, and he played to his strengths by breaking out the acoustic guitar.

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    A little bit of 'Sunshine' -

    It was just Kris Allen and a grand piano, doing what he did best all season long, when he sang "Ain't No Sunshine" to open the final of "American Idol" on Tuesday, May 19. And the judges loved it.

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    Saving grace -

    Kris Allen performed two songs on the show that landed him in the final two. Simon Cowell wasn’t so thrilled with Allen’s version of “Apologize,” by One Republic, for which he played piano. For his second song, Kanye West’s “Heartless,” he switched to guitar and won the judges back. Simon Cowell flat-out told him he’d written Allen off after the first song, then changed his mind.

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    Hometown hero -

    Kris Allen, together with his wife Katy, ride in a parade given in his honor in Little Rock, Ark. Allen is from Conway, Ark.

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    Here come old flat-top -

    On Rock Night, Allen sang The Beatles’ famed “Come Together.” The judges came together, but not in a positive way. “It was rather like eating ice for lunch,” said Simon Cowell, meaning the performance left nothing to remember.

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    Singing a wedding-day standard -

    On Rat Pack Night, Allen sang the love song “The Way You Look Tonight.” It didn’t exactly romance Simon Cowell, who said the performance was “safe,” and compared it to “taking a well-trained spaniel for a walk.”

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    Working on his moves -

    Allen, second from right, and fellow contestants Allison Iraheta, left, Adam Lambert, second from left, and Danny Gokey, right, practice their dance routine for their group performance on Disco Night on Wednesday, April 22.

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    Shop till you drop -

    On Disco Night, Allen sang Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard For the Money,” thus launching the infamous “women’s underwear” fight between Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul. Abdul was trying to make a point about Allen choosing a song made famous by a woman and referred to him shopping in the women’s department, and the judges’ debate deteriorated from there. “Forget those kids over there,” Randy Jackson scoffed at his fellow judges, proclaiming Allen “amazing.”

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    Night at the movies -

    For movie-song night, Allen chose “Falling Slowly” from the film “Once.” Kara DioGuardi thought he took a risk in choosing what she called an “obscure song.” But can a tune really be that obscure if it won the 2008 Academy Award for best original song?

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    Back to the big ‘80s -

    Allen was born in 1985, so for the birth-year song show, he picked Don Henley’s “All She Wants To Do is Dance.” An MTV News article later criticized Allen for his “sunny take” on a song it called a “scathing takedown of American political apathy and governmental gun-running.” Hey, all he wants to do is sing.

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    Emerging as an artist -

    Allen accompanied himself on keyboards when he peformed “Ain’t No Sunshine,” and Kara DioGuardi told him, “I got three words for you. That is artistry.”

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    Hold the bus! -

    Allen’s version of “How Sweet It Is” pleased judge Kara DioGuardi, who appreciated that he didn’t just channel James Taylor. But Simon Cowell slammed his onstage presence, saying “you could be at a bus stop.”

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    Stardom starts to show -

    On country night, Allen took on Garth Brooks’ “Make You Feel My Love,” performing without either guitar or piano. Simon Cowell told him that it was with this performance that he began to believe Allen actually had a shot in the competition.

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    Lending a hand -

    Allen first brought out the guitar for “Remember the Time,” and the judges were pleased with the results. Kara DioGuardi also praised Allen for spending a lot of his free time helping the other contestants.

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    The next 'American Idol'? -

    Kris Allen seemed like another face in the crowd when the season 8 finals began in March. Instead, the Conway, Ark., resident has survived the battle of attrition and is staking his claim on the title.

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Allen seemed the likely candidate for those viewers’ affections, for on- and offstage reasons. Allen and Gokey, 29, of Milwaukee, were downright conservative when compared to Lambert’s elaborate staging and wardrobe choices. Allen is a married college student and has worked as a church worship leader. Gokey, a widower, is a church music director.

Lambert, 27, of Los Angeles, brought measured rock flashiness — daring, not freaky — with songs including “Whole Lotta Love,” the first-ever Led Zeppelin tune on “Idol.” He’s largely kept his personal life under wraps, saying “I know who I am” when asked about it.

Earlier this week, Allen said he hoped the outcome wouldn’t be decided by “having the Christian vote.”

“I hope it has to do with your talent and the performance that you give and the package that you have. It’s not about religion and all that kind of stuff,” he said.

Added Lambert: “It’s about music. That’s really important to keep in mind.”

Filler, filler, fillerThe finale Wednesday included the usual bag of tricks for extending the show to two hours and delaying the result until the final minutes. There were group numbers, the Golden Idol Award — semifinalist funnyman Nick “Norman Gentle” Mitchell among the contenders — and celebrity-contestant combos.

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    Kevin Winter / Getty Images North America

    Image: 2009 American Music Awards Press Conference

    The many looks of Adam Lambert

    From motorcycle jackets to snazzy suits, the “American Idol” runner-up knew how to dress for each song.

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    Vested interest -

    Adam Lambert, right, joins Snoop Dogg and Paula Abdul at the 2009 American Music Awards news conference held at the Beverly Hills Hotel on Tuesday, Oct. 13, 2009.

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    Finding the 'Boundaries' -

    Adam Lambert performs "No Boundaries," an original song written by judge Kara DioGuardi, on Tuesday, May 19, his final performance of season 8 of "American Idol."

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    Making a 'Change' -

    Adam Lambert performed "A Change Is Gonna Come," a song selected by "Idol" producer Simon Fuller, as his second song on Tuesday, May 19. “That was the best I’ve ever heard you sing! Ever, ever, ever!" cooed Paula Abdul of Lambert's performance.

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    Adam Lambert reprised his version of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" during the final sing on Tuesday, May 19. Simon Cowell questioned his attire and said he thought the performance as a bit too much like "Phantom of the Opera."

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    Big time -

    Adam Lambert made it into the final two on "American Idol" by singing two songs by enormous rock bands -- U2's "One" and Aerosmith's "Cryin'." Judge Simon Cowell bragged that U2 leader Bono called him personally to OK the use of "One."

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    The many looks of Adam Lambert

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    Name-dropping -

    Judge Simon Cowell bragged that U2 leader Bono called him personally to OK Lambert's use of "One."

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    O say can you see -

    Lambert, a San Diego native, returned to his hometown as part of the "Idol" final three hometown visits. While there, he made a trip to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar and sang the national anthem for service members and their families.

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    Rock this town -

    Lambert was in his element on rock night, tearing into Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love." Said an appreciative Randy Jackson, "you are a rock star tonight!"

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    The many looks of Adam Lambert

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    Classing it up for Rat Pack night -

    Would Sinatra perform in anything but a suit? Lambert dressed up, but still kept his own personal style, on Rat Pack night. There's now a cat figurine wearing a white suit for sale on eBay imitating Lambert's outfit from this night.

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    Does caffeine calm backstage jitters? -

    Lambert is seen backstage before elimination night on the week that Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai were sent home. Note the Coke machine in the background -- Coke, of course, is a major "Idol" sponsor.

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    Suiting up -

    Maybe this should have been the night for the white suit? Lambert went formal for disco night, where he sang his own version of "If I Can't Have You" from "Saturday Night Fever."

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    Get your motor running -

    On movie-song night, Lambert pulled out the motorcycle jacket and blue jeans and sang "Born to Be Wild" from "Easy Rider." Said Paula Abdul, "you dare to dance in the path of greatness."

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    The song so many missed -

    When the Idols performed songs from the years they were born, Lambert chose 1982's "Mad World." Even Gary Jules, who arranged the version Lambert performed, said "it was fantastic." Jules covered the Tears for Fears song in a stripped-down, slow version in 2001 and the tune became popular after it was used in the movie "Donnie Darko" that same year. Unfortunately, Lambert performed last on a night that "American Idol" ran eight minutes over schedule and many fans who recorded the show missed Lambert's song.

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    Lay down the boogie -

    When Lambert performed Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music," Paula Abdul compared him to Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler.

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    Emerging as a star -

    Lambert's performance of "Tracks of My Tears" drew a standing ovation from Kara DioGuardi. Paula Abdul liked his appearance, too. "I love the clean look," she said. "No nail polish tonight!"

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  • American Idol Season 8 Top 11 Performance

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    Middle Eastern music meets Johnny Cash -

    Lambert was rarely criticized all season, but on country night, he performed Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" and added a Middle Eastern flavor, complete with sitar sounds. Randy Jackson thought it was "current," but Simon Cowell found it "absolute indulgent rubbish."

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    Taking on the King of Pop -

    On Michael Jackson night, Lambert tackled "Black or White," and earned raves. "I hope Michael Jackson is watching," said Kara DioGuardi.

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    Fans got 'Satisfaction' -

    Early on in the competition, Lambert tackled the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction." Simon Cowell thought some parts of the performance were "excruciating" and others "brilliant," but Lambert was on his way.

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    You've got the look -

    From the beginning, Lambert attracted fans, with some claiming he reminded them of vampire hearthrob Edward Cullen in the "Twilight" books and movies.

    Fox via AP / Fox via AP

Allen was joined by Keith Urban on “Kiss a Girl,” while Lambert performed with KISS. The female finalists, including Allison Iraheta, opened up for Fergie, who sang “Big Girls Don’t Cry” and then was joined by her group, the Black Eyed Peas.

Iraheta later dueted with Cyndi Lauper on “Time After Time” and Danny Gokey joined Lionel Richie for two tunes.

Rod Stewart sang “Maggie May” after the male finalists opened for him with “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy.”

An offbeat guest was Steve Martin, the actor-comedian who also specializes in the banjo. He played his song “Pretty Flowers” with finalists Megan Joy and Michael Sarver on vocals.

Asked by Seacrest to guess who might win “American Idol,” Martin replied: “I know it’s a long shot, but I’m hoping I do.”

Allen rose to the occasion during Tuesday’s performance show, especially with his soulful version of “Ain’t No Sunshine.” But he was tripped up by “No Boundaries,” a song co-written by judge Kara DioGuardi and ill-suited to his voice.

Lambert did a better job with “No Boundaries” and excelled on his reprise of “Mad World” and on “A Change is Gonna Come.”

“That was the best I’ve ever heard you sing — ever!” exclaimed Abdul.

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