American Idol named its winner Wednesday night, the entire finale living up to the hoopla of Americ’s number one-rated television program. The star-studded event had it all, classic rockers and hip hoppers, country and R&B artists. And, of course, they brought back the people that made Season 8’s Top 13 to help Adam Lambert and Kris Allen get through to the end.
The American Idol judges were definitely dressed for the occasion. Randy Jackson had on a dark suit and a crimson bowtie. Kara DioGuardi wore a black strapless dress, hair piled high. Paula Abdul is spangled in a tight-bodiced sand-colored. Even Simon Cowell showed up dressy casual, wearing a black sportcoat and a white dress shirt.
Ryan Seacrest introduced the two final contenders, all dressed in white. American Idol dropped the heavyweight fight theme they had from Season 7 (which is a good thing), but it didn’t help the Top 13’s final group number, Pink’s “Rock Star.” Possibly one of the worst group performances ever, the entire white-clad group sang and danced to some of the most banal lyrics ever written.
After killing much of their credibility in the first five minutes, the producers did something rather intelligent. They brought out David Cook, last year’s American Idol. He sang a very heartfelt “Permanent,” a song he wrote for his brother who recently passed away. Beautifully written and sang, the song featured vocals over piano throughout until, at the very end, it ended on power chords and David Cook lifting his voice, repeating the “permanent.”
Afterward, David Cook told Ryan he simply wanted to honor his brother. He also announced that the American Idol performance of “Permanent” would be available on iTunes and all proceeds would go to ABC Squared, an organization dedicated to finding a cure for brain cancer, the disease his brother battled for a decade.
When asked about the two guys vying to become the next American Idol, he said they were both good guys. He said, “I don’t think America can get this wrong.”
Then Ryan Seacrest announced the first American Idol Golden Idol Award. Nick Mitchell won for Outstanding Male and reprised his role of drama queen singer, prancing around the stage and in the audience, ad libbing between lines, and crawling across the stage to caress a speaker to the tune of “You’re Gonna Love Me.”
Back to more serious stuff, Lil Rounds stepped out with Queen Latifah and just nailed “Cue The Rain,” Queen Latifah’s latest single. Great song, powerful voices. They got a little out of synch but it didn’t sound bad. What more could you ask for?
How about sexy Alexis Grace and dapper Anoop Desai singing an intro to Jason Mraz and his multiple award-winning “I’m Yours.” The three swayed and smiled the song to its conclusion. Nicely done.
And then Kris Allen sang “Kiss A Girl” with one of country music’s hottest artists, Keith Urban. As Kris literally looked starstruck by Keith Urban’s presence, he still sounded great alongside the Aussie, and the two seemed to have a good time performing together. Their voices were compatible, so harmonies on the choruses were great. Kris Allen certainly proved why he was one of the two finalists.
All that fun had to lead to something. In this case, something bad. The girls of the Top 13 stepped onto the stage and sang “Glamorous.” This would have been fine, except someone had the bright idea to allow Megan Joy Corkrey, the one person in the Top 13 that did not deserve to be there, to sing the first lines. Her atonal hollering nearly ruined the song. Thankfully, they only sang about a minute of it before Allison Iraheta introduced Fergie who sang “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” About a minute of that led to the introduction of the Black-Eyed Peas. They sang “Boom Boom Pow” from their upcoming album. It seemed a bit disconnected, but the stage show was amazing, lots of energy and audience participation. The Megan Joy Corkrey glitch aside, the segment ended well.
Then it was back to some levity. Ryan Seacrest announced a second Golden Idol award: Best Attitude. Running down a list of memorable hotheads and petulant thwarted auditioners, Ryan awarded bikini girl Katrina Darrell the trophy. She glided across the stage in a somewhat larger bikini and planted a big kiss on Ryan. Staring at Katrina Darrell’s far larger breasts than when she auditioned, Ryan said, “I was going to ask what’s new but I think I know.”
Katrina Darrell took the microphone and sang Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love.” After a few lines, she was joined by judge Kara DioGuardi (reprising their little snippy sing-off at the audition) and a mock duel began. DioGuardi eventually won, with Darrell standing with her arms crossed. Then Kara DioGuardi popped open her black dress, revealing herself in a black bikini. As she hugged Katrina Darrell and tried to keep the two sides of her dress pulled close, Ryan explained that they had bet her she wouldn’t flash the national television audience and that now they had to contribute to Kara’s favorite charity. Kara echoed that she did it for charity, but one has to wonder if there wasn’t a little one upmanship going on with the bikini thing as well as the singing…
Allison Iraheta was up next with Cyndi Lauper. Lauper had brought back her entire catalog of songs in an acoustic show this past year, garnering rave reviews. She and Allison sang “Time After Time.”
Then the number three finalist, Danny Gokey, did an excellent hoarse version of Lionel Richie’s “Hello,” which then led to the introduction of Lionel Richie himself. The two sang “All Night Long.”
The tempo building, the second finalist, Adam Lambert, stood at center stage, dressed all in black. He began an acapella “Beth,” KISS’ one and only serious love song. And then he introduced the theatrical rockers.
The stage literally exploded, the opening chords to “Detroit Rock City” raining down on the audience along with the pyrotechnic sparks. Adam joined the band as they sang two of their most memorable tunes, following up “Detroit Rock City” with “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Dressed in full regalia, with Gene Simmons tongue darting everywhere, Adam and KISS powered their way through, ending with a Adam’s trademark scream.
Steve Martin was up next with his band. That is not a typo. And yes, Steve Martin has a band. His new album, “The Crow” features the song, “Pretty Flowers,” which was sung by Megan Joy Corkrey and Michael Sarver. Michael Sarver sounded great, as if he were born to sing this type of laid-back countrified music. Megan Joy was her usual glaringly dissonant self. At one point as she sang, the camera caught Steve Martin with a distinct snarl of disgust on his face. And why not? She was ruining his song. Afterward, when Ryan Seacrest asked Martin who he thought might win the competition, Steve deadpanned, “I know it’s a longshot, but I hope I do.”
The Top 13 guys stepped out to “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” before the stage was cleared for Rod Stewart. In a godawful checked sportcoat, Rod “the Bod” sang “Maggie May.” The number one Google Trend topic after American Idol aired was “rod stewart’s age.” Sure, he looks old, but he could still sing one of his most beloved songs. (By the way, he’s 64.)
The third Golden Idol award was given out for Outstanding Female and everyone knew Tatiana del Toro would win long before they announced her name. An overly dramatic mock scene (perfect for del Toro) of her singing, Ryan telling her they didn’t have time, and Tatiana eluding two security personnel while she sang was actually quite amusing, especially when she grabbed the microphone and said, “Simon, you know you want to hear this song for the fourth time.”
Winding down to the end, Kris Allen and Adam Lambert stepped out together and sang “We Are The Champions” with Brian May and Roger Taylor of Queen. It was an excellent song choice, the two contestants singing along with Brian May’s powerful guitar. The best moment came when they clasped hands and pulled each other close in a show of camaraderie.
David Cook was right: America couldn’t get it wrong.
And then it was down to the waning moments. Ryan Seacrest asked Simon Cowell if had any final words before the 2009 American Idol was named. Simon said, “I don’t normally say this” and went on to tell Adam Lambert and Kris Allen that they were both “brilliant” and “unusually incredibly nice people.” He also said that he believed they would be very successful.
Then it was time to dim the lights. Ryan told the audience that after nearly 100 million votes, the winner of American Idol 2009 was… Kris Allen.
The look on Kris Allen’s face was priceless. No way did he expect to win — one cannot truly fake an authentic dumbfounded expression. Adam hugged him, smiling from ear-to-ear, seemingly unaffected by the decision, gracious to the end. When Ryan asked Kris to say something, he mumbled that he didn’t expect to win, he didn’t know what to say, and “Adam deserves this.”
Perhaps Adam did deserve to win. But so did Kris Allen.
And he did.
It was Kris Allen’s quiet humility that almost caused Simon Cowell to not award him with a gold ticket to Hollywood (Simon thought Kris lacked confidence) in the audition phase in Louisville, Kentucky. It was his quiet humility, along with his obvious talent, that endeared him to fans in his slow climb to the American Idol finale. And it was his quiet humility after having won one of the most sought-after prizes in America that will be long remembered.
But Kris Allen deserved to win, just as much as did Adam Lambert. Nowhere during Season 8 did one see Kris Lambert falter or do anything to hurt his chances. He steadily rose through the ranks, showed his musical skills, his adept ability at choosing songs most suited for him and arranging the music to better suit him, and then melded his vocal stylings to the arrangement he chose or created. Although not as powerful a vocalist or as dramatic a performer as Adam Lambert, Kris Allen’s quiet cool remained steady and true.
And steady wins the race.
“American Idol,” Fox Television