Nothing is for sure in the world of [url id=”/news/topics/a/american_idol/”]”American Idol.”[/url] Most years, there are a handful of strong contenders and the final vote is a real nail biter. Other years, such as season two when Ruben Studdard won, or last year’s battle of the Davids, it was pretty clear who was going to take the crown for quite a while before the final reveal.
It’s starting to feel that way this year as well. To be sure, there is strong competition among the remaining top seven. Teenager Allison Iraheta is proving week after week that she’s a force to be reckoned with, and Danny Gokey continues to be one of the strongest contenders for the crown. There are also consistent dark horses Kris Allen and Matt Giraud, who could leap to the top of the pile with a breakout performance.
But at this point, none of them hold a candle to Adam Lambert, the 28-year-old Los Angeles musical-theater actor who seems to be getting stronger by the week as he dazzles the audience and judges with his original style and risk-taking. The game is his to lose at this point, so we present you with a handful of reasons why Adam Lambert will probably be your next “American Idol.”
Lambert: When we first saw him step into the audition room to sing Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” in San Diego in January, there was something about Lambert that marked him as different. That may have had to do with his 17 years of experience in front of audiences, performing everything from musical theater to outrageous 1970s-style glam funk at L.A.’s long-running live avant-garde performance showcase, the Zodiac Show.
Lambert has put in his time on many stages, beginning at age 10, playing Linus in “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown” at the Lyceum Theater in his hometown of San Diego. He’s gone on to impress as Joshua in a lavish 2004 musical production of “The Ten Commandments” at the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles alongside Val Kilmer and had a recent gig as an understudy in a production of “Wicked.”
The others: Both Kris Allen and Danny Gokey have gained valuable experience learning songs on the fly and playing in front of a crowd as worship leaders in their respective churches and 16-year-old Allison Iraheta has been singing in front of audiences most of her life, in addition to taking the top prize on the 2006 Telemundo reality show “Quinceañera,” which landed her $50,000 and a recording contract. Matt Giraud has released a pair of independent albums and has put in time as a dueling piano player in Michigan clubs. Lil Rounds began singing when she was 3-years-old but lacks the performance experience of the other contenders, and Anoop Desai appeared on a children’s television show as a youngster and performed in an acclaimed a cappella group in college, but has not developed a unique identity as a performer yet.
Lambert: The confident way he carries himself, looks the judges in the eyes when speaking to them and makes sure to humbly thank them for their compliments is likely a product of Lambert’s extensive audition experience. Even when telling Paula Abdul that her concert was the first one he ever attended, Lambert didn’t seem nervous or jittery making small talk with the judges during auditions. Only someone who was sure of himself would dare take a legendary song by Johnny Cash and perform it as a Middle Eastern call to prayer as Lambert did with “Ring of Fire” during country week.
The others: Gokey has a cool, calm demeanor that marks him as Lambert’s equal in the confidence department, but the others have shown signs of insecurity when judged harshly by the panel. Giraud also seems at ease with himself, though his struggle to develop a clear identity as a performer on the show has hamstrung him a bit. Iraheta, even when faced with criticism, has shown a preternaturally mature attitude. The judges have frequently counseled Allen to work on his confidence, and both Allen and Rounds were visibly shaken when given harsh notes on last week’s show. Desai has also seemed nervous when faced with criticism.
Advantage: Tie between Lambert and Gokey
Lambert: This is hands-down Lambert’s biggest advantage. His constantly morphing, David Bowie-esque glam-rock-meets-emo sartorial taste — which involves doing something different with his shock of raven hair almost every week — has made Lambert stand out amid a group of less fashion-forward singers.
The others: When the judges have noticed the other singers’ clothes, it’s typically been to mock them.
Lambert: From his snake-charming “Ring of Fire” to a glam-metal cover of the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” and his standing-ovation-demanding remake of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World,” Lambert has shown a range than encompasses everything from musical theater to rock, pop, R&B, soul and emo. Judges have repeatedly praised his musical versatility and commercial prospects.
The others: None of the remaining half dozen have been able to bring as many different looks as Lambert, though Gokey has consistently been a solid performer and has not had any major off nights. Iraheta is a close second to Lambert in range, proving she can sing pop, country, blues, R&B and rock equally well.
Get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page, where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.