Kris Allen’s ‘Heartless’: The Story Behind The Cover

'American Idol' contestant makes a bold move with Kanye West song.

Kris Allen needed a game changer to prove to the “American Idol” judges — and maybe to America — that he belongs in next week’s finale . And on Tuesday night, he found it.

In one of the boldest moves to date by the understated 23-year-old, Allen stunned the room when he followed up a straightforward take on judge Kara DioGuardi’s pick, [artist id="2128037"]OneRepublic[/artist]‘s “Apologize,” with a solo acoustic ramble through [artist id="1230523"]Kanye West[/artist]‘s “Heartless.” The choice even had frequent detractor Simon Cowell admitting that the Conway, Arkansas, native may have punched a ticket to the top two.

The song was bold for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that the original song is still being played on the radio and came out as a single last November, albeit in a much, much different form.

Allen stripped the heavily Auto-Tuned, robotic track down to its barest essentials, completely switching it up into a soulful, bossa nova, acoustic-guitar jam you might hear a street troubadour playing in the subway or at a sidewalk café.

“Heartless” appears on West’s 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak, itself a major departure for the supremely confident rapper, who, for the most part, set aside his rhyming to sing heavily processed vocals about various kinds of heartache. The tune made its debut at a charity show last summer during the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Kanye himself performed the song on “American Idol” for the March 11 results show.

“Heartless,” which chronicles ‘Ye’s heartbreak over a particularly messy breakup, finds West singing, “Somewhere far along this road he lost his soul/ To a woman so heartless …/ How could you be so Dr. Evil?/ You bringin’ out a side of me that I don’t know/ I decided we weren’t gon’ speak so/ Why we up 3 a.m. on the phone?”

The video, directed by lauded hip-hop lensman Hype Williams, is a rotoscope-animated homage to legendary animator Ralph Bakshi’s “American Pop” movie and features Kanye wandering through a neon city.

Perhaps borrowing a page from fellow finalist Adam Lambert’s playbook, Allen isn’t the first rocker to take on “Heartless.” Earlier this year, Denver-based piano rockers the Fray took a swing at the song, also slowing it down into an angsty acoustic ballad. West, who has yet to weigh in on the Allen cover, clearly appreciated the Fray’s take, since he posted a link to it on his blog.

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