Tuesday night’s “American Idol” finale will have season-eight finalists (and roommates) Kris Allen and Adam Lambert going toe-to-toe in three rounds. Lambert is the odds-on winner come Wednesday night’s results show, but we say Kris still has a fighting chance. Taking a cue from “America’s Next Top Model,” in which Tyra Banks does a side-by-side comparison of the two finalists’ portfolios, we thought we’d break down Adam Lambert’s and Kris Allen’s “Idol” repertoire week-to-week to help determine who’s really in the lead.
Week One: The Semifinals
Adam: The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
Kris: Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror”
Adam pulled out all the stops for his first live “Idol” performance, turning the Rolling Stones’ classic into a down-and-dirty sex shuffle that belonged on the Sunset Strip. His superhuman range was on full display, as were his memorable fashion choices. Kris, on the other hand, came off like the quiet cute guy at your office who wows everyone at karaoke.
Week Two: Michael Jackson Week
Adam: “Black or White”
Kris: “Remember the Time”
On the big “Idol” stage, Kris was allowed to bust out his guitar to great effect. The debut of Kris the Troubadour was a smashing success, and he proved that he was more than just a pretty face. Adam’s “Black or White,” while an audience favorite, left us feeling a little “been there, heard that.”
Week Three: Grand Ole Opry Week
Adam: Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”
Kris: Garth Brooks’ “To Make You Feel My Love”
Kris’ tender crooning-on-the-edge-of-the-stage rendition had tweens swooning, but it was Adam’s brilliantly salacious Johnny-Cash-meets-the-Pussycat-Dolls mash-up that had America’s water coolers bubbling with excitement.
Week Four: Motown Week
Adam: The Miracles’ “The Tracks of My Tears”
Kris: Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)”
Adam stepped up his game for the second week in a row and convinced the haters (like me) that there was way more to Adam than just hair dye and Axl Rose wails. His “Tracks of My Tears” showed a sincere vulnerability and a stunning falsetto, while his savvy Young Elvis makeover also helped him win over older fans. Meanwhile, Kris did a competent impression of a sensitive frat guy. Yawn.
Week Five: Top Downloads
Adam: Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music”
Kris: Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine”
Adam returned to his hair-metal roots, while Kris showed up the competition by saying, “Look, America, I can play piano, too!” Your move, Lambert.
Kris stumbled with a clunky Don Henley track, while Adam soared to new heights with the most buzzed-about performance of the season. It certainly helped that DVR viewers were forced to track down the show-closing ballad online, thus making Lambert go viral within hours. Admit it, by the time you woke up Wednesday, at least five people had forwarded you the clip with a “You gotta see this” note.
Week Seven: Songs From the Cinema
Adam: Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild”
Kris: Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova’s “Falling Slowly” Winner: Kris
Adam fell back into his “pick a lame rock song your parents like” groove and delivered his cheesiest performance to date. But Kris displayed impeccable taste by choosing the night’s most contemporary tune, and he knocked it out of the park. Plus, anyone who turns on mainstream America to the “Once” soundtrack deserves a medal.
Somehow, Kris sang “She Works Hard for the Money” like he really, really believed it. What could have been a throwaway wink at the audience turned out to be a show highlight. Adam tried slowing down the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack staple but in the process eviscerated the melody and put us to sleep.
Both Adam and Kris were outperformed by Allison Iraheta and Danny Gokey on Rat Pack night. Adam was given some serious pimpage by the producers, though. His performance featured a moving staircase, a cushy final spot on the show rundown and a high note that went on for days. Since Adam was responsible only for the latter, we’ll give him points for that. But otherwise, this week was a draw.
Week 10: Rock Week
Adam: Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Love” and Foghat’s “Slow Ride” (with Allison Iraheta)
Kris: The Beatles’ “Come Together” and Styx’s “Renegade” (with Danny Gokey)
Kris Allen was off his game in a big way. His Beatles cover was ho-hum, and his duet with Danny Gokey was the most awkward thing of the night (until Gokey’s “Scream On”). But Adam came out with guns blazing, unleashing a swagger that had judge Kara DioGuardi proclaim him a “Rock GOD!” His final duet with Allison Iraheta was even more winning, with each of the singers pushing the other to mind-blowing, unstoppable levels of awesome. Don’t even get me started on that adorable embrace.
Adam’s night was less-than-stellar. During his Aerosmith song, he was (somehow) overpowered by a background singer and his cabaret-headlining take on “One” felt as out of place as Steve Martin performing a five-minute banjo tune about skipping class on “SNL.” The judges had been pushing a Gokey/Lambert finale since week one, and Kris underwhelmed during Kara and Randy’s selection, “Apologize.” But before you could count him out, Kris grabbed his trusty old guitar and strummed through a star-making rendition of Kanye West’s sad robot anthem, “Heartless,” a tune Kanye himself had “performed” on an “Idol” results show weeks earlier. It showed guts. It showed “artistry.” And it showed Gokey the door.
Where does that leave us? According to my math, Kris Allen won five weeks, while Adam Lambert won five and a half weeks (the half point given to Adam’s never-ending Rat Pack note). It’s anyone’s “Idol” crown this season, and it really boils down to the finish line. (Ryan Seacrest said himself during last week’s results show that only a million votes separated Kris and Adam.) So, who will win “American Idol?” Until we hear these two talented performers sing Tuesday night, your guess is as good as mine!
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