While "American Idol" has been the launching pad for a lot of singers, it's what contestants do after the season ends that separates the [artist id="1231768"]Kelly Clarkson[/artist]s from the Kevin Covaises.
With the ninth season starting Tuesday at 8 p.m., last year's contestants are officially out of the "Idol" nest and exploring their new careers. What does judge Randy Jackson think of their progress so far? He's optimistic — but he's worried runner-up [artist id="3188063"]Adam Lambert[/artist] might have tried to tackle too much, too soon.
"Adam is a giant personality," Jackson said Friday. "He's unbelievably talented. [article id="1626841"]The AMA thing[/article], I guess, was something he wanted to do and try. An artist is really left up to their own ideas of how they want to do things."
[artist id="1941279"]Kris Allen[/artist], meanwhile, hasn't really been able to capitalize on the "Idol" crown with his debut album so far, but Jackson isn't giving up hope.
"[Adam is] a far bigger personality, probably, than Kris, but I think they're both equally talented," Jackson said. "Kris obviously won for a reason."
Jackson also hasn't ruled out success for a few other finalists: "You got Allison [Iraheta], she's got her record out too. I wish them all well and the best. They're all immensely talented. Danny Gokey — we had a lot of talented kids [last] season."
With those big shoes to fill, Jackson was expecting some season-eight clones at the auditions, but he was pleasantly surprised.
"You would have thought there would have been a lot more theatrical Adam Lambert or Kris Allen types that would have showed up for the auditions, but that's not what happened at all this time," he said. "Usually, whoever wins or comes in one and two, the next season of auditions, you have a lot of those kinds of people. It's almost like it was a signal to all the people at home who were like them: 'Now it's time to try out for "American Idol"!' [Laughs.] But it didn't happen like that this time, so I think we got a very interesting, unique cast that's really only unique to this season nine."
Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' [article id="1486475"]"American Idol" page[/article], where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.