On May 20, "American Idol" wrapped its eighth season by crowning Kris Allen the champion. And things really haven't slowed down since.
It's quite possible that, in 2009, "Idol" — which has always been one of the most massive shows on TV — got even more gigantic, thanks to a boatload of talented contestants, a dynamic pair of polar-opposite finalists (humble everydude Allen vs. flashy, dashy Adam Lambert) and a drama-filled offseason that featured backstabbing, big-money contracts and, uh, bondage-heavy awards-show performances. In a lot of ways, it's like "Idol" never left us, and keeping up with the headlines truly became a full-time job.
And so, with the ninth season of "Idol" scheduled to kick off Tuesday at 8 p.m., we figured now was the perfect time to bring you up to speed on everything that's gone on since the show went off the air. And who better to turn to than MTV News "American Idol" expert Jim Cantiello? He's packed a whole lot into his patented 60-second recap, but since so much has gone down, he couldn't fit it all — which is why we're here to fill in the gaps. Like we said, it's a full-time job.
The "Idol" off-season began in earnest when Allen and Lambert wowed fans with a performance on the "Today" show in late May. We also had our annual controversies, stemming from reports that AT&T employees had allegedly shown fans how to "power vote" for Allen (something show producers and both finalists downplayed). Plus, "Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi accidentally outed Lambert on "The View" (whoops!). The following month, the top 10 hit the road for the Idols Live! Tour, which kicked off in Portland, Oregon, and saw Lambert whip audiences into a frenzy with his covers of David Bowie's "Fame" and Muse's "Starlight" (Allen reportedly also performed). Oh, and on June 14, auditions for the show's ninth season began in Boston.
The real drama started to spread in July, first when host Ryan Seacrest inked a $45 million, three-year deal with CKX, the parent company of "Idol" producers 19 Entertainment. Perhaps smarting from this, "Idol" mainstay Paula Abdul began public speculation that she might not return to the show, with her manager saying she didn't have an offer on the table from 19 and that the lack of a new contract was "unnecessarily hurtful ... rude and disrespectful."
That was followed by the news that DioGuardi would be brought back for a second season behind the judges' desk, and then an announcement from Abdul herself that she would not return to the show. Speculation began about where Abdul would land next — everywhere from "Dancing With the Stars" to a talk show were in play — and who would replace her. Ultimately, the job went to comedian and talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres.
But it wasn't just the judges who were making headlines. Lambert came out on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine, recorded the fiery "Time for Miracles" for the "2012" soundtrack and shocked viewers with a lewd, S&M-heavy performance at the American Music Awards, which flooded ABC with viewer complaints and got him banned from a pair of upcoming specials on the network. He released his debut album, For Your Entertainment, in late November, then found himself on the receiving end of a verbal (and probably homophobic) barb from none other than Eminem, though he managed to laugh it off, saying he didn't take the insult personally.
Hidden in Lambert's shadow, Allen worked hard on his debut album, which was released in November, selling 80,000 copies in its first week of release. Third-place finisher Danny Gokey decided to make a country album, and fourth-place finisher Allison Iraheta got punky on her debut disc, Just Like You.
Oh, and as if all that weren't enough, on Monday (January 11), Simon Cowell announced he would leave the show after the ninth season to focus on a U.S. version of his hit U.K. talent show "The X Factor." All of this means that starting Tuesday night, we're in for a very interesting run.
Get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.