Adam Lambert has been heralded as one of the most original contestants "American Idol" has ever seen. The 27-year-old Los Angeles-bred stage actor's compositions have been praised as unique and provocative, and his unorthodox vocal interpretations of some rather beloved tunes have had the judges cooing gleefully, labeling him as the one to beat this season.
Remind you of anyone from last season's "Idol"? Perhaps the guy who ended up taking home the whole kit and caboodle, David Cook?
Whether he is or isn't, it certainly seems as though Lambert is taking a few cues from last year's victor. Much like Cook, Lambert has done little if anything wrong in the eyes of the judges, and he's established himself early on as the guy viewers tune in for each week, "because they want to see what he's going to do next," said MJ Santilli, founder of the popular "Idol" blog MJsBigBlog.com.
Santilli, too, has noticed a number of similarities between last year's winner and this year's projected winner, and she thinks it's very possible Lambert is modeling his run for the crown after Cook's. Santilli agreed that if Lambert is, in fact, using Cook's recipe, he's at least adding some of his own ingredients to the mix. He's a more dramatic performer than Cook ever was, she said, which perhaps ties into Lambert's thespian days.
"They both change things up from week to week, and do interesting takes on these songs, whether it's borrowed or it's original," Santilli explained. "They are taking songs people are used to hearing one way and doing them another way, and it makes it really exciting for viewers. Adam is a showman, and so was Cook."
On the current season of "Idol," the judges have emphasized the importance of finding the right song and then putting one's own original stamp on it. While Lambert has garnered much praise for customizing other people's material, a closer inspection reveals that his interpretations are perhaps not as original as many people say.
While his rendition of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" on Tuesday drew a standing ovation from the panel's true critic, Simon Cowell, it was very similar to a cover recorded back in 2001 by Michael Andrews and Gary Jules for inclusion on the "Donnie Darko" soundtrack. Last season, Cook received similar accolades for his acoustic rendition of Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean," which was very similar to ex-Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell's version; Cook didn't mention Cornell until he was called on it publicly.
Santilli also pointed out that Lambert's cover of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" sounds similar to a version performed by Dilana Robichaux in 2006 on the reality series "Rock Star: Supernova." Likewise, his take on the Miracles' "Tracks of My Tears" is reminiscent of the one performed by Gavin DeGraw, and, to a lesser extent, Lambert's cover of 'Play That Funky Music' sounds a touch like Extreme's cover of the Wild Cherry track.
"David Cook got into a lot of trouble for doing that, and at one point early on, he had to start rearranging his own stuff and not so much going to YouTube and finding already-existing arrangements," Santilli said. "After he did his cover of [the Beatles'] 'Eleanor Rigby,' which was a version that had been done by the band Doxology, and they got really mad and there was this big brouhaha that he took this arrangement and didn't credit anyone. He had to sit down with Ryan Seacrest on his radio show and say where the arrangements had come from. Then, Cook started doing his own arrangements."
Santilli said she expects a similar fate for Lambert. "He is a front-runner right now, and there's still a ways to go, but there's always a backlash against — and more scrutiny facing — the front-runner," she said. "I would be interested to see what happens in the next few weeks. If he is discovered, I don't think it's going to take him down, frankly."
Indeed, Santilli predicts Lambert will be the last man standing amid all the confetti when this season's winner is announced in late May, despite the threat posed by Danny Gokey — who, according to her, is this season's David Archuleta.
"Danny Gokey was the initial front-runner, but he has fallen away, like Archuleta had," she said. "I don't think Danny and Archy are similar artistically, but Archuleta came on strong that first week, and all his performances were strong ... they were just all the same. He lacked that thrill factor that Adam has, that Cook had."
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