LOS ANGELES — The "American Idol" red carpet has to be especially surreal for all the returning "Idol" contestants, kind of like the first day of high school. The vets from the early seasons are the seniors, and the season-eight kids are the naïve freshmen.
For season-six runner-up Blake Lewis, it's that dynamic that brought him out for Wednesday night's (May 20) big finale. "I'm back here, hanging out with friends, seeing the new class," he laughed.
But fellow seasonf-six finalist LaKisha Jones had her own analogy: "It's like a family reunion, without the barbecue."
Last year's runner-up, David Archuleta, was also back for the finale, even serenading MTV News with a taste of his song "Touch My Hand" on the red carpet. So what does it feel like to be back? "It's really different and really crazy," he said. "I was a lot busier last year than I am right now. ... Adam [Lambert] and Kris [Allen] are getting dragged all over the place."
A year later, Archie still thinks America made the right choice for last year's champion. "Cook did great the whole year, really," he said. "I think that's why he deserved to win. I never thought I was gonna win. I thought, 'I'm just happy I'm here. I don't know how I got here!' "
As for this year's final two, it was an Adam-leaning carpet (sorry about the loss, guys). But a few people did put their support behind
For a few of the "Idol" alumni we caught up with, fourth judge Kara DioGuardi isn't a new face. Season-three runner-up Diana DeGarmo talked about working with the singer/songwriter on a previous album and reaching out to her for some help on a future country LP. Jason Castro just collaborated with DioGuardi and is hitting the studio next month to record his debut album.
It was hard to get someone's attention amid all the red-carpet madness, but one thing stopped Paula Abdul dead in her tracks: mentioning her HSN jewelry line.
Our very own "Idol" expert, Jim Cantiello, congratulated the judge on the success of her new line, and she couldn't contain herself. "A complete sellout, every single item, for three hours," she bragged. "I couldn't even start explaining it, and it was sold out." So does she have any bling for Jim? "I have some in store for you, boy," Abdul teased. "I got a lot that you haven't seen. I may have to catch up with you later on."
Are you an "American Idol" expert? Take our ultimate "Idol" quiz to find out! Plus, get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.