Kris Allen (left) and Adam Lambert made it to the finals of this season's American Idol — and became what some might call an unlikely pair of friends.
Kris Allen (left) and Adam Lambert made it to the finals of this season's American Idol — and became what some might call an unlikely pair of friends. Michael Becker/Fox
Five Things Your 'Idol' Winner Did Right To Get The Victory
Kris Allen won America's biggest popularity contest Wednesday night. A record 100 million votes were cast for the winner of this year's American Idol.
And the outcome? An absolute upset.
Kris Allen, 23, is a sweetly sincere former missionary from Arkansas. He was competing against flamboyantly powerful singer Adam Lambert, a gilded glam rocker who appeared to have the competition sewn up.
The show did its best to establish the two as opposite personas. "The guy next door versus the guyliner," as host Ryan Seacrest put it. But upon learning of his victory, Allen seemed floored — even apologetic.
"This was an absolute shocker of a finale for American Idol," says Michael Slezak, senior writer for the Web site of Entertainment Weekly. "I did not expect Kris Allen to beat Adam Lambert, and I don't think Kris Allen expected to beat Adam Lambert. I mean, honestly, saying 'Adam deserves this, I'm sorry.' I've never heard that kind of quote from an Idol winner."
Slezak credits Lambert with completely rejuvenating the American Idol franchise.
"Trying to imagine season eight without Adam Lambert would be like trying to imagine your bowl of cereal without milk: hard to swallow and dry," Slezak says.
Lambert's performances and song choices were always intelligent, often audacious and consistently thrilling. With his anime haircut and feline eyes, Lambert seemed poised to redefine rock-and-roll masculinity. All the judges, including Paula Abdul, bestowed him with an aura of inevitability.
There is speculation that Lambert lost the title because he presents — very deliberately — as gay. But Slezak says viewers just went for the underdog. "I have to think there's a slight backlash against the show's producers and judges, who have a tendency to push very hard for the contestant they want to win," Slezak says.
Another backlash of sorts came from the contestants themselves. The American Idol machine did its best to pit the folksy country Christian against the showy, sophisticated dandy. But the two men formed a friendship that transcended typical reality show expectations.
"I think we need as many indicators to young men in America that someone like Adam is the kind of guy who can be their best friend as we do to little 8-year-olds watching Adam Lambert as the kind of performer they could grow up into being themselves," says Shana Naomi Krochmal, contributing editor for Out Magazine.
Krochmal says she took real pleasure in watching what seems to be an authentic mutual affection develop in such an artificial environment of constant hype and relentless product placement.
But Allen and Lambert had better be friends. They have a 50-city tour to get through this summer.