Get this: Adam Lambert auditioned in San Diego, and Kris Allen auditioned in Louisville! Those are two entirely different cities! And yet here they both are as the Top Two in the finale of American Idol. One pair of matching bookends, different as night and day. I also hear tell from inside sources that Kris adores a minuet, while Adam is partial to hot dogs. Eerie, am I right?
Ryan is in on the act as well; he calls Kris and Adam “the acoustic rocker vs. the glam rocker,” and says this is a battle between “the guy next door and the guyliner.” It’s a grudge match! Only completely free of grudges, which really makes it just a match. You can probably tell that I’ve grown a little weary over the nonstop comparisons of how different our last two standing contestants are so very different. Also it’s the finale, and thus the prospect of Clive Davis appearing is churning the contents of my stomach into rich creamery butter, so do pardon me if I seem a little on edge.
Simon Suit Watch 2009: Standard Grey Blazer with white Oxford shirt. Three buttons undone. Also, Randy has chosen to wear a gingham shirt with a polka dotted tie, so I think he really, really wanted to be mentioned, and Paula is looking very easy, breezy, bronze-iful in a bright green silk shift. Kara is there as well.
For tonight’s momentous occasion the PAs managed to transport the crystal stairs to the Nokia, and thank goodness, because I never would have been able to pick out Ryan in this arena if he weren’t silhouetted by a million watts. Kris and Adam follow him down the stairs and Ryan asks if they’re ready for they night. “Totally,” they both answer, before heading backstage. Ryan also informs us that it will be Show Creator/Producer/Poor Imitation of Nigel Lythgoe Simon Fuller who will be choosing TPTB song this year, so hopefully my stomach will be settling down soon. And, here’s commercial break number one, just in time for nothing at all to have happened on the show yet.
There’s No Need to Fear; Underdog Is Here
Kris won the coin toss last week, so Adam will perform first throughout the evening. We start with a clip package featuring Adam’s parents discussing how Adam was a legendary screamer even as an infant. The look in his father’s eyes is very proud with just a little lingering irritation as he confesses that Adam would never sleep through the night as a baby. Adam interviews that his parents could never take him anywhere because he was super noisy and hyperactive, and then he smiles and says, “Not much different than I am now.” Ha. The first round is reprises of the contestants’ favorite songs, and Adam has chosen “Mad World” which debut during Year You Were Born week I missed due to The Great DVR Disgrace of Ought Nine. Ooh, I hope that title catches on.
The lights are dim and blue. Adam is wearing a coat right off the rack at the Vogon Superstore, and he comes rising from under the stairs and slowly stalks onto the smoke-filled stage. You couldn’t ask for a more ethereal set design. Also, there’s singing. This arrangement is gorgeous on its very own, and for me (for you) I think that takes away a little from Adam’s delivery; I mean the voice almost becomes secondary. Almost. Anyway, Adam sings “Mad World” beautifully, aside from a few spots near the very beginning and the very end where his vibrato wobbles. I think it was nerves. I really love this song in this kind of gossamer key, and this is officially the first Adam Lambert thing I have to have. Randy gives him an A+, but for “Adam,” not for “effort.” He’s learning! Perhaps we’ll be able to work on colors next week. Paula is unbelievably proud of Adam, and at her expression of that sentiment the audience goes nuts. Paula tells him to bask in that reaction, and congratulates him for making his performance more theatrical this time. Simon, however, thought it was over-theatrical, and says it was too Phantom of the Opera, what with the dry ice and the stairs and the coat. So I guess we’re back to hating theatrical? Adam responds that no way would he miss this opportunity to play dress up and come ascending out of a staircase and use dry ice. Nor would I, dude.
Kris, perhaps, would pass on it. His parents talk about how shy Kris used to be of singing for his family. He used to charge them a quarter fee, and gradually the price went up as he got older. This is a kid who’s going to make it in the industry. Also, once for his mother’s birthday, he gave her home-made coupons for free Kris Allen performances. How sweet is that? Not so sweet that I don’t hope there were flowers or something to with it, but still. Aw.
Kris is reprising his performance of “Ain’t No Sunshine” from Buy iTunes! Week. He is again at the piano, dressed in a black vest and yet another white tee, and again his arrangement of this song is tops – especially the melodic changes that help vary the dynamic. Kris sings with an especially ringing warmth on the higher phrases that makes me not want to sing along because it is that pretty.
Judgishness: Randy says something about basketball for no reason, and says he knows what kind of record Kris Allen will make. Kara, at once reminding me that she is here and blowing my mind, says, “If you can’t feel a Kris Allen performance, there’s something wrong with you.” Wow. Kara and I agree on something. I feel a little sick again. Paula says Kris “awaken[s] the spirit in all of us.” Okay, Paula. She also says he is gifted at Allen-izing things. I prefer the verb “to Krisify.” Simon says, “Competition.” He further elaborates that he didn’t think America should’ve picked Kris as a finalist, but he takes that back after this performance. I guess he didn’t hear it the first time Kris did it?
Round Two, wherein we are treated to the whims of Simon Fuller. For Adam, he has chosen “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Oh why, Simon Fuller? Why? I guess this song is my “Imagine,” in that it is not a song that I can handle being “performed.” I get that it is a beautiful composition, and the lyrics may have a double kind of applicability for Adam politically (though that’s unconfirmed, and none of our business, and so on, we’re all humans, etc., let’s hold hands), but this is one song that I feel no one should get indulgent with, that no one should use to try to impress an audience with. I think it’s a shame when that happens, so I’m not able to judge this objectively. Adam sings it nicely, and he is miles better than Syesha Mercado was with this last season, although I realize that might not seem like the compliment it’s meant to be. I find no fault with Adam’s singing (although I did fast-forward through a good half of this); I think he shows off the purity of his high register better than he has yet, but I don’t like this performance. I guess deep down I’m just a little old lady in a rocker on the porch, admonishing kids for messing with my sacred music. Also, GET OFF MY LAWN. NOW SEE, YOU HAVE TRAMPLED MY TULIPS! YOU WILL REPLACE THEM.
You may have the judges’ feedback while you wait for the bill from the nursery. Randy is still trying to make “sing your face off” happen. It’s not going to happen. Kara thinks this was a great interpretation of a song, and Paula thinks it’s the best he ever sang. She raves in her Paula way, iconic, in awe, wants to eat his hair. Simon, after calling the first round for Kris, thinks Adam is “100% back in the game.”
Now let’s ponder the producer choice for Kris: “What’s Going On.” Okay. Yeah, this song is frigging awesome, earthy and profound, right in Kris’ creative wheelhouse, but it does not compare dynamically to “A Change Is Gonna Come.” There’s very little build, and very little rhythmic variation. Also, what can you do with it? It rules as is. You can’t balladize it or you make it dreary and uninteresting, and you can’t move the tempo up too much or you risk losing the earthy mood and the heft, so this is pretty much going to be the laid back thing it is. Which is great, to me, but which is not going to make a moment on finale night in a packed arena. Oh well.
Kris is in a chair strumming his own guitar, with an electric guitar, a bongo player, and a conga to accompany. It sounds like “What’s Going On,” Krisified. There’s some strategic syncopation and some very creative variations of the melodic line, and his voice reaches a peak of vibrancy for me; it’s very honeyed and rich when he riffs. I loved it. I do not buy albums, but I am going to buy his album. Meanwhile, the impact is definitely diminished. Randy says we have real live duel going on. Secret’s out; there is a mace hidden behind Kris’ guitar strap. Adam has a flintlock pistol in his bangs. Randy does however think the performance was a little light for the moment. Now I’m agreeing with Randy. I may not recover. Kara praises Kris for not compromising and playing to the competition, but staying true to himself, and loved him delivering a conscious and uplifting message because he has the chops to do it. Paula says, and I have to quote directly because I just have to, “I know what’s going on: You tore that song up and made Marvin Gaye proud!” Come on, that little allusion was clever, right? Simon was less than satisfied; he liked the song, but thought it didn’t fit the night. He calls this round “a million percent Adam’s.”
Will There Ever Be a Rainbow?
And the third round features a Kara DioGuardi song, so you know. Good luck picking up any steam there. Hey, it’s the rest of the Top 13! Allison, Matt, Anoop! Jasmine Murray who I forgot existed! They’re all crowded in one cute camera shot ready to watch, and perhaps for the first time feel relief at their own eliminations, as Adam and Kris each tackle this year’s coronation tune. “No Boundaries,” which Kara co-wrote with some people who don’t have names. Or who didn’t want their names on it? Hard to tell.
You already know the song blows, so I’m not even going to do that, except to say that at least Kara chose a different weather formation to focus on – hurricanes instead of sunshine, clouds, and rain. That Kara’s one edgy lady, don’tcha know. Adam is first to give this the old college try: “Just when you almost gave up on your dreams, they’ll take you by the hand, and show you that you can.” Yup. Adam sounds great in the low key of the verse, but sometimes sharp on the changes into the chorus. Who cares though. I’m really just in awe that he did it without bursting into laughter.
Randy says eh, it was a little pitchy. That's two for us, and I am afraid. If any of you ever hear or see me calling something a "molten-hot lava bomb," please promise you will remand me to the authorities. Kara thanks Adam for giving her “this moment.” Yeah, because he totally did that just for you, Kara. (Oh I know how it is, composers, I know. I just don’t like Kara.) Adam graciously thanks her for giving him that song. (“It was beautiful,” he says.) Paula has no adjectives left in her cup, so she just smiles very widely. Simon briefly mocks the song for being stupid and says he won’t judge the song, but that Adam is one of the most original contestants ever, and he thinks “with all his heart” that Adam will be a world-wide star. Wow. Simon has a heart, and is in fact so aware of it that he can bring it up in an everyday conversation? Get right the heck out of here!
Now Kris gets to close with the same thing. I kind of wish it had been a duet. Because I think their voices would complement each other very cleanly, and yeah also because then we’d only have to hear “No Boundaries” once tonight. But anyway, Kris sings the same thing, the same way, only the key is noticeably too high for him. I think Adam had an easier go of it because his voice is much more resonant in this key than Kris’ voice, which definitely made the song feel fuller and less stupid when he sang it. Still a stupid song though. The judges all give Kris a variation of the Elliott Yamin Memorial “Congrats for Making It This Far Despite Us; You Should Be Super Proud” Speech: Kara says he is a compelling artist, and everybody says you deserve this, amazing season, best of luck, good for you, etc. Simon says Kris has confidence now and his parents should be proud.
Ryan asks how Kris feels about the competition, and Kris says he and Adam decided they weren’t competing, but just wanted to give us a good show. Aw. I think they did. Even more so as they upstage Ryan’s closing spiel by pointing at each other and saying “Vote for this guy!” I love them both a lot. Carrie Underwood will now sing the Goodbye Song one last time while bittersweet footage of people we forgot to remember plays. A cookie for every person whose name you can remember in the montage. A peanut for every back-story, because that’s a lot easier.
And so that is it for the competitive performances this season! Best of luck to both the contestants tonight; they have each helped make this one gripping season and I wish them all success in the future, along with the rest of the Top 13. Even Gokey. My awesome partner MsFroggy will be back soon to put her signature snarky stamp on all the duets, guests, clip packages, stuff, and nonsense from the finale extravaganza. Oh, and she’ll probably tell you who the winner is too. I’m now going to find Kris Allen’s pre-Idol music and a shady spot in the park, so that I might ease my way out of this wacky season as soon as possible. Thank you to everyone who has spent a bit of your time reading these recaps this season, and many more thanks to those who have said something sweet about them. Last but not least, I’d like to give a shout out to God, my mama, and especially my partner, without whom this gig wouldn’t have been half so fun, and would have taken twice as long. See you next season, and once again, thank you for being a friend!