American Idol: Kris or Adam? Game on!

Season eight on “American Idol” this year has been fun, entertaining and exciting and it’s all going to come to an end tonight. So who’s gonna be crowned the winner? Will it be the powerhouse voice of Adam Lambert or the folksy pop star Kris Allen?

Last night both Idol finalists sang three songs giving viewers at home one last time to vote for their favorite. Game on!

In round one, Lambert sang “Mad World” by Tears For Fears, a song he performed earlier in the competition that audiences absolutely loved. Lambert really connected with the song again and performed it as if he were telling a story. His voice was soft and tender. He was also very composed and controlled. Overall the performance was good, but a bit boring for me at times. Randy appreciated Lambert’s sensitive side and said he looked cool rocking the long coat he wore, which I have to admit was kind of nice. Lambert is quite the fashionista. Kara said Lambert is an extraordinary singer and an incredible artist. Paula called his performance haunting and theatrically brilliant. However, Simon felt it was too theatrical and compared his singing to the Phantom of the Opera. I have to agree, Lambert’s musical theater past does get a bit overdramatic during his predictable performances.

Allen played the piano singing “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers and gave a solid performance. Randy said it was one of his best performances ever. I agree. Kara was moved and noted Allen made an intimate connection with his audience. This is key. Simon added he wasn’t sure America made the right decision last week by voting to keep Allen in the competition. But after this performance, Simon said he takes that all back. Simon felt Allen won this first round. Once again I agree.

Lambert and Allen are extremely talented vocalists and represent two very different styles of singing. Lambert personifies that rock glamour appeal and Allen is simple yet hip with a modern folksy twist.

In round two, both Lambert and Allen sang songs chosen by American Idol creator Simon Fuller.

Allen sang Marvin Gaye’s, “What’s Goin’ On” while playing his guitar. The other musicians that accompanied Allen playing percussion and base were a nice visual. This was a bad song choice because it’s so widely known and there are so many versions of it. Randy said Allen’s performance was not his best. Paula said Allen would have made Gaye proud. Simon felt Allen did not grab hold of the song and didn’t make it his own. I agree. Allen could have done so much more but he lacked originality and authenticity. It’s just too easy of a song and I personally feel it was just a bad pick on the part of Fuller.

Lambert sang “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke. I thought his opening was a bit weak. Once again Lambert reminded me of the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. Great vocal range but too theatrical. He did make the song cry though. I just think it was not the best song choice for Lambert’s rock and roll edge. In my opinion this is one those great songs that should not be altered and doing a rock and roll interpretation does not help. Despite my opinion, Randy said Lambert’s version was “unbelievable.” Kara felt it was the best interpretation of the song ever. She’s out of her mind. Paula said Lambert is an iconic performer. After this performance Simon said Lambert is 100 percent back in the competition and definitely won the second round.

Both songs have great messages and say a lot about what is happening in the U.S. given the economic crisis and the wars in the middle east. The lyrics are very socially conscious and resonate well with change seekers and peacemakers. I have to give props to Fuller for choosing these songs that highlight struggle and the fight for lasting change. But on a popular show like Idol, young people want to hear music that allows them to escape the world’s problem, not sulk in them. Songs that are hip, fresh, sexy, positive and universal can be spiced up with important themes, but these oldie but goodies just lacked all that.

The last round both Allen and Lambert sang an “Idol” commissioned song co-written by judge Kara DioGuardi called “No Boundaries.” Who ever wins tonight will make this song their first hit single.

Both Lambert and Allen struggled with the song and here’s why. They both came off too pitchy at times and well, honestly, it was a bad song to end on. Don’t get me wrong the song’s lyrics are beautiful and represent overcoming life problems especially when you really believe in yourself.

But come on, really? The song sounded like something you would hear at church. Boring! It was just way too goodie-goodie and made me sick to my stomach a little. I do think the songs arrangement better suits Allen’s voice. Lambert, well, it’s just not the kind of song I would want to hear him sing. I think it was a little unfair for both of them to try and spice this tune up. But if I had to vote I think Allen did a better job.

I’m sure DioGuardi is a great songwriter and she was extremely proud to hear her song on the Idol stage. But for me, as a music lover of all genres we want that punchy, ear-catching, trend-setting, good beat having, hip-lyrics that has you geeked when you hear it on the radio type of song. And this one has none of that. Sorry.

In the end I think Lambert will win, reviewing his overall success on the show compared to Allen. I prefer Allen’s type of voice and look forward to what comes next in his music career, but throughout the show this season Lambert has consistently finished on top.

Many think if Allen wins it’s going to be an Idol upset. I think they both deserve props and kudos for advancing this far. They’re both musical talents and have entertained audiences all year. Either one could walk away a winner and be called a true “American Idol.”

plozano @ pww.org