Kris Allen, mellow and understated throughout the "American Idol" competition, was more than mellow when he was crowned the winner of Season 8 tonight. For a moment there, he looked positively sheepish.
"The dark horse comes back and wins the nation over. How does it feel?" Ryan asked. "It feels good, man," Kris said, "but Adam just - Adam deserves this."
Such is the pull Adam Lambert has had on this competition from the start. The producers, the judges who praised him every week, the "Entertainment Weekly" editors who put him alone on the cover -- all of them seemed to think that Adam should take the title, and apparently, so did the guy who actually won.
But the voters – who cast more than 100 million votes on Tuesday night -- said otherwise, charmed by Kris's smart song choices and increasingly bold performances, and in some cases, turned off by Adam's over-the-top performance style and his goth appearance.
Adam may have been the most polarizing finalist the show has ever seen, and Kris was almost-absurdly wholesome by comparison -- not to mention far more similar to Danny Gokey, and thus more likely to draw votes from his die-hard fans. Still, this "Idol" contest wasn’t just a skirmish in the culture wars. It was a choice between bold glam rockers and mellow guys with acoustic guitars, a test of how fast people could dial or text, and – perhaps most significantly – a referendum on what an “American Idol” winner should be.
Adam arrived on the “Idol” stage fully formed, with the skill and confidence of an already-minted rock star. (The Queen medley at the end was clearly meant for him. Kris was just there to hold down the mid-range notes.)
Kris, meanwhile, represented the traditional "Idol" conceit: that the show should find a diamond in the rough from some distant corner of the country. He won over voters by improving over time, gaining confidence and boldness. Fireworks went off in Conway, Arkansas. And when he hugged his wife at the end of the show, after singing his schlocky coronation song, the full weight of what had happened seemed to be settling in.
It was a lovely moment, and enough to make anyone feel decent about what happened. Adam and Kris seemed to genuinely like each other; Simon took the unusual step of calling both of them "unusually incredibly nice people." They'll both go on to be stars, and they'll both deserve it.
As for the rest of the show? The most surprising moment came from Kara, who appeared onstage singing "Vision of Love" -- a reprise of her audition-round showdown with “Bikini Girl” Katrina Darrell -- then tore off her dress to reveal that she was wearing a bikini, too. (Ryan later said she agreed to do it on a dare, in exchange for a donation to her favorite charity.) If this is Kara's parting shot -- and it could well be -- she redeemed herself a smidge. She looked mortified.
I also loved the Cyndi Lauper/Allison Iraheta duet, the fact that Keith Urban appeared, and the way Adam rocked out with KISS. (Was I the only one waiting for his outfit to light up?) The Steve Martin bit was bizarre; Michael and Megan to showcase his song? No wonder he looked so glum. I had a feeling we'd see Tatiana and Normund Gentle again, though I wish both of them had been given more original schticks. And I felt a little wistful, watching Alexis Grace strutting around; she should have lasted longer.
So are you cheering tonight? Mourning? Taking it in stride? Let 'er rip in the comments, then come back here tomorrow at 10 a.m. for our final "Idol" chat of the year.
About Viewer Discretion
ContributorsKatie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
Sarah Rodman is a TV and music critic for the Boston Globe.
Meghan Colloton is a Things to Do and Arts & Entertainment producer at Boston.com.
Michael Brodeur is the assistant arts editor for the Boston Globe, covering pop music, TV, and nightlife.