American Idol Season 9 Finale: In Defence of Kris Allen

Season 9 Finale: In Defence of Kris Allen

May 26th, 2010

I’ve got a lot to say about this season of American Idol and the future of the franchise without Simon Cowell, but I’m going to be saving those for a Jive TV column in the coming days. However, since that piece will be more wide-reaching than tonight’s results, I want to comment briefly on two things.

The first is that, in case you didn’t notice it, Idol got a rare insurrection from quality music when Sufjan Stevens’ “Chicago” was used to soundtrack the package of Lee and Crystal’s auditions in Chicago and their Idol journey. I would highly suggest you look up Sufjan if you have not been privy to his music in the past, as “Illinois” (the album on which the song is featured) was truly a revelation for me.

The second is that I think people are falling prey to an easy but ultimately false analogy when it comes to tonight’s results. Kris Allen was, in fact, the eighth American Idol, and there are plenty of arguments to be made that Adam Lambert deserved to win that season, but I think we need to make a distinction between “relatively” undeserving winners and undeserving winners.

[That’s more or less a spoiler, but I figure that if you read this blog and have been watching enough to understand that it’s a spoiler, you probably found out already, so come back after the break and I can defend Kris Allen some more.]

I am not really a “fan” of Kris Allen, but in the context of American Idol he was a quality contestant: he was willing to play around with arrangements, he picked songs which suited his voice and which didn’t offend my sensibilities, and he remained humble and confident throughout the competition. Yes, in the same season Adam Lambert staked his claim as the most original Idol contest of all time and likely deserved to win for taking the risks he did, but Kris Allen was a deserving winner of a theoretical American Idol competition independent of Lambert’s performance.

We cannot, just so we’re clear, say the same thing of Lee DeWyze, unquestionably the worst winner in the series’ history. Now, I would actually rather listen to DeWyze than Taylor Hicks – the new American Idol equivalent to Sophie’s Choice, right there – but at least Hicks was good at what he did even if I have absolutely no interest in it. By comparison, DeWyze is wholly unoriginal, woefully off-key, and worst of all has absolutely no charisma. When the show gave him U2’s “Beautiful Day” as a single, it was the worst thing they could have done to him: already a weak performer, the comparison with Bono of all people was the death knell. At least if DeWyze had been saddled with one of the series’ usual sappy ballads they could have hid his inability to sing on-key beneath the treacle, but here is a good song from a great band being massacred in front of twenty million people.

And Kris Allen was never that terrible, or even below average: sure, he emerged from the semi-finals based entirely on his looks (since they did the weird semi-final setup where contestants were put through to the finals based on a single performance), but after that point he brought it to the table and became a contender. By comparison, the show manufactured Lee into a contender, eventually succeeding in their goal to create a competitor for Crystal Bowersox, she of the powerful voice, engaging stage presence, and professionalism. However, they did not have the technology available to get Lee to avoid looking like a deer in the headlights, nor could they teach him how to properly sustain a note without mangling it to death.

Lee DeWyze will have some hit singles and get some radio play, and in some ways he’ll be better off now than he was in the competition: he won’t have to sing songs where he has to sustain long notes if he doesn’t want to, and no one can see you stare blankly and avoid eye contact when you’re on the radio. And perhaps you could even say that Crystal Bowersox is better off without the pressure of being American Idol, able to chart her own path towards music industry success on (relatively) her own terms.

But I think we need to resist the comparison to last year’s results, both because Kris Allen deserves more respect and because every season of American Idol is different. Last season, Adam lost because he polarized the audience and Allen was a more wholesome alternative: this season, the judges were forced to turn Lee Dewyze into the underdog everyman in order to make it seem like anyone was even in Crystal’s league. More than in any past season, Lee Dewyze was not so much plucked from obscurity as he was plucked from obscurity and then placed on a pedestal a good six or seven weeks before contestants are traditionally put into that position.

I’m not suggesting there aren’t comparisons to be made: you could argue that Adam and Crystal were victims of subconscious (or potentially conscious) discrimination by the voting public for being gay and an unwed mother, respectively, and the similarities between DeWyze and Allen (both white, both playing guitars) continue a trend that goes back to David Cook’s win the year before. However, I feel like Lee DeWyze has done enough damage, and the idea that his performance would retroactively turn Kris Allen into a comparative performer in the eyes of America is enough of an injustice that I would use it as a framework in which to publicly vent my frustration with just how terrible I think Lee was last night.

Perhaps the more positive thing to do would be to write about how Crystal Bowersox was robbed, or how the American public got it wrong, but Simon was right: America is the real judge of this show, and they’ve made their choice. I thought Crystal was fantastic, and was consistently better on tonight’s show as well, but that can’t be changed: Kris Allen’s reputation, however, hangs in the balance, and someone had to do something about it.

Cultural Observations

  • Interesting that the Idol finale would skew quite so…old. Hall & Oates, Chicago, Joe Cocker, The Bee Gees, Michael McDonald? The show’s demo ratings were bad enough this year, so I don’t quite get those decisions. Throw in Alanis Morissette and Christina Aguilera, who have both faded from the public eye, and an overlong lip-synching Janet Jackson, and you have an Idol finale that could have seriously taken place a decade ago if not for the previous Idol winners (Allen, Underwood). I’m sure kids had their pants on the ground back in 1999, as well.
  • The one major difference is that Bret Michaels’ wouldn’t have gotten a standing ovation for walking onto the stage: I was glad the show didn’t actually make note of his recent health troubles upon his arrival, allowing the moment to just speak for itself, although I wonder if some viewers might have been really confused by the audience’s reaction to the lead singer of Poison.
  • I note the anachronistic nature of Alanis Morissette above, but I was so very pleased that Crystal didn’t have to keep singing “Ironic” and got to rock out on “You Oughta Know” instead.
  • Paula Abdul making her return to send off Simon was nice (I’ll talk more about Simon’s departure in the column), but Abdul’s terrible comedy act was one of many uncomfortable moments (see also: Dane Cook) as the judges tried to simultaneously roast and celebrate Cowell. Abdul is no comedienne, and the way she turned the show into the Paula Abdul show was a stark reminder of how Ellen, at the very least, has the decency to keep the grandstanding to her own talk show. The only person who pulled it off was Gervais, and only because it was pre-taped – live, it would have been the Golden Globes all over again.


Filed under American Idol

28 responses to “American Idol Season 9 Finale: In Defence of Kris Allen

  1. Pingback: Canadian Idol Fans Watching American Idol

  2. KA

    Your observation is quite impressive. I believe you can make a difference to write factual statement that people would understand what a great journalism is all about. American Idol is about talent, a combination of singing, charisma, playing instrument, great personality and above all, someone who loves music from the get go. These are the qualities I found with Kris Allen, a wholesome classy artist. I wish AT& T step up and validate Kris allen’s win as a legitimate and there was no foul play. I wish American idol disclose percentage of voted between Kris and Adam that they have done every season but not on AI8. Why the secrecy. I wish you and your colleague will elaborate further on Kris talent and his creativity, bec I believe that journalist can make or break an artist. I am so pleased about your article and thank you. For those Adam lambert fans, Kris can’t be like Adam and vice versa. So Kris do deserve the respect because he won.

    • Skylar

      Oh PPLEASE Kris is not that good. Did you not listen to how TERRIBLE he sounded finale night on his song and even worse when singing with the winners. Now go back and watch Adam sing on Idol several weeks back. It IMO is more of a travesty that pocket idol Kris beat fantastic unbelievable Adam. But At&T, the homophobic Christian Right and Gokey fans gave Kris the win. Adam has sold 3 times the CD or Kris and has a sold out concert. Kris couldn’t even sell out dinner clubs so has to open for Urban. Too bad all these people who love Kris and felt he should win didn’t think he was good enough to spend 10 bucks on and buy a CD? Kris’s 15 minutes are up and as such he will fade away in 2-3 years.

      • KA

        @Skylar, oh, I keep forgetting Adam Lambert’s fans are always high! They like all the fancy sound, glitz, and blows to be noticeable, but at the end of the day, your boy cant even sing without screeching and showing his freaking tounge. If he so talented, what happened to his single “The Miracle” everybody so proud about that soundtrack that it did not even sell. What happened to “For Your Entertainment” If Adam Lambert is so good, he can sell that CD like a hotcake inspite of the fact that all his fans purchase a dozen each! And you dont approve of Kris opening for a great and large artist like Keith Urban, Lady A, Maroon 6, etc? You must be out of your mind, these groups believes that Kris has so much talent that he has to open for them. Do really think, they will pick Kris Allen if he cant’ sing? Adam Lambert a headliner???? for now, for how long? he will self destruct.

  3. LOVE

    Kris hasn’t had his name even said on idol all season im so glad he got to sing the truth tonight he did a great job after they got the mike fixed after the first couple of notes i think Ryan was talking over him. Kris has been and awesome American idol he is somebody i am proud to let my kids listen to he has been and inspiration to us all and i can’t wait to see what is in store for him in the future what ever it is i wish him the best and as always he was the highlight of the show for me and oh yea im going to miss Simon

  4. Pingback: Kris Allen performs “The Truth” at AI9 finale « Fourteen Plums

  5. Boxy

    You perfectly articulated my feelings on both Lee DeWyze and Kris Allen and why the analogies of their Idol victories make me want to stab people in the face. Thank you!

  6. Fan

    I agree with most of the things you’ve said. I think it’s ridiculous to even comparing Kris Allen to the likes of Lee. Honestly, Kris proved himself on the show…he tried his best with the abilities he possessed. His voice was beautiful and heartfelt, he brought something new to the table and I quite enjoyed his personality and the laid back music he performed. He constantly re-arranged songs, surprised us, and kept people interested. It’s really unfair how some bitter people are taking Lee’s win and comparing it to Kris’s for their on forsaken argument. Both Kris and Adam were talent in their own special way, and both deserved the title because they worked hard to get to the finale. And Kris was never pimped, he had to get himself to the top without anyone’s help, unlike Lee, who just sang off-pitch and let the judges/show pimp him to the top.

  7. Jenn

    Apparently, Lee chose “Beautiful Day” himself. Why, Lee, why?!

    I also think, in terms of voting, both Kris and Lee were probably the main beneficiaries when the 3rd place finishers (Danny Gokey and Casey James) left. I guess we’ll never know, but it seems like those contestants’ fans would be more likely to throw their support behind Kris and Lee, who were far less polarizing than Adam and Crystal.

  8. Kms

    AI9 is on no way comparable to AI8! Kris Allen is a class act who WON Americsn Idol because he won the hearts of America! He is a talented musician, writer, singer & artist who had his own unique approach to musi. That was 3 dimensional! He beat Adam(handily) bcz America could relate to him emotionally!!! The vote difference wasn’t discussed so as to keep The runner up promotionally viable! The truth is that Kris is the first AI alymn to rank top 10 in 3 different formats with there first d
    single(which went platinum)! He also ranks top ten $$$ AI alumn! Adam Does NOT! So all this BS that Adam is outdoing kris…uhmmm no! The facts simply don’t support it! Kris is making more $$$..that’s the facts! As fir the discussion/comparison w thus season….no comparidon!
    AI9 is pathetic & neither could compete w kris or Adam! Crystal I’d good but her appeal us way too narrow! Lee, good vibe, emotion & relatable-that’s why he won! But neither is in the same leaqlgue w kris Allen-class act & best performance tonight!!! Thankyou for your article!

    • Leigh

      The vote difference was never released. You’re making statements that have no basis in reality. Kris and Adam are at peace with the results, but there are posters, such as yourself, who are not. It’s time to give it up.

    • showshow

      You know, I don’t think you’ve used enough of these: ! and these: …

  9. MK

    Agree with KMS. Kris Allen deserved to win because he was talented. Talented musician, talented song arranger and hard worker. He took critiques in stride even if they were silly and worked hard.

    As a performer AFTER Idol, Kris has grown so much that one would think he’d been performing for years.

    And Kris does not have to grab his personal parts or use four letter words to attract the public’s attention either.

    There is no comparison between Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze. Nor is there any comparison between Kris Allen and Adam Lambert. Adam didn’t win. Period. Everyone needs to let it go.

    Complain about Season 9 if that’s what turns you on, but Season 8 is long gone. Adam will be successful in his type of “entertainment”. And Kris is successful in his. They are world’s apart.

  10. Rachel

    Thank you for your article. Whereas I began last season supporting Adam, Kris won me over and I was ecstatic when he won. It was obvious, however, that he was the surprise winner and Simon’s comments after the show that “Adam should have won,” are consistent with how they have treated Kris all season. How difficult would it have been for Ryan to introduce Kris with, “Kris’ platinum single ‘Live Like We’re Dying’ is still on the charts, and here he is with his new single, ‘The Truth.'” Just one sentence of acknowledgement. But no. They even had him cut down his song, ostensibly so we could hear more Simon accolades. But Kris is not the only one they snubbed. Rickey Minor is leaving after years of working closely with the contestants. Nothing was said about him as well. I am so glad that Kris is no longer the reigning American Idol. I am so done with that show.

  11. madeleine

    Agree with you.
    Kris is super talented and that’s why he won. He has amazing musical sensibilities and he has a sweet honeyed voice coupled with impeccable phrasing and sense of rythm. Adam is super talented too and the choice of the winner in season 8 was a matter of taste.

  12. john

    Kris Allen won on his considerable talents. It was not a case of “he deserved to win if Adam Lambert had not happened to be there.” And he did not advance to the finals on his looks, that’s just your opinion. Lambert lost, get over it. I never found him in the least original.

  13. Shanba

    It is so nice to read an objective article that is truthful too! Thank you so much for taking the time to recognize Kris’s talents and acknowledge that he is not like Lee at all! I started out supporting Adam last year on the show but quickly became a devoted fan of Kris the more I watched him mold and craft each and every song. As Kara says…”it is as if he is singing to me and if you can’t feel a Kris moment there is something wrong with you.” Everyone has a right to have their own taste in music but I support him 100% and hope others who like him will buy his album and download his singles and see him in concert!

  14. Ed

    First, Lee was sold to us as a paint store employee with a great voice and little singing experience (shy Lee). What American Idol didn’t tell us was about his two already produced albums (2007 & 2009) and contract for 3rd album that he had get a release from to appear on American Idol. Yes, his albums had went no where, but he was not the shy, inexperience, newly discovered singer/paint store employee that American Idol sold him as. If American Idol restricted voting to one person, one vote rule, then we have a different outcome. With the 10 to 15 year young girls voting 200 to 300 times for the guy that they think is cute makes the American Idol results more or less a Teeny Bopper Award not a true American Idol Award. American Idol needs to restrict voting to one person/one vote! It will substantially lower the vote count, but might make the American Idol Contest more fair and with better outcomes. Crystal was by far the better singer/performer.

  15. Leigh

    So many posters here still fighting over Kris/Adam. Time to let it go, people. The article is about the Kris/Lee comparison – not the former.

  16. CeeJay

    Lee can not be compared to Kris other than they are male, white and play guitar, Kris actually has a lot of talent and can sing in tune most of the time. Having said that I do like Lee’s voice somewhat but not his overall manner. Kris won because people liked him and voted for him and in no way was he undeserving even in the slightest, to say that is a put down and that kind of opinion is what keeps Kris’ career ‘hanging in the balance’.

  17. Dave

    Cook > Allen > Dewyze. A slippery slope of diminishing talent, all in the same generic vein. Can’t imagine how terrible next year’s idol will be.

    • KA

      @Dave, what is your problem? Do you want everybody to be like Adam Lambert, Lady Gaga, Rihanna, all the hip hop singers, God knows what is their songs all about? You must be high in dope alll the time. Well not us, we have the decency to admit that artist have their talents in their own ways. You dont like what you see and hear in America, I suggest you move to another country!

  18. I hate kris

    I hate kris Allen!!! He totally sucks!! He sings off key and can’t hit a high note to save himself. He sings and twists his mouth all up, can’t stand that. Talk about no personality, no charisma. Doh is how I percieve Allen. He’s been the lowest selling idol so far. He did ain’t no sunshine pretty good and everyone loved heartless which I think sucks. The anti gay haters didn’t want Adam to win and one of kris’s friends worked in an at & t store had all these people power voting.
    As far as lee, he has a much better sounding voice and can sing way better than kris. They picked songs for kris at the end that didn’t have any high notes, so he wouldn’t look bad.
    He sucks!!!!

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