When Kris Allen and Adam Lambert stood next to each other on May 20 at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, they each looked like they knew who the next American Idol would be.
Lambert, after all, had been the front-runner almost since the eighth season of “American Idol” began. The media, and even some of the judges, had all but declared him the winner at least a month before. It’s to his credit that he didn’t look particularly smug as host Ryan Seacrest stretched out the announcement.
Or that Lambert didn’t appear devastated when it was Allen’s name, not his, that Seacrest announced.
“I’m totally OK with it,” Lambert, 27, contends. “I couldn’t be happier for Kris. He’s a good friend of mine. I think he’s immensely talented.”
Allen, meanwhile, says he’s still shocked by the upset victory, which had Lambert supporters clamoring for a recount though “Idol” producers stood by their results — which, for the first time ever, they didn’t reveal except to say more than a million votes had been cast.
“I still feel ... like Adam deserved it just as much as I did,” says the 24-year-old Arkansas native. “He was the most consistent person all year. He was, seriously, one of the most gifted performers that’s ever been, that I’ve ever met.
“And he’s really just a great guy. We became great friends and we told each other that day, ‘You deserve it.’ He shot it back at me. I think it could have gone either way and America could definitely not have gotten it wrong.”
Allen and Lambert are, of course, both winners in a sense. Each released their own versions of “No Boundaries,” the “Idol” coronation single co-written by “Idol” judge Kara DioGuardi; Lambert’s earthy, acoustic-flavored treatment peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard Hot 100, while Lambert’s modern rock rendition made it to No. 72. (2008 champ David Cook’s “The Time of My Life,” by comparison, hit No. 3 and sold more than a million digital downloads.)
Both singers also have signed recording contracts and are working on albums, which are expected out in the fall, even while they criss-cross North America with the other “Idol” finalists. And they say their friendship — which included being roommates during the “Idol” competition — will keep any rivalry from developing even though this is the first time since Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken in the second season of “Idol” that a runner-up has rivaled or even surpassed the winner for attention.
“Yeah, Adam is pretty high profile, and he’s different, so the media’s going to latch on to him — and I think he completely deserves it,” Allen says. “He is something different than anyone’s probably seen before, at least in a long time.
“But we’re two completely different artists as well, so I don’t think either one of us has anything to worry about.”
For his part, Lambert maintains that, “I really feel like I won just by getting to the final. To me, it’s not about the title of American Idol; it was the experience. I made music and I got to do a different performance every week and I was able to use ‘American Idol’ as a platform to get myself out there. And now I have a career.
“So there’s no need to dwell on the negative. We should look forward and be excited about an album and the rest of my career. That’s where I’m at.”
Asked if his sexual orientation (after weeks of rumors, he acknowledged to Rolling Stone magazine that he was gay) might have affected the final vote, Lambert says “probably.” But Smokey Robinson, the Motown icon who was one of this season’s “Idol” guest mentors, feels it was more a case of the Lambert nation getting complacent when it counted.
“Everybody took it for granted Adam was going to win,” Robinson explains, “so people probably didn’t call in to vote ’cause they figured everybody was gonna vote for Adam. So Kris won ... and that’s great ’cause he’s such a wonderful, wonderful young man and a great talent.
“And as far as I’m concerned, any one of the Top 10 could’ve won that competition, ’cause they’re all that talented. Any one of them could’ve been the American Idol.”
The Kris-Adam saga took another turn, too, when Lambert admitted having a crush on Allen during the competition — which the champ says was good for some laughs.
“That was actually news to me,” Allen says. “I had no idea. (Lambert) was so funny; he texted me that day, like, ‘I’m so embarrassed.’ I was like, ‘Are you serious? Don’t be embarrassed. I think that’s hilarious.’ My wife was like, ‘Yeah? Tell Adam I have a crush on him.’
“Adam is really open about who he is. He never hid it from anyone. He said it probably wouldn’t have been a good idea to (come out) on the show or anything like that while the show was going on, but it was never an issue. Everybody accepted him. You forget (he’s gay) because he’s a really good guy, and it’s not like he’s shoving it in your face, either.”
Both singers are keeping relatively quiet about their upcoming albums. Lambert has said producers RedOne and Greg Wells have been contributing to his album; meanwhile, another label is releasing “On With the Show,” a collection of songs Lambert recorded while he was “a struggling artist” and studio singer prior to “Idol.”
Allen has been linked with Joe King of the Fray and hitmakers David Hodges, Claude Kelly and Salaam Remi, as well as previous “Idol” contestant Chris Daughtry. He’s also been using the “Idol” experience to hone his skills as a performer.
“When I played shows before, it was just like, ‘Oh, I’ll play my guitar, play the piano, sing you a song,’ ” Allen notes. “But with (‘Idol’), it’s a completely different world. You have to be an entertainer as well. I think that’s what ‘Idol’ kind of teaches you. It gets you ready for all this other stuff and you learn really quickly how to keep people’s attention.
“And hanging around with the other Idols that have maybe had more experience at performing than I have, I’ve learned things from them as well. It’s actually been really fun.”
“American Idols Live!” plays at 7 p.m. Wednesday (Aug. 26) at the Palace, Lapeer Road east of I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $40.50, $55.50 and $69.50. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.
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