American Idol produces ‘shock’ win amid season of change

After a record-setting 100 million votes, Kris Allen snagged the title of the current American Idol, beating presumed frontrunner Adam Lambert and a slew of other presumed frontrunners in the process.

Allen’s win caps a season full of surprises – some pleasant, others decidedly not – for the highest-rated show in America. Season 8 will go down in the books as the season where the underdog beat the producer-picked favorites, including Lambert, Danny Gokey, and Lil Rounds; where the threat of new judge Kara DioGuardi forced Paula Abdul to actually make meaningful critiques (occasionally); and where the judges couldn’t manage to understand that the focus of the show is not on the American Idol judges.

What started as simply another season of the popular series, though, was ultimately highlighted by the talent of several contestants. In part due to last year’s win by singer/songwriter David Cook, many of this season’s more successful contestants stood out as more than mere singers. Contestants such as Allen, Lambert, Allison Iraheta, and Matt Giraud made elements such as stage presence and song arrangement keys to succeeding on the series.

When it came to the final two contestants of the season, critics were divided over who deserved to win the title more, as opposed to who deserved to win. Both contestants produced very different acts – Allen produced innovative pop/rock arrangements that highlighted his smooth vocals and versatility as a musician, while Lambert proved to be the most adept stage performer in the show’s eight-year history.

Still, Allen’s win was something of a shock – not based on talent, but on screen time. During the infamous audition and Hollywood rounds, fifteen contestants received considerable screen time. Of the fifteen, eleven went on to make the Top 13 this season. The two not receiving screen time were Allen and Iraheta, who managed to place fourth this year. Prior to his episode in the Top 36 performances, Allen had a grand total of 9 seconds of screen time during the season. His ability to come from behind in a series where screen time is essential is nothing short of miraculous.

So now that we’re done with Season 8, what can we expect from the series next year? Currently, judges Paula Abdul and Kara DioGuardi are in contract negotiations – at press time, it’s not certain whether one or both of the judges will return. Additionally, Season 9 will mark the last season of Simon Cowell’s current contract. The biggest question in the Idolsphere – will Simon return? – will soon be answered. And then there’s the inevitable question looming – will America still be watching? Stay tuned.

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