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Will Kris Allen's upset mean another Emmy humiliation for 'American Idol'?

May 21, 2009 |  3:51 pm

Throughout this season of "American Idol," Adam Lambert was widely proclaimed to be the front-runner, even by the notoriously fickle Simon Cowell, who called him a brilliant artist, showman and "worldwide star." Victory by Kris Allen is such a blatant rejection of industry and critical opinion, we must wonder: Does it diminish the credibility of the show?

Adam Lambert Kris Allen American Idol Season Eight Finale Emmy Awards For Jon Caramanica of the New York Times, "At best, Mr. Allen is a harmless singer — he makes Kenny Loggins look tough. At worst, he’s indefensible, utterly lacking in texture and range and interpretive imagination. His awww-shucks demeanor spills over to his performances, in which his chin jerks violently to the right every time he’s aiming for a big note, as if his mouth is struggling to deliver what his brain is asking for."

However, as Whitney Pastorek of Entertainment Weekly explained, "Adam Lambert was never going to win this show, but I don't think it had anything to do with platform boots or flaming bombast or some vast red state/Mormon/hillbilly/Miss California conspiracy. I think it had more to do with the fact that the sort of people who would be inclined to like Adam Lambert are not as inclined to watch this show as the sort of people who would be inclined to like Kris Allen."

And as Ann Powers of the Los Angeles Times pointed out, "Allen has his undeniable strong points. In terms of the music industry, he cuts a more contemporary figure than Lambert: Many stars now (specifically rock-oriented, male ones) tend to do better when they draw themselves to scale, offering songs that make fans feel warm and connected, not blown away."

Though the public may have preferred the soft rock of Kris Allen, Adam Lambert's hard edge certainly made for better TV. And the ultimate judges of that aspect of "American Idol" will be the Emmy voters. Over its first seven seasons, "American Idol" has struck out repeatedly at the Emmy Awards, winning only two of its 34 bids. And neither of those wins came in the top race of best reality competition program. Indeed, since that category was introduced in 2003, "The Amazing Race" has won all six years.

Although "American Idol" has slipped somewhat in the ratings this season, it is still the top-rated show on TV.  The addition of the fourth judge — Kara DioGuardi — was seen as a plus. And by focusing on the personal stories of viable contestants rather than on the delusions of certain would-be singers, "American Idol" had reestablished itself as a showcase for up-and-coming talent.

The defeat of the critical favorite — Adam Lambert — by the people's choice of Kris Allen may not make a difference in how many awards either of them wins over their careers. However, it could keep the show that launched them from finally convincing Emmy voters of its merit.

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Photo: Fox TV

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