Kris Allen Announced as New American Idol


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Kris Allen beats Adam Lambert. More voters go for nice over glamour.

Minutes before Kris Allen was announced as the new American Idol, he and Adam Lambert sang “We Are the Champions," the 1977 smash by the rock band Queen. As the pyrotechnics sizzled and a large choir (including this year's other “Idol" finalists) backed them up, those two unlikely partners in bringing back heat to the long-running series had one last laugh together.

It was Lambert's moment. It felt like his victory. Ever since he auditioned with an a cappella version of Queen's “Bohemian Rhapsody," fans of the fiery-voiced Southland native had been clamoring for him to sing a Queen song. And here he was doing it, leaning on guitarist Brian May's shoulder, fitting right into the spot originally occupied by Freddie Mercury -- one of the most sensationally gifted frontmen in rock history. Allen seemed delighted to be his wing man. And then, in a surprise that really wasn't a surprise at all, he grabbed away the spotlight.

Well, sort of. When Ryan Seacrest announced Allen's victory Wednesday night at the Nokia Theatre, the sweet- natured troubadour actually seemed a bit distressed. “It feels good, man, but Adam deserves this," he said.

Did Lambert? Many critics -- including this one, openly and with heartfelt enthusiasm -- thought so. But 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.

Think Jack Johnson. Dave Matthews. Jason Mraz, who performed on the “Idol" finale. And on the country side, Keith Urban, with whom Allen did a spirited duet early in the show.

This approachable kind of pop figure is one that often naturally emerges from the “Idol" competition. David Cook, last year's winner, is cut from this natural-fiber cloth. Performing “Permanent," the song he has dedicated to the brother he recently lost to cancer, Cook epitomized what Allen will likely soon become -- a crowd favorite, empathetic and touchable.

Lambert is another matter altogether. His two shining moments in the finale came during that Queen song and in an equally explosive turn with the pioneering pop-metal band KISS.

For a medley of songs with the latter, including “Detroit Rock City" and “Beth," Lambert wore wiry black wings that updated KISS' signature silver-and-greasepaint style.

Lambert took this chance to claim his place within the lineage of classic rock, a form that seriously needs a new star like him to refresh it. Sinking his painted fingernails into those worn-out Guitar Hero favorites, he renewed them.

But he still lost. Does it matter?

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