Pop Life

Idol Beat: The Final Two

More Than This: Ryan Seacrest's idle chatter couldn't mask the import of Tuesday's finale.

The heat is on. Now or never. And better yet, it's a no-brainer, the same way Dubya vs. Kerry or Obama vs. McCain or Coke vs. Pepsi or Bird vs. Jordan were no-brainers. There's no gray area between Kris Allen and Adam Lambert, none. The former turns everything he touches into coffeehouse schmaltz; the latter refurbishes classic-rock/soul/whatever standards for glammed-out re-sale.

By now, you know which flavor you prefer. Like, what if we lived in an alternate reality where there was an American Idol finale pitting Jason Castro (oddly amazing stoner bro) versus Chris Daughtry (nu-grunge-rock codpiece)? Imagine, because that's more or less the choice faced now, except that Castro's about a million times more interesting than Allen could ever hope to be.

Anyway, let's hit it:

* Holy shit, were Kris and Adam gooney pre-auditionees, or what?

* Ryan Seacrest, making with stupid binaries: "The guy next door...versus the guyliner!" Idol, I love you, but it's gonna be nice to have a half-year break from you.

* Was Marshall's having a two-for-one sale on stiff-collar leather jackets or something?

* Idol will be TWO HOURS LONG tonight. God help us all.

*Katie Holmes and daughter Suri - big Kris Allen fans, I'm guessing - are in the audience. I thought I saw a rail-thin Camryn Manheim out there earlier.

Adam Lambert

Tonight, each remaining

To fill the first slot, Kris - whose relatives thought so highly of his singing, early on, that they paid him a quarter to sing for them on special occasions - resurrects "Ain't No Sunshine." And you know, it's a dejected, hang-dog kind of song, but dude sings it as though he's constipated and sitting on a toilet, trying his damnedest to empty his bowels after two whole hours on the pot. Then again, most of us don't get a standing ovation when we leave the bathroom.

Fuller decided Kris should try on Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On" for the second slot. Basically, it's Coffeehouse Marvin Gaye, the same way the "Coffeehouse" adjective applies to everything Kris does. He makes the usual stupid sideways faces. There's a guy playing bongos. Simon Cowell: "It was like three friends in their bedroom strumming along to Marvin Gaye."

Sometimes I think I should just let Simon write this column for me. It's not like he has a hectic life, right?

"No Boundaries" - Maybe There Should Be A Few?

"No Boundaries" is the song that Kara had a hand in, written especially for this finale, and it's terrible - just like every song written for an Idol finale inevitably is. It's treacly AOR adult-contemp crap, full of lyrics about mountains and boundaries and other such universalist symbolism.

Someday, an artist will emerge who can validate its existance, but she probably doesn't have a penis. Meanwhile, Kris and Adam both had to grapple with this piece of garbage and had to suffer the indigity of having it be the last song America watched them sing in full before the show ended.

There was a strong sense of adriftness in Adam's performance of this song, which owes in part to the fact that Adam's Idol strength lies in breathing new and vital life into the desiccated husks of songs everyone's heard 20 times too many. But he probably didn't hear "No Boundaries" until like a week ago, so he found himself stuck (probably) with a demo CD and sheet music and an imperitive to go out there and "make some Idol magic" or whatever, and it didn't fly.

Kris fared worse, swiping at high notes Adam hit easily and missing, like a kitten behind glass trying to catch the birds flitting around outside and generally just flailing. Kris' plight was similar to Adam's, sorta; the song hadn't breathed and existed and permeated in the public consciousness, and thus couldn't be transformed into a coffeehouse jam session.

This is where I should say something witty or rousing about tomorrow's season ender. But I've got nothing, except: I hope you voted, guys.

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Ray Cummings