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‘Idol’ Finale is One of Contrasts

Bold vs. understated. Trailblazing vs. traditional.

American Idol's Season 8 finale is one of contrasts. Favorite Adam Lambert faces underdog Kris Allen, and it could be closer than it appears.

Lambert has been dominant this season; online betting sites give him the nod, and he already has had a solo "Entertainment Weekly" cover. The San Diegan has been the judges' darling, too; last week, Simon Cowell urged fans to vote for him. Guest Katy Perry even wore a cape emblazoned with his name, unusual for a show that insists on equal treatment.

Allen's surprising survival was noted by host Ryan Seacrest, who said many expected a finale with Lambert and third-place Danny Gokey.

Lambert initially was afraid the front-runner designation might have come too early but appreciates the praise. "It might have allowed certain people at home to feel it was OK to like me; I think that was important."

Allen acknowledges Lambert's "amazing" singing and performance skills, but says he still thinks he can win. "It's going to be tough, totally, but I can still go out there and hopefully do my thing, and if I happen to win, that's great."

Judge Kara DioGuardi likes their contrast. "They're very, very different artists in the sense that Adam's maybe hard rock and Kris is softer rock. But they're similar in the sense that they've both been very brave and stuck to their vision of themselves."

"Atlanta Journal-Constitution" blogger Rodney Ho says Allen can win by picking up Gokey's more conservative fans. "Adam has a very strong fan base, (but) there's a really strong base of people who can't stand the guy."

There's also the potential for backlash, he says, from people who think the show is hyping Lambert. Vote For the Worst is urging a vote for Allen based on that perception.

Lambert acknowledges he isn't for everyone: "I think I'm a little bit left-field for some people. I've been given the label "over-the-top, theatrical, the glam-rock, electronic-pop type of thing,' " he says. "It was even a risk for the judges initially to get on board. I'm glad that they did."

The sense of a mismatch between Lambert and Allen could make it difficult to match last year's 32.5 million viewers for the David Cook/David Archuleta finale, Horizon Media analyst Brad Adgate says. "I think Fox would have preferred Danny making it to the finale," because he was generally seen as the next strongest competitor.

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