Entertainment Weekly


Stay Connected


Advertise With Us

Learn More

Skip to content


American Idol recap: It's Shock-Tale Hour!

As judges’ favorite Danny gets booted, the season 8 battle (correctly) comes down to the outré glam rocker versus the laid-back, guitar-playing artiste

Posted on

American Idol
Frank Micelotta/Fox

American Idol

TV Show
Current Status:
In Season
Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Ryan Seacrest
Reality TV

As the great philosopher Mick Jagger once said, ”You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you just might find you get what you need.” And those words certainly sprang to mind as I watched American Idol‘s four-judge panel react with utter shock to Danny Gokey’s elimination during tonight’s Top 3 Results Show telecast.

You see, for 10 weeks running now, Paula, Simon, Randy, and Kara have been marching in lockstep and beating the drums for a Danny-vs.-Adam Lambert showdown. Oh sure, Paula and Simon offered less subtle sound bites than their colleagues, but everybody ultimately seemed to be working from the same script. There was Paula, dancing around the ankles of her favored duo like an overstimulated Chihuahua, intermittently reminding them since Top 13 week that she’d see ’em in the finale. Simon, meanwhile, seemed contractually bound to predict a Danny-Adam face-off during every media appearance he’s made dating back to mid-March. Randy earned himself an Emmy consideration last week for convincingly giving Danny an ”A for effort” despite the fact that his ”Dream On” caused a widespread wave of PTSD among Aerosmith fans nationwide. And Kara’s semifinal mantra (”You give us all hope!”) set the ridiculous tone for her season of superlative Gokey praise.

But then something completely unexpected happened. With the judges so focused on memorizing their lines, not one of ’em bothered to look up and see how Kris Allen, with his subtly shaded vocals and his sneaky-awesome song-arranging skills, had recast himself in the role of Adam’s ultimate rival. And we the people followed suit, tossing the screenplay that said we had to give up our annual chance to play record exec, to give major-label deals to someone other than Jamie Foxx or Katy Perry or other pop stars of the Auto-Tune era. In the process, we put the reality back in America’s most popular reality series. And as a reward, we are now preparing for the Best Possible Season Finale Not Involving Allison Iraheta That American Idol‘s Eighth Season Ever Could’ve Hoped For.

In other words, Idol‘s judges and producers may not have gotten what they wanted, but the show got exactly what it needed.

In the Dangerous Corner, we have Adam, the man who turned ”Ring of Fire” into a sexually charged, sitar-infused scorcher that left Idol viewers either panting or recoiling (or perhaps a little bit of both)…the man who sent us marching to iTunes by tackling a somewhat obscure cover of a very obscure Tears for Fears song…the man who moved Smokey Robinson to tears…the man who threatened to give us every inch of his love during Rock Week and bookmarked his performance with such humble, charming sound bites, you’d almost have thought he’d stepped out of some classic ’60s sitcom (if not for the guyliner and mischievous sparkle in his eye)…the man who, even if you can’t fathom buying his music, has undeniably provided the weekly Idol telecast with badly needed snap, crackle, and pop.

And in the tender corner, we now have Kris, the man who turned a dated Donna Summer tune into a radio-ready anthem for our grim economic times…the man who, armed with only his acoustic guitar, reinvented a Kanye West rap smash into an even better R&B ditty…the man who turned his nose up at the show’s standard-operating schlock and, with the unexpected choice of ”Falling Slowly,” reminded Idol viewers that soundtrack fare is not just limited to Bryan Adams, Whitney Houston, and Phil Collins…the man who’s been so good, so effortless, he’s frequently learned his songs on guitar or piano, even though we love him just as much when he’s just standing behind the mic…the man who’s won our hearts, even though he was supposed to be cannon fodder coming into the semifinals, and even though his backstory hasn’t been fleshed out much beyond his penchant for wearing matching red aprons while cooking with his equally button-cute wife.

Yes, American Idol has a ”dark” and moody rocker against a bona fide dark horse!

NEXT: The Idols go home