By Adam B. Vary
Updated May 06, 2009 at 07:21 PM EDT
Doolittle: Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Sure, Adam Lambert may be the front runner on American Idol this season, but Danny Gokey, Kris Allen, and Allison Iraheta are all nipping closely at his heels. Indeed, the ratings juggernaut has never seen a Final Four who’s as evenly matched as Allen, Gokey, Iraheta, and Lambert — which makes tonight’s results show all the more nail-biting.

To commemorate their quasi-historic place in the Idol firmament, we phoned four previous American Idol contestants — (pictured clockwise, from bottom left) Michael Johns, Melinda Doolittle, Jim Verraros, and Jon Peter Lewis — to get their take on this quartet and the larger-than-life glam rocker leading the pack. (None of them had seen last night’s rock-and-roll performance show when they spoke with EW.) Some of their favorites may surprise you. (Additional reporting by Tim Stack)

Michael Johns (season 7):

I think it’s a good final four. It’s very talented, and at least one girl made it, who’s actually the girl I liked the most! Allison’s one of my favorites. Her voice is so phenomenal now; in four or five years it’s going to be even better. I just love her rasp, and I really believe every word she says.

Obviously, Adam’s the front runner right now, isn’t he? I’m really impressed with how he’s stuck to his guns. I know people keep comparing him to, like, Freddy Mercury and those kind of guys, but there was only one guy who could write Queen kind of music. He seems like a pretty fun dude, so I was thinking more like a Scissor Sisters kind of thing, with a little bit more of a rock influence. Moody and fun.

Danny I really like, actually. I dig Danny’s voice, his upper-register and the rasp in his voice as well. I really think Danny’s going to have a good recording career. I really think he’s going to find his niche. He has a very pleasing voice, in my opinion.

Kris — I know that the girls love him. I think he’s got a very nice voice. If he makes like a Jason Mraz kind of record, I think he could do well.

After the jump: Melinda Doolittle, Jon Peter Lewis, and Jim Verraros offer their take.


Melinda Doolittle (season 6):

This is an amazing season. Allison has been my girl from the beginning, though. I just feel like nobody should be able to sing like that and be 17, except for maybe Jordin [Sparks]. I’m definitely pulling for Allison.

I love Adam. I love him. I love him, I love him. I think he’s phenomenal. I think sometimes he can be polarizing, but I was very surprised to see him in the Bottom 2 [last week]. I’m a huge fan of theater, and I feel like he tells a story with each performance. I’ve been begging for him to do something along the lines of Aerosmith, having the drama of those songs. For me, Steven Tyler is that pure drama that comes along with rock music, and it’s a great, great fit for him.

Kris, for me, is just — oh! — the sweetest voice ever. I just think it’s so pure. I love what he does with the songs, that he makes them fit him instead of trying to fit into the song.

I was not the hugest Danny Gokey fan at the beginning, but especially [after] his [Rat Pack night] performance, I was like, wait a minute now, he’s kind of got a little vibe going on. He started soft and then got to that strong part of his voice. I feel like he’s been kind of strong-arming songs at the beginning. But now he’s learning to finesse his songs.

Jon Peter Lewis (season 3):

Gosh, it’s not really clear cut to me at this point [who will win]. I mean, Adam is the one that heretofore has been a favorite for the finals, but no one else really has. At the beginning of the season, before it was live [shows], American Idol spent a lot of time trying to make us really like some of the people and turn them into front runners, like Danny Gokey and Matt Giraud and Lil Rounds. They spent a lot of time making sure that we loved those people going into the show. And then a lot of them really didn’t perform as well as they were hyped in the beginning. There was no time spent on Kris or Allison at the beginning of the year, and they are the two big surprises.

Danny Gokey, who had a lot air time, I mean, he’s been pretty steady throughout the show. He’s kind of been in the shadow of Adam Lambert all season long, but it’s a little more clear, actually, the kind of record Danny could make after American Idol. I mean, [Adam] can really do any record. He could just go so many different ways, and that’s been my problem with Adam the whole year: Who is Adam Lambert? You know, there’s one week where he’s got the black fingernail polish and the fingerless gloves and is like queen of the Goths, and then there’s another week where he’s got the pompadour and he’s like an Elvis throwback. I don’t really care what people wear, but because we don’t know what kind of music he makes, really, to me it’s what you wear on American Idol that’s indicative of what you do.

But to me it’s just going to come down to individual performances over the next couple weeks to see who’s going to win. I want to say Adam. But history has shown on American Idol that the favorite going into the finale usually doesn’t become the winner. Those early front runners who have been consistent all the way through, like Melinda Doolittle, David Archuleta, Chris Daughtry — all these people, early on in the show, we really loved them. And then by around this point in the show, that moment came and went for us. But I don’t get the feeling that people are over Adam Lambert. I think his fans are really fighting for him. My money would go on Adam.

Jim Verraros (season 1):

I can tell Adam’s really influenced by Freddie Mercury. I love the glam-rock David Bowie thing, especially from a male artist. That whole glam rock would be perfect for him. But when David Bowie was big, he was very androgynous and he did that whole weird vibe, and I don’t know Adam would be able to execute that as well today. But in terms of comparing him to anybody or taking a page from somebody’s book, you can’t. He’s so just off-the-charts. It’s funny, you can tell he’s got this musical theater background — and that’s fun! That’s part of it. I can see him doing a big stage set with lights and the pyro and the fire, and that just enhances his show. And he’s got such great stage presence. You don’t need a whole lot — you could just put him at a microphone and just have him sing, you know what I mean? I think he’s pretty much it.

And then there’s something about Allison that I really love. She reminds me of Kelly [Clarkson] a lot, and some Pink thrown in there and just that Janis Joplin raspy, bluesy, sexy, smoky thing. I’m a big fan of hers. I think she’ll do well.