NEWSWEEK'S resident Idol guru and entertainment staff writer Ramin Setoodeh unpacks what might be a very different scenario for the front runner, heading into the final stages of the competition.
From left, Adam Lambert, Kris Allen and Danny Gokey
We're down to the wire on American Idol. Tonight it's two songs for each of the final three performers, and the judges will no doubt be pimping out Adam Lambert like crazy. But that still doesn't mean he's guaranteed a spot in the finals.
Lambert has been called the best Idol singer in the history of the show, thanks to his Celine Dion-like pipes. But he's also one of the most controversial, thanks to his Marilyn Manson-like wardrobe and his (not-so-)ambiguous sexuality. Entertainment Weekly reported that he might be gay (is he or isn't he?!); he's the first Idol contestant to grace the cover of the magazine alone before we'd even voted for a winner, and he was the subject of a history-of-outing story in The New York Times. He's also the target of Idol's most vitriolic mudslinging campaign to date, after a number of photos leaked that appear to show Lambert making out with guys and dressed in goth attire. All this, and he's still the front runner to win it all. Paula practically gave him the Idol crown the first time he performed.
But most of his groupies have overlooked a possible roadblock to the title. Idol is the No. 1 show on TV at least in part because it's so family-friendly, and it also appeals to a large demographic of Christian viewers. These are the same fans who made High School Musical and Dancing With the Stars huge TV hits. Many of Idol's previous winners--Jordin Sparks, Carrie Underwood, Ruben Studdard--are devout Christians. Coincidence? Perhaps. But we don't know much about Lambert's faith, and that might hurt him with Christian voters. He could be extremely religious, but he's kept his religious beliefs quiet.
His two competitors, on the other hand, are a different story. Kris Allen and Danny Gokey both introduced themselves as devout Christians who are very involved in their churches, and both have gotten substantial interest from Christian blogs and websites. In February, multifaith website BeliefNet.com reported that:
Before Idol, Danny Gokey was the praise and worship leader at both Faith Builders International Ministry locations, in Beloit, WI, for the morning service and then he headed to Milwaukee for the afternoon service, as well as doing mid-week services. Faith Builders is his home church.
Kris Allen has been working with the worship ministry at his home church, New Life Church in Arkansas, on both the Conway and Little Rock campuses since 2007. He is also involved with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries at the University of Central Arkansas.
So who goes home tomorrow night? Adam is still the best singer in the competition. But since Idol isn't really a singing competition--despite what Randy Jackson tells you every week--don't be too shocked if there's a shocker elimination this week.