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In Surprise Win, Kris Allen Upsets Adam Lambert to Win 2009 'American Idol'

In this photo released by FOX, Danny Gokey performs in front of the judges on American Idol on Tuesday, May 12, 2009 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/FOX, Frank Micelotta)
In this photo released by FOX, Danny Gokey performs in front of the judges on American Idol on Tuesday, May 12, 2009 in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/FOX, Frank Micelotta) (Frank Micelotta - AP)

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By Lisa de Moraes
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 21, 2009

Once again, Simon Cowell got it wrong.

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This time, Kris Allen, the modest, 23-year-old married college student who has worked as a church worship leader, was named 2009's American Idol. He beat Adam Lambert, the 27-year-old, boldly creative, can-only-call-him-"flamboyant" musical theater actor who brought "guyliner" and black fingernail polish to the country's most watched television show and made the audience like it.

Nearly 100 million votes were cast Tuesday night; show host Ryan Seacrest, announcing the win, did not say what the split was.

Winning "Idol" doesn't ensure success, of course, nor does getting beat preclude it. The entertainment industry who's-who is populated both with successful non-winners such as Chris Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson, as well as former winners Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood.

So Lambert escapes the whole "American Idol" Beauty Pageant Syndrome -- shilling for Ford, etc., and having to record the worst-ever "American Idol" Treacle Tune, "No Boundaries," as his first single. Instead, he becomes the latest front-runner to be fawned over by the show's judges all season, only to lose in the final viewer-vote.

Today, there'll be more talk about this being the latest red state/blue state battle -- such as Republican strategist Todd Harris did on CBS's "The Early Show" yesterday morning, as in: "You've got these more liberal elites who live on each coast, represented by Adam, and then Kris represents what those on the coast refer to as the flyover states."

Meanwhile, people who actually watch the show will be debating the Danny Gokey Factor -- a theory espoused by "American Idol's" Deep Thought Thinker, Paula Abdul:

"After the third one leaves, you wonder where do the votes go from that third contestant," Abdul told the Associated Press backstage after Tuesday's final performance show.

The 29-year-old Gokey, this year's second runner-up, is a widower who hails from Milwaukee. A church music director, Gokey -- like Allen -- was a non-flashy performer.

Lambert, on the other hand, hails from Los Angeles by way of San Diego, was in the cast of "Wicked" and doesn't talk much about his personal life. But expect the "is-he-or-isn't-he?" chatter about Lambert to explode today into a full-on debate about whether the vote reflects gay bias.

It's the second consecutive year that Cowell -- the alleged expert and only "Idol" judge worth listening go -- made the wrong call.

"You came out here to win tonight, and what we have witnessed is a knockout," Simon said to David Archuleta after last year's final performance show. Archuleta then lost to David Cook the next night.

This year, at the end of Tuesday's final performance show, Simon confidently forecast a Lambert walk-over:

"The whole idea about doing a show like this is that you hope you can find a worldwide star. I genuinely believe with all my heart that we have found that with you -- congratulations," he told Lambert.

"The underdog, the dark horse!" raved Seacrest after announcing Allen's surprise win. He asked Allen how it felt.

"It feels good, but Adam deserves this -- this is crazy," Allen said.


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