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Is Lambert a Lock? Five Ways Adam Could Lose "American Idol"

May 19, 2009 7:53 AM ET

Adam Lambert and Kris Allen's final performances as American Idol contestants are only hours away, and the debate over who will win one of the most exciting contests in the show's eight-year history is still raging. The pair will perform three songs apiece: a personal pick (their favorite from the season), show creator Simon Fuller's selection and the coronation song. Then Black Eyed Peas, Santana, Carrie Underwood and more will join the show for Idol's star-studded finale.

Lambert, the glam-rock sex god who single-handedly saved Idol, as our Rob Sheffield writes, is still the favorite — or at least the favorite of stars like Katy Perry, who wore a cape emblazoned with his name on the show. While there's been plenty of discussion over the politics of the vote — who will pick up Danny Gokey's supporters? Whose fans will use more dialing tricks? Will conversation about Lambert's sexuality come into play? — ultimately the singers make and break their own fates onstage. So what could Lambert do now to blow the victory?

(Check out Lambert in all his leather and spandex glory.)

Play not to lose, rather than for the win: Lambert's best performances have been his most controversial — like his Middle Eastern yowl on Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" — so dialing it down may seem like a wise way to appeal to more voters, but it would dampen his artistic essence and risk failing his main fanbase.

Lose his upbeat demeanor: While Kris Allen shows his disagreement with the judges in smirks and head shakes, Lambert has combated negative critique with grins and spin (It sounds like Rocky Horror? I love Rocky Horror!). A personality shift this late in the game could turn off Lambert supporters drawn to his sunny personality.

Try to co-opt Kris' bread and butter: If Simon Fuller's selection or the coronation song put the pair in similar musical waters, Lambert should steer clear of Kris' patented territory — an acoustic guitar at this stage of the game is pure Allen.

Go too theatrical: The biggest criticism lobbed at Lambert this season has been that his voice is too Broadway. Since the coronation song is schmaltzy by nature ("This Is My Now," anyone?), Adam would be wise to give it more edge rather than drama and risk drawing a familiar — and on Idol, a damning — critique.

Let Kris Allen become the new David Cook: Randy Jackson compared Adam's voice to Steven Tyler's during an early round of competition, so it seemed inevitable Lambert would cover an Aerosmith song. But last week's "Cryin'" was safe and too faithful to the original, while Kris Allen took a risk with Kanye West's "Heartless." Cook won America's vote with his unconventional arrangements, and Allen could swoop in with the same tactic should Adam play it safe.

Tune in to Rock Daily tonight and tomorrow as Rob Sheffield live blogs the last two Idol episodes of the season.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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Song Stories

“American Girl”

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers | 1976

It turns out that a single with "American" in its title--recorded on the Fourth of July during the nation's Bicentennial, no less--can actually sell better in Britain. Coupled with the Heartbreakers' flair for Byrds jangle and Animals hooks, though, is Tom Petty's native-Florida drawl that keeps this classic grounded at home. Petty dispelled rumors that the song was about a suicidal student, explaining that the inspiration came from when he was 25 and used to salute the highway traffic outside his apartment window. "It sounded like the ocean to me," he recalled. "That was my ocean. My Malibu. Where I heard the waves crash, but it was just the cars going by."

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