A long time ago, back when Simon Cowell drove a used Honda and people thought Justin Guarini had talent, American Idol was about innocence, dreams, good-hearted pluck. My, how things have changed. With the top 10 from Season 8 coming to the St. Pete Times Forum on Tuesday, it's abundantly clear that today's "amateurs" are slick, wily talents who know exactly who they want to be. The kids may wear the mask of naivete, but here we reveal their true selves. — Sean Daly, Times pop music critic
Kris Allen = Billy Dee Williams
Don't be fooled by the Idol champ's quasi-virginal routine. Allen won because he's smoove with the womenfolk, just like our ladies-man hero Billy Dee Williams, beer pitchman/Lando Calrissian (although I'm willing to bet Kris can't guzzle Colt 45 or pilot the Millennium Falcon).
Adam Lambert = Siegfried & Roy
Hold on, Glambert fans. This is a compliment! Lambert is a loud, sparkly, cheesetastic showman, right? Although he has a great voice, his true talent is in razzle-dazzle. If Idol had better insurance, you would have seen him in diamond-studded jackets wrangling a jungle cat. Trust me.
Danny Gokey = Debby Boone
Mr. Touchy-Feely had a weepy backstory and sensitive friends, and that was fine, intriguing even. But the Robert Downey Jr. look-alike backed that schmaltz with arguably the lamest taste in diva music ever. If he'd have lasted one more week, I'm positive he would have lit up our lives with the Boone classic.
Allison Iraheta = Leather Tuscadero
Remember those tough feather-haired sisters Fonzie dated on Happy Days? Man, I loved those hellions. Iraheta is still shy of 18, but she sounds like she smokes two packs a day and has done time in Shawshank. Like the Fonz, we dig 'em tough.
Matt Giraud = Wax Statue of Justin Timberlake
Giraud was highly convincing as someone impersonating a Justin Timberlake impersonator. He had absolutely none of JT's charm, although he did have his hat. And he rocked that chapeau.
Lil Rounds = Wonder Woman
Kapow! Sure, Lil had a great voice, an R&B furnace. But with all due respect, her talent — and she knew it — was in her superheroic curves, a hubba-hubba heinie she showed off in skintight body suits. Kerblammo!
Anoop Desai = John "Bluto" Blutarsky
One of the more unseemly transformations during Season 8 was Anoop Desai going from a humble underdog to a cocky University of North Carolina grad with his Animal House frat bros in the crowd. The only thing worse was if he'd gone to Duke.
Scott MacIntyre = Snuggles the Fabric Softener Bear
Yes, Scott showed courage in being the first blind contestant on Idol. But he was so smiley, so blinky, so pure, he had all the edge of a cloying stuffed bear.
Megan Joy = Big Bird
We all deal with nerves in different ways: eating, laughing, crying. Megan flapped her arms and squawked like a bird. Caw! Caw! If this were Sesame Street — or a mental asylum — she would have been a star.
Michael "Big Oil" Sarver = A Can of Schlitz
It's true. Sarver had all the nuance of a can of discount domestic suds. But he was fine with that. Speaking of which, I'll need a few cold ones to get through his performance. Bottoms up!