"American Idol" Season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert was never one to soft-pedal -- not when it came to his performances on the show or his opinions on everything from drugs to sexuality to Lady Gaga. It's one of the many reasons we love him.
And as season 10 winds down, Adam clearly has a lot to say about the top six finalists, first and foremost, his current favorite: Haley Reinhart. "I love Haley so much because musically and vocally, she's doing things that are at a top-notch level," he told THR at Wednesday's ASCAP Pop Music Awards, where Adam introduced Songwriter of the Year winner Max Martin. "It's incredible how Haley makes it look so easy and effortless. Plus, she's having fun up there. I don't feel like she's working so hard to prove herself or to prove a point. She's just singing and taking joy in music."
But when it comes to Haley, Adam does take issue with judges Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson -- he doesn't think they foist enough positive reinforcement on the girl. "I wish the judges gave her a little bit more praise because what she's doing is technically superb," he says.
Similarly, Adam also senses a sort of supreme musicality in Casey Abrams, but is a bit skeptical of the shtick. "The thing about Casey is, the judges will go, 'We like your quirkiness,' and now it's almost like he's parodying himself a bit," says Adam. "I think he's so good, and then he starts grunting and I'm like, 'Why? You don't even need to do that.' I get distracted by it. But I think Casey's got vocal and musical genius in him. He's so talented."
The constant comparisons of James Durbin to Adam have no doubt been a thorn in the side of both singers, but now the senior "Idol" says, he's "kind of over" James. "I think he's got talent and passion 100%, but I feel like he's trying way too hard," Adam opines.
"Also, his niche is so limited with the metal. When he did that "Heavy Metal" song [by Sammy Hagar], James was note-perfect. He was on pitch, which is usually kind of an issue, and I think he sounded really good but it felt like a copycat. I didn't feel like I was seeing an original artist yet. And I'm not saying he doesn't have that in him, but it hasn't been showing. Whereas Haley and Casey, they're bringing a little more legitimacy to it. They're more grounded in their own voices. When they did that jazz duet, that was nuts! They give off a good vibe."
He also advises the contestants to pay attention to what the seasoned music business veterans have to offer -- they are, after all, there to help and guide them. Says Adam: "Yeah, you can stick to your guns, like James did when he was arguing with Jimmy Iovine, but I also feel like, 'You're new to this, dude. Listen up!' "
Clearly, he's given these issues a lot of thought, but like countless "Idol" viewers, for Adam, other cast-offs are already a thing of the past. Pia Toscano, for instance. "I liked Pia a lot, but then she got a little one-note," Adam explains. Her elimination, like many of the females who saw their fates sealed early, comes with the demographic territory. "It's just the way things are."
Anyway, it really doesn't matter who wins, says Adam who credits Haley for "putting herself on the map and making her talent known." Besides, he adds, "It's all about relationships and hopefully she's forged some. It doesn't matter what place you end up [in the competition], I'm a testament to that.