The end of “American Idol” Season 8 is near. Glam rocker Adam Lambert and soulful folk-pop singer Kris Allen will vie for the crown on Wednesday night’s finale (May 20, FOX) , which will also feature performances by Black Eyed Peas, Carlos Santana, Keith Urban, Queen Latifah and, rumor has it, Britney Spears. But before this year’s ‘Idol’ is finally revealed, Billboard is looking back on all of the highlights—good, bad and ugly—of the 2009 season. See if yours made the cut.
10) Hollywood Misfits
Costume-wearing, camera-loving singers are a dime a dozen during the audition rounds of “American Idol,” but none made it further than Norman Gentle and Tatiana Del Toro, who were both welcomed into Season 8’s Top 36 to the dismay and puzzlement of many. Fortunately, viewers at home saw through the gimmick and promptly had them eliminated.
9) Lady Gaga Live
The electro-pop singer took a worthwhile gamble on her live performance of “Poker Face,” re-arranging the song with a piano-driven introduction and singing a cappella while backed by a violin player.
8) Megan Joy’s Misstep
Touted early on by the judges for her quirky, jazz-influenced vocals and “commercial” looks, Corkery made the bizarre choice to cover Bob Marley’s “Turn Your Lights Down Low,” a song that couldn’t be more poorly suited to her voice, during Popular Downloads week. Her reward? An early trip home.
7) Ford Goes Indie?
In between Britney Spears’ “Circus” and All-American Rejects’ “Move Along,” this year’s Ford commercials starring the contestants featured a few unexpected, welcome song choices, like Apples in Stereo’s “Energy” and Swedish alt-pop singer Lykke Li’s “I’m Good, I’m Gone.”
6) Allison’s Impressive Debut
The husky-voiced, 16-year-old-singer Allison Iraheta had received virtually no screentime on “Idol” before wowing the judges and viewers with her rendition of Heart’s “Alone,” a performance that would set the stage for her run as the most successful female contestant of the season.
5) Kara DioGuardi’s Initiation
From her squabbles with Simon Cowell to that unfortunate “Studio 57” gaffe, it’s been a season of ups and downs for new judge Kara DioGuardi. Luckily, the songwriter was prepared for anything after her much-talked about confrontation with the contestant known only as Bikini Girl.
4) The Anti-Climactic Save
When the “American Idol” judges passed on the chance to save talented 11th place contestant Alexis Grace, surely they hadn’t foreseen that the historic free pass would be ultimately used in the nicest, yet least exciting way possible—on Matt Giraud, who even referred to himself as the contestant with “nine lives.”
3) Gokey Screams On
Danny Gokey’s attempt to sing like Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler—or at least, like Adam Lambert—during Rock Week by performing “Dream On” was almost admirable until that final note heard ’round the world, which was most likely responsible for ending his “Idol” dream a week later.
2) Kris Allen Covers Kanye
Long referred to as Season 8’s “dark horse,” Allen silenced Simon Cowell and the rest of his naysayers with a stirring acoustic take on West’s “Heartless,” earning himself a place in the coveted Final Two.
1) Adam Lambert’s “Tears”
With his poignant cover of Smokey Robinson’s “Tracks of My Tears” during Motown Week–a performance that earned him a standing ovation from the original artist himself–Lambert proved that he was more than just a theater kid with crazy vocal range and cemented his frontrunner status.