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American Idol Underdog Unexpectedly Triumphs

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Dubbed a "dark horse" weeks ago by the judges, Kris Allen -- a wholesome, smooth vocalist and singer/songwriter -- rose above expectations and won the title of American Idol. The celebrity judges spent their time gushing and enthusing over a high-pitched gothic rocker from Hollywood named Adam Lambert. But underdog-loving Americans chose Kris, an unassuming and melodious-voiced Arkansas native. Gifted with good looks, amazing pitch, and the humbleness of a lamb going up against the wolves, Kris stole the hearts of America.

A fascinating study of opposites, the two twenty-something finalists are as different as black and white. For starters, the young men have starkly incongruent world-views.

Twenty-three-year-old college student Kris Allen leads worship at his local church and is a member of Chi Alpha, a Christian fraternity. A business major at school, Kris is already married to his high school sweetheart, Katy. These two became friends in the fifth grade. Raised with traditional values, while living with his parents and a brother, Kris is as All-American as apple pie. He even spends his free time traveling on Christian missionary trips to needy areas around the globe including Morocco, Thailand, Spain, Myanmar and South Africa.

He prefers inspirational and positive songs, smiling often while singing. In many ways, Kris Allen's life is alien to the four celebrity judges, and they clearly related better with the runner-up, Lambert.

Adam Lambert prefers driving, hard rock and puts a dark twist and eerie sound in many arrangements he sings. He dressed in black, gothic-looking costumes, and the single 27-year-old even wears black nail polish and guyliner (eyeliner for men). His jet-black, dyed hair and eyebrows along with his squinted eyes give him edginess when performing. Adam moved from San Diego, where he grew up, to Hollywood a number of years ago to "make it as a star." He worked hard, taking voice lessons and performing in school theater, choir and jazz band plus he worked as an understudy in the musical "Wicked."

Even their names are interesting to ponder: Adam -- the fallen first man and Kristopher, meaning Christ-bearer, is a study in contrasts. But the differences don't stop there.

This has caused some pundits to postulate that Lambert's presumed homosexuality may have led to his demise. Photos of him French kissing with different men, and in drag, made the rounds on the Internet. Another reason he may have lost is his strutting over-confidence and conceit, something that usually doesn't play well with Americans.

Kris maintained his easy-going, almost shy humility in victory, saying, "I felt shocked almost every week that I made it, and to be the American Idol, I'm completely shocked. I feel like [Adam] deserves this just as much as I do. He's an amazing performer, gifted guy and really just an amazing guy."

A flashy dresser, Adam describes himself as "theatrical" and certainly fits the part. Both finalists are extremely talented singers. Early in the competition, Adam's wow factor blew people away, but his high pitched screams soon began to wear on these two listeners. Kris's mellow style is so enjoyable you can keep listening to the end of a song and still want more.

So what are Kris' plans for his album? "I think it's pretty obvious," he says, "that I've done a lot of the singer-songwriter, pop-rock kind of thing and that's something I want to do."

Americans love an underdog: George Washington at Trenton, Abe Lincoln running for president, the 1980 US Olympic Hockey Team, and The Philadelphia Phillies in last fall's World Series.

As in the old Aesop's fable of the workman tortoise versus the preening hare, Kris Allen's easy-going smile has won a special, come-from-behind victory, which has captured the imagination of the nation.

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