Puneet Varma (Editor)

American Idol (season 8)

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Host(s)  Ryan Seacrest
Origin  Conway, Arkansas
American Idol (season 8)

Broadcast from  January 14 – May 20, 2009
Judges  Paula Abdul Simon Cowell Kara DioGuardi Randy Jackson
Broadcaster  Fox Broadcasting Company
Finals venue  Nokia Theatre Los Angeles

The eighth season of American Idol premiered on January 13, 2009, and concluded on May 20, 2009. Judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson continued to judge the show's contestants, along with Ryan Seacrest as host. The season introduced Kara DioGuardi as the fourth judge on the Idol panel. It was also Abdul's final season as a judge. Kris Allen, a native of Conway, Arkansas, was announced the winner of the competition on May 20, 2009, defeating runner-up Adam Lambert after nearly 100 million votes. Kris Allen is the only married winner of the competition at the time of his victory. This was the second season where both of the final two contestants had been in the bottom three or two at least once before the finale, with the first being season three.


The eighth season saw numerous changes to the format of the show. There were 36 semi-finalists instead of 24, and thirteen finalists instead of twelve, nine contestants chosen by the public and four by the judges in a wild card round. Another addition was the "save," which was used on the top seven results show to veto Matt Giraud's elimination.

Seven contestants from this season were signed to record deals. The signed artists are Kris Allen, who was then signed to 19 Entertainment/Jive Records. In addition to Allen, Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey, Allison Iraheta, Lil Rounds, Anoop Desai and Michael Sarver.

Changes from previous season

Several changes were planned for season eight. Fox Entertainment president Kevin Reilly stated that Idol would feature fewer "William Hung-like" contestants and "funny auditions," and would quickly move its focus to the potential singers during the earlier stages of the competition, thus moving the season at a faster pace. Mike Darnell, president of Fox's alternative programming, said the contestants would be more emotional and that viewers would learn more about them and their pasts than they had in the previous season. Songwriter and record producer Kara DioGuardi was added as a fourth judge on the panel. She had previously collaborated with Celine Dion, Hilary Duff, Britney Spears, Enrique Iglesias, Leona Lewis and Christina Aguilera, and produced several Top 40 hits. As a songwriter, she had already worked with several American Idol alumni and winners, including Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, David Archuleta and David Cook. Meanwhile, Ken Warwick became the new executive producer, as Nigel Lythgoe had left the show to focus on So You Think You Can Dance and his new show with Simon Fuller, Superstars of Dance. Idol Gives Back was canceled for season 8, as the ongoing economic crisis and recession, left Idol officials uncomfortable asking financially struggling viewers to donate. The semifinals saw the biggest change as the wild card round returned for the first time since the third season. After voters picked three finalists from each of three groups of 12 semi-finalists, the judges selected eight of the previously eliminated 27 semifinalists to return and perform a song on the March 5, 2009, show. They were judged by the panel, instead of a vote by the viewers, with four advancing to the finals. Although the finals had been billed from the beginning of the season as a set of 12 contestants, the judges announced at the last minute that they would be advancing a fourth wild card/thirteenth contestant, Anoop Desai, as well. The eighth season also marked the first time that auditions were conducted outside the United States, when the show traveled to San Juan, Puerto Rico to screen potential contestants. Several people from Puerto Rico were eventually selected for the semi-final rounds of the show.

Judges' Save

Another change in the Idol format is judges' save, an element previously used in France's Nouvelle Star (French Idol). The judges were given the power to exercise a veto on one eliminated contestant in the finals and spare them from elimination for that particular week. This can only be invoked up until the Final 5. The following week two contestants will be eliminated if the save is used because nobody is eliminated on the week that the save is used, except in season 11 where one only contestant was eliminated. The save can only be used once per season and it must be unanimous. The new format change was revealed on March 11, 2009. The first recipient of the Judges' Save is Matt Giraud. The twelfth season is the first season the judges' save was not used. Placings of the recipients have ranged from eighth place to runner-up.

Regional auditions

Auditions began July 17 the previous year, and were held in the following cities:

Contestants were required to be between the ages 16 and 28 on July 15, 2008 and eligible to work in the United States. Contestants were ineligible if they had previously reached the semifinal in Season 1-3 and 7, or the top 44 from season 4 and 5, or top 40 from season 6. They were also ineligible if they held then current recording or management contracts or if they were not U.S. citizens or landed immigrants (i.e. temporary residents).

One auditioner who received widespread publicity was Katrina Darrell, also known as "Bikini Girl", for auditioning in her bikini. She reached the Hollywood stage but was cut in the group round.

Hollywood week

For this season, the Hollywood round moved from the Orpheum Theatre to the Kodak Theatre, which was previously used for the finale in seasons 1 and 3–6. In addition, the Hollywood round was extended to two weeks.

In the first round, the 147 contestants each sang a short solo a cappella performance of any song. The next round had the remaining 107 contestants performing in groups of three or four. Group rounds had returned since season 6. The 72 contestants that passed group day performed one more solo song, this time accompanied by a band, before being narrowed down to 54. The final 54 then went to the "judges' mansion" in Los Angeles for the final results, and the Top 36 were announced. Some contestants had a sing-off to determine who would enter the top 36. Lacey Brown, who lost in a sing-off with 9th placer Megan Joy, later made the following season's Top 12 where she became the first finalist voted out.


The 36 contestants performed in three groups of twelve and sang songs that were Billboard Hot 100 hits. In each group, three people advanced to the next round, based on votes by the viewers. The top male and female recipient advanced, along with the next highest vote recipient of the remaining ten contestants in each group. Each week two males advanced however it was never revealed who was the highest voted and which advanced through the non-gender specific slot. Following those nine singers advancing, eight of the remaining 27 semi-finalists were selected by the judges to compete in the Wild Card round. Following another performance by each Wild Card contender, the judges selected four contestants to advance to the final group of 13.

Group 3 – Billboard Hot 100 hits

  • ^Note 1 : Barton was initially eliminated prior to the semifinals. However, after the disqualification of Joanna Pacitti, she was invited back into the competition.
  • Finalists

    Kris Allen (born June 21, 1985 in Jacksonville, Arkansas, 23 years old at the time of the show) is from Conway, Arkansas and auditioned in Louisville, Kentucky with Leon Russell's "A Song For You". Allen's interest in music began at an early age; he taught himself how to play guitar at the age of 13, as well as numerous other instruments. Prior to Idol, he worked as a worship leader at New Life Church in Maumelle, Arkansas, and is a member of Chi Alpha Campus Ministries at the University of Central Arkansas, where he is a business major. Allen was announced the winner on May 20. He went on to release his first official single, "No Boundaries", which was written by Idol judge Kara DioGuardi. As a part of winning Idol, Allen was signed by Jive Records and 19 Entertainment.

    Adam Lambert (born January 29, 1982 in Indianapolis, Indiana, 26 years at the time of his audition) is from San Diego, California and auditioned in San Francisco, California with Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody". Lambert grew up in Rancho Peñasquitos, San Diego, California and attended Deer Canyon Elementary School, Mesa Verde Middle School, and Mt. Carmel High School, where he took part in theater and choir, and also performed with the school's jazz band. Lambert has been a stage actor since the age of ten, performing in such productions as You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Wicked. He joined the band The Citizen Vein briefly. He also worked as a demo singer, and those recordings were released after his appearance on Idol in the album Take One. Lambert roomed with Kris Allen during the show. Lambert was the runner-up. He was signed to RCA Records after the show and released his debut album For Your Entertainment.

    Danny Gokey (born April 24, 1980, 28 years at the time of his audition) is from Milwaukee, Wisconsin and auditioned in Kansas City, Missouri. Gokey first began singing in church with his family, and has been a worship leader for his church in Milwaukee, Faith Builders International Ministries, for several years. Four weeks before Gokey auditioned for American Idol, in July 2008, his wife Sophia underwent surgery due to congenital heart disease. She later died from complications regarding the extensive surgery. He was eliminated from the Top 3 on May 13, 2009.

    Allison Iraheta (born April 27, 1992 in Glendale, California, 16 years at the time of her audition) is from Los Angeles and auditioned in San Francisco, California. Iraheta began singing at an early age, performing at small venues for her family and friends. In 2006, Iraheta won the Telemundo television series Quinceañera, where she won $50,000 and a recording contract, where only the prize money was granted. She was eliminated from the Top 4 on May 6. In making the final she became the series' youngest finalist at sixteen and turned seventeen during the Top 5 week. Her debut album, Just Like You, was released on December 1, 2009, with the single "Friday I'll Be Over U".

    Matt Giraud (born May 11, 1985 in Dearborn, Michigan, 23 years at his time of the show) is from Kalamazoo, Michigan and auditioned in Louisville, Kentucky with Gavin DeGraw's "I Don't Want to Be". Giraud grew up in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where he graduated from Lincoln High School in 2003. Initially eliminated from the Top 13, Giraud was chosen by the judges to rejoin the competition during the Wild Card round. Giraud was the lowest vote-getter during the Top 7, but was saved by the judges and eventually eliminated in Top 5. He released an album called Perspective in 2003 and another in 2006 called Mind Body and Soul.

    Anoop Desai (born December 20, 1986 in Cary, North Carolina, 22 years at the time of the show) is from Chapel Hill, North Carolina and auditioned in Kansas City, Missouri. Desai is an only child, whose father was born in India and mother was born in South Africa. He began his career as an actor for the television station WRAL-TV in Raleigh, North Carolina in a local television series entitled CentralXpress.com, and played the character "Raj". Desai attended Carnage Middle School and Phillips Middle School, then later went on to attend East Chapel Hill High School, graduating in 2004. Desai’s performance as a soloist on the song "She Has No Time" was included on the 2007 iteration of the annual BOCA (Best of College A Cappella) compilation album. Desai has credited his decision to audition for American Idol to the death of a friend, Eve Carson, who was murdered. Initially eliminated from the Top 13, he was chosen by the judges to rejoin the competition during the Wild Card round. His advancement to the finals made Idol history, making it a top 13.

    Lil Rounds (born October 20, 1984, 24 years at the time of the show) is from Memphis, Tennessee and auditioned in Kansas City, Missouri with Stevie Wonder's "All I Do" . Shortly before her audition on Idol, a tornado hit Memphis, forcing Rounds to temporarily live in a motel. Her grandfather once worked with the musician B.B. King. Her performance of Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" in the Hollywood round impressed the judges; however, she failed to impress the judges in the finals and was eliminated in joint-seventh place with Anoop Desai.

    Scott MacIntyre (born June 22, 1985, 23 years at the time of the show) is from Scottsdale, Arizona and auditioned in Phoenix, Arizona. MacIntyre is the first legally blind person to audition for American Idol. MacIntyre began practicing music at the age of six. Home-schooled until the age of fourteen, he later attended Arizona State University's Barrett Honors College and Herberger College of the Arts soon afterwards. In 2005, USA Today named him one of its twenty College Academic All-Stars. He obtained his master's degree at Royal Holloway, University of London and the Royal College of Music, where he studied on a Marshall Scholarship. MacIntyre produced his first CD when he was eleven, and has recorded five more CDs since then. He was accepted to both Oxford University and Cambridge University for further graduate-level education.

    Megan Joy (born September 18, 1985, 23 years at the time of the show) is a single mother from Sandy, Utah and auditioned in Salt Lake City, Utah with Helen Morgan's "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man". Initially eliminated from the Top 13, Joy was chosen by the judges to rejoin the competition during the Wild Card round. In high school, Joy unsuccessfully tried out for numerous performance groups, including choir, and never had any singing lessons before her audition on Idol. Joy graduated from Taylorsville High School in Taylorsville, Utah in 2003. She has one son named Ryder.

    Michael Sarver (born March 28, 1981 in Sulphur, Louisiana, 27 years at the time of the show) is from Jasper, Texas and auditioned in Phoenix, Arizona with Boyz II Men's "Thank You". Sarver, an oil rig worker, began singing at the age of twelve, and has written over 890 songs for himself since that time. Sarver graduated from Sulphur High School in 1998.

    Alexis Grace (born June 9, 1987, 21 years at the time of the show) is from Memphis, Tennessee and auditioned in Kansas City, Missouri with Aretha Franklin's "Dr Feelgood". She gave birth to her daughter when she was nineteen. Grace began singing at an early age. She performed Aretha Franklin's "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man" and Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats" in the Hollywood rounds.

    Jorge Núñez (born October 1, 1987 in Cidra, Puerto Rico, 21 years at the time of the show) is from Carolina, Puerto Rico, and auditioned in San Juan, Puerto Rico. For the audition, he sang "My Way" in Spanish and Louis Armstrong's "What a Wonderful World" in English. Núñez speaks three languages fluently, English, Spanish and French. After he sang during the third semi-finals week, many people were amazed by his big voice, including Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez, who had stated they wanted to perform with him. He performed Jon Secada's "Angel" during the Hollywood round. Of the Top 13, Núñez was the only contestant who auditioned in Puerto Rico. He was the eliminated from the Top 13 in the first week of the finals, along with Jasmine Murray.

    Jasmine Murray (born March 14, 1992, in Columbus, Mississippi, 16 years old at the time of the show) is from Starkville, Mississippi and auditioned in Jacksonville, Florida. Initially eliminated from the Top 13, Murray was chosen by the judges to rejoin the competition during the Wild Card round. In addition to competing on Idol, she competed in the Miss America's Outstanding Teen pageant in 2007. She was eliminated from the Top 13 in the first week of the finals, along with Jorge Núñez.

    Top 13 – Michael Jackson

    This episode was re-aired on June 29, 2009, in a tribute to the death of Michael Jackson on June 25. This makes it the only episode of the show to be re-aired by Fox.

  • Note 1: It was never revealed, between Jasmine Murray and Jorge Núñez, who received the lowest amount of votes even though Jasmine was eliminated first.
  • Note 2: See IDOLS-13 controversy below.
  • Top 11 – Grand Ole Opry

    Mentor: Randy Travis

    Top 10 – Motown

    Mentor: Smokey Robinson

    Top 7 (first week) – Songs of the Cinema

    Mentor: Quentin Tarantino

  • Note 1: Matt Giraud received the lowest number of votes but the judges decided to use their save on him and was not eliminated.
  • Top 7 (second week) – Disco

  • Note 1: With no elimination the previous week, there was a second "Top 7" week and two people were eliminated. It was never revealed who, between Anoop Desai and Lil Rounds, received the lowest amount of votes, however Rounds's elimination was announced first with Desai being the second eliminee.
  • Top 5 – Rat Pack Standards

    Mentor: Jamie Foxx

    Top 4 – Rock music

    Mentor: Slash

    Each contestant sang one solo and one duet with a fellow contestant.

    Top 3 – Judges' choice and Contestants' choice

    Each contestant sang two songs.

    Top 2 – Contestant’s choice, Simon Fuller’s choice & the winner’s single

    Each contestant sang three songs.

    ^Note 1 Due to the 2009 Speech to the Joint Session of the United States Congress on Tuesday, February 24, 2009, the performance show was moved to Wednesday, February 25 and the results show was moved to Thursday, February 26.
    ^Note 2 Ryan never specifically said who the bottom three or four was, but Megan Joy was brought up with Jasmine Murray and Anoop Desai with Jorge Nuñez for dramatic effect. Jasmine Murray was announced as the first to leave, followed by Jorge Nuñez.
    ^Note 3 Due to the White House Press Conference on Tuesday, March 24, 2009, the performance show was moved to Wednesday, March 25 and the results show was moved to Thursday, March 26.
    ^Note 4 Due to the judges using their one save, in order to save Matt Giraud, the Top 7 remained intact for another week.
    ^Note 5 The bottom two were eliminated on April 22. It was never announced who received the lowest number of votes, although Lil Rounds was announced as the first to leave, followed by Anoop Desai.
    ^Note 6 It was only announced that Allison Iraheta received the lowest number of votes this week. The other member(s) of the bottom two or three were never revealed, and the safe contestants were announced in random order.

    Group song

  • Top 36/Group 1: "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz
  • Top 36/Group 2: "Closer" by Ne-Yo
  • Top 36/Group 3: "Hot n Cold" by Katy Perry
  • Top 13: "I Want You Back/ABC Medley" by The Jackson 5
  • Top 11: "T-R-O-U-B-L-E" by Travis Tritt
  • Top 10: "Motown" Medley: "You Keep Me Hangin' On" by The Supremes/"You're All I Need to Get By" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell/"Ain't No Mountain High Enough" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell
  • Top 9: "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey
  • Top 8: "Can't Get You out of My Head" by Kylie Minogue
  • Top 7 (week 1): "Maniac" by Michael Sembello from Flashdance
  • Top 7 (week 2): "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" by The Jacksons; choreographed by Paula Abdul
  • Top 5: "It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)" and "I Got Rhythm"
  • Top 4: "School's Out" by Alice Cooper
  • Top 3: The Top 3 did not perform a group routine.
  • Top 2: Top 13 performed "So What" by Pink and Top 2 performed Queen's "We Are The Champions" who were guest performers
  • Guest performances

    In addition, songs are played during the elimination night to promote an artist, single, album, or the show itself. Included is a list of those songs with their Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Digital Songs reactions.


    The finale took place at the Nokia Theatre on May 20, 2009.

    Musical Performances:

    "So What" (Pink) - Top 13

    "Permanent" (David Cook) - David Cook

    "Cue the Rain" (Queen Latifah) - Queen Latifah & Lil Rounds

    "I'm Yours" (Jason Mraz) - Jason Mraz, Anoop Desai & Alexis Grace (the rest of the top 13 minus Kris & Adam joined at the end of the song)

    "Kiss a Girl"(Keith Urban) - Keith Urban & Kris Allen

    "Glamorous" (Fergie) - Top 13 girls (Alison Iraheta, Lil Rounds, Megan Joy, Alexis Grace & Jasmine Murray)

    "Big Girls Don't Cry" (Fergie) - Fergie with Top 13 girls

    "Boom Boom Pow" (The Black Eyed Peas) - The Black Eyed Peas

    "Time After Time" (Cyndi Lauper) - Cyndi Lauper & Alison Iraheta

    "Hello" (Lionel Richie) - Danny Gokey

    "Just Go" (Lionel Richie) - Lionel Richie & Danny Gokey

    "All Night Long" (Lionel Richie) - Lionel Richie & Danny Gokey

    "Beth" (KISS) - Adam Lambert

    "Detroit Rock City" (KISS) - KISS & Adam Lambert

    "Rock and Roll All Night" (KISS) - KISS & Adam Lambert

    "Black Magic Woman" (Santana) - Carlos Santana & Matt Giraud

    "Smooth" (Santana) - Carlos Santana & Top 13

    "Pretty Flowers" (Steve Martin) - Megan Joy, Michael Sarver with Steve Martin playing banjo

    "Do You Think I'm Sexy" (Rod Stewart) - Top 13 guys (Kris Allen, Adam Lambert, Danny Gokey, Matt Giraud, Annop Desai, Scott MacIntyre, Michael Sarver, Jorge Nunez)

    "Maggie May" (Rod Stewart) - Rod Stewart

    "We Are the Champions" (Queen) - Queen, Kris Allen & Adam Lambert (later joined by the rest of the top 13)

    "No Boundaries" (Kris Allen) - Kris Allen

    Idol Awards:

    Outstanding Male - Nick Mitchell (as Norman Gentle) "And I'm Not Going" (Dreamgirls)

    Best Attitude Katrina Derrel (bikini girl) "Vision of Love" with Kara DioGuardi

    Outstanding Female - Tatiana Del Toro "Saving All My Love"

    Contestants who appeared on other shows

  • American Idol season 9 finalist Lacey Brown originally auditioned for this season, but she was cut in a singoff with Megan Joy in the green mile round.
  • American Idol season 10 finalist James Durbin originally auditioned for this season, but was not chosen.
  • Jamar Rogers, who was cut in the green mile round in this season of American Idol, would go on as contestant on the second season of NBC's The Voice and made it to the Semi-Final round before being eliminated.
  • Jenn Korbee, who was cut in the green mile round in this season of American Idol, was a cast member in the American version of Hi-5 under the name of Jennifer Peterson-Hind.
  • Wil Heuser, who auditioned for the show would later appear on the fourteenth season of Big Brother.
  • Joanna Pacitti

    Joanna Pacitti, who was originally selected as a semi-finalist, created controversy due to her being previously signed to A&M and Geffen Records. Later, she was found to have been having a "private relationship" with 19 Management. She was later disqualified and replaced by Felicia Barton.

    Telephone number

    In the Top 13, the expected phone number for contestant Alexis Grace, 1-866-IDOLS-13, was not owned by American Idol, but by a company called Intimate Encounters, who used it as a phone sex line. Although host Ryan Seacrest mentioned the replacement phone number, 1-866-IDOLS-36, several times, some commentators feared that the phone number confusion could lead to Grace being inadvertently voted off the show. However, Grace was not voted off that week.


    After the Top 11 program, Justin Guarini, while hosting Idol Wrap on TV Guide channel, asserted that the show's group performances were being lip-synced. Soon after Guarini's assertion was aired, a spokesperson for the producers of American Idol said, "The Idols don't lip-sync, period." The following day, the same spokesperson said that "due to extensive choreography and to balance their voices with open mics against a screaming audience, the Idols do sing along to their own prerecorded vocal track during the group performances only." The spokesperson maintained that the performers sing their solo songs live, but their performances available to download through iTunes are recorded prior to airing.

    Finale vote

    Kris Allen's win over Adam Lambert resulted in controversy about the voting process, prompted by a claim that of the nearly 100 million votes cast, as many as "38 million" votes may have come from Arkansas, Kris's home state, a state with only 2.86 million people. Although the claim was later retracted, it resulted in allegations that AT&T may have influenced the results. Fox had previously denied these claims as baseless, stating that the network has no preference on who the winner might be. AT&T meanwhile said in a statement that the vote tally above was based on incorrect information and apologized by saying that "AT&T does not divulge or confirm how many votes were cast in any state." On May 27, 2009, the producers of the show stated that they "stand by the outcome" and are "absolutely certain" that "without a doubt Kris Allen is the American Idol."

    U.S. Nielsen ratings

    Season eight was the top show for the 2008–09 broadcast primetime season and took the top two spots for its Tuesday and Wednesday episodes. The viewers number for the Wednesday episodes averaged 25.527 million, while the Tuesday episodes averaged 24.741 million. The ratings were down from season seven, with the finale dropping 13% in the 18–49 demo and 9% in total viewers number.


    American Idol (season 8) Wikipedia