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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. Kris Allen was announced the winner of the competition on May 20, 2009, defeating runner-up Adam Lambert after nearly 100 million votes, the highest recorded vote total in the history of the show. Kris Allen is the only married winner of the competition at the time of his victory.

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. Another addition was the "save," which was used on the top seven results show to veto Matt Giraud's elimination.

The season was Abdul's final season.

Changes from Season 7

Several changes were planned for season 8. 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 permanent fourth judge on the panel. She had previously collaborated with Celine Dion, Hilary Duff, 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. MTV How WIll The Wild-Card Round Work On 'American Idol' 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.

Another change in the Idol format, which was revealed on March 11, 2009, is that the judges are eligible to exercise a veto power on one eliminated contestant at any given point of the competition 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. The save can only be used once and it must be unanimous.

Early process

Regional auditions phase

Auditions were held in the following cities:
Audition City Date Audition Venue
San Francisco, Californiamarker July 17, 2008 Cow Palacemarker
Louisville, Kentuckymarker July 21, 2008 Freedom Hallmarker
Glendale, Arizonamarker July 25, 2008 Arenamarker
Salt Lake City, Utahmarker July 29, 2008 EnergySolutions Arenamarker
San Juan, Puerto Ricomarker August 2, 2008 Coliseo de Puerto Ricomarker
Kansas City, Missourimarker August 8, 2008 Kemper Arenamarker
Jacksonville, Floridamarker August 13, 2008 Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arenamarker
East Rutherford, New Jerseymarker August 19, 2008 Izod Centermarker
Contestants are required to be between the ages 16 and 28 on July 15, 2008 and eligible to work in the United Statesmarker. Contestants are ineligible if they were part of the top 40 from previous seasons (exception being for those who reached the top 50 from season 7), if they hold recording or management contracts or if they are not U.S. citizens or landed immigrants (i.e. temporary residents).

Hollywood phase

For this season, the Hollywood round moved from the Orpheum Theatremarker to the Kodak Theatremarker, 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. 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.


The top 36 were announced in a special two-hour broadcast on Wednesday, February 11, 2009.

All 36 contestants, performing in three groups of twelve, sang songs that were Billboard Hot 100 Hits.

Below are the three semi-final groups with contestants listed in their performance order. 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. 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.

Semi-Final Group 1 - Billboard Hot 100 hits

Advancing to the Top 13: Alexis Grace, Michael Sarver, and Danny Gokey

Wild Card Contenders: Ricky Braddy, Tatiana Del Toro, and Anoop Desai

Semi-Final Group 2 - Billboard Hot 100 hits

Advancing to the Top 13: Allison Iraheta, Kris Allen, and Adam Lambert

Wild Card Contenders: Matt Giraud, Megan Joy, Jesse Langseth, and Jasmine Murray

Semi-Final Group 3 - Billboard Hot 100 hits

Advancing to the Top 13: Lil Rounds, Scott MacIntyre, and Jorge Núñez

Wild Card Contender: Von Smith

Wild Card Round - Billboard Hot 100 hits

Advancing to the Top 13: Jasmine Murray, Megan Joy, Matt Giraud, and Anoop Desai


Kris Allen
  • Kris Allen (born June 21, 1985 in Jacksonvillemarker, Arkansasmarker) is a 24-year-old from (23 at the time of the show) Conwaymarker, Arkansasmarker who auditioned in Louisvillemarker, Kentuckymarker. 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 of the eighth season of American Idol on May 20, 2009. 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. His first official album under the new label is expected to be released November 17 2009.

Adam Lambert

Danny Gokey

  • Danny Gokey (born April 24, 1980) is a 29-year-old (28 at the time of his audition) from Milwaukeemarker, Wisconsinmarker who auditioned in Kansas Citymarker, Missourimarker. 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, Californiamarker) is a 17-year-old (16 at the time of her audition) from Los Angelesmarker who auditioned in San Franciscomarker, Californiamarker. 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, 2009. She has been the youngest finalist as a 16 year-old turning 17 during Top 5 week.

Matt Giraud

  • Matt Giraud (born May 11, 1985 in Dearbornmarker, Michiganmarker) is a 24-year-old from (23 at his time of the show) Kalamazoomarker, Michiganmarker who auditioned in Louisvillemarker, Kentuckymarker. Initially eliminated from the Top 13, Giraud was chosen by the judges to rejoin the competition during the Wild Card round. Similarly, Giraud was eliminated during the Top 7, but was saved by the judges. Giraud grew up in Ypsilantimarker, Michiganmarker, where he graduated from Lincoln High School in 2003. He released an album called Perspective in 2003 and another in 2006 called Mind Body and Soul.

Anoop Desai

  • Anoop Desai (born December 20, 1986 in Carymarker, North Carolinamarker) is a 22-year-old from Chapel Hillmarker, North Carolinamarker who auditioned in Kansas Citymarker, Missourimarker. Desai is an only child, whose father was born in Indiamarker and mother was born in South Africa. Beginning his career as an actor for the television station WRAL-TVmarker in Raleighmarker in a local television series entitled "", and played the character "Raj." Desai attended Carnage Middle School and Phillips Middle School, then later went on to attend East Chapel Hill High Schoolmarker, 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 American Idol history, making it a top 13.

Megan Joy

  • Megan Joy (born September 18, 1985) is a 24-year-old (23 at the time of the show) from Sandymarker, Utahmarker who auditioned in Salt Lake Citymarker, Utahmarker. 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 Schoolmarker in Taylorsvillemarker, Utahmarker in 2003. She has one son named Ryder.

Alexis Grace

  • Alexis Grace (born June 9, 1987) is a 22-year-old (21 at her time of the show) from Memphismarker, Tennesseemarker who auditioned in Kansas Citymarker, Missourimarker.She gave birth to her daughter when she was nineteen. Grace began singing at an early age .


Top 13 - Michael Jackson

Eliminated: Jasmine Murray and Jorge Núñez

The judges chose not to save either Jasmine or Jorge.

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.

Top 11 - Grand Ole Oprymarker

Mentor: Randy Travis

Bottom 3: Allison Iraheta, Michael Sarver, and Alexis Grace

Bottom 2: Michael Sarver and Alexis Grace

Eliminated: Alexis Grace

The judges chose not to use their save on Alexis.

Top 10 - Motown

Mentor: Smokey Robinson

Bottom 3: Matt Giraud, Michael Sarver, and Scott MacIntyre

Bottom 2: Matt Giraud and Michael Sarver

Eliminated: Michael Sarver

The judges chose not to save Michael.

Top 9 - Popular iTunes Downloads

Bottom 3: Megan Joy, Allison Iraheta, and Anoop Desai

Bottom 2: Megan Joy and Anoop Desai

Eliminated: Megan Joy

Simon made it clear that the judges would not even consider using the save on Megan.

Top 8 - Year They Were Born

Bottom 3: Anoop Desai, Scott MacIntyre, and Lil Rounds

Bottom 2: Anoop Desai and Scott MacIntyre

Eliminated: Scott MacIntyre

Paula and Kara wanted to save Scott, but Simon and Randy did not. Since the judges must be unanimous for the save to be used, the save was not used on Scott.

Top 7 (first week) - Songs of the Cinema

Mentor: Quentin Tarantino

Bottom 3: Anoop Desai, Lil Rounds, and Matt Giraud

Bottom 2: Matt Giraud and Lil Rounds

*Saved from elimination: Matt Giraud

*Matt 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

Bottom 3: Anoop Desai, Allison Iraheta, and Lil Rounds

Eliminated: Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai

With no elimination the previous week, there was a second "Top 7" week and two people were eliminated.

Top 5 - Rat Pack Standards

Mentor: Jamie Foxx

Top 2: Allison Iraheta, Danny Gokey

Bottom 3: Adam Lambert, Kris Allen, and Matt Giraud

Bottom 2: Adam Lambert and Matt Giraud

Eliminated: Matt Giraud

Top 4 - Rock music

Mentor: Slash

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

Eliminated: Allison Iraheta

Top 3 - Judge's choice / Contestant's choice

Each contestant sang two songs.

Eliminated: Danny Gokey

Top 2 - The contestant’s favorite / Simon Fuller’s choice / The winner’s single

Each contestant sang three songs. Allen won a coin toss to decide who performed first and who performed last, and he chose to perform last.

  • Adam Lambert - "Mad World" (Tears for Fears) - Contestant's favorite
  • Kris Allen - "Ain't No Sunshine" (Bill Withers) - Contestant's favorite
  • Adam Lambert - "A Change Is Gonna Come" (Sam Cooke) - Simon Fuller's choice
  • Kris Allen - "What's Going On" (Marvin Gaye) - Simon Fuller's choice
  • Adam Lambert - "No Boundaries" - Winner's single
  • Kris Allen - "No Boundaries" - Winner's single

Winner: Kris Allen

Runner-Up: Adam Lambert

Other performances

Group song

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.

Week Performer(s) Title Hot 100

Hot Digital Songs

Top 36/

Group 1
Carly Smithson

Michael Johns
"The Letter" Ineligible to chart

(No legal digital release)
live performance
Top 36/

Group 2
Brooke White "Hold Up My Heart" 47 (debut) 27 (51,171 +999%) live performance
Top 36/

Group 3
No performer
Top 13 Kanye West "Heartless" 7 (+1) 13 (95,223 +18%) pre-recorded
Kelly Clarkson "My Life Would Suck Without You" 5 (+4) 6 (141,167 +38%) live performance
Top 11 Brad Paisley "Then" 35 (debut) 18 (64,127 +999%) live performance
Carrie Underwood

Randy Travis
"I Told You So" 9 (+48) 4 (125,806 +701%) pre-recorded
Top 10 Ruben Studdard "Together" did not debut N/A pre-recorded
Smokey Robinson

Joss Stone
"You’re the One for Me" did not debut N/A live performance
Stevie Wonder "My Chérie Amour"/"Superstition"/

"Overjoyed"/"All About the Love Again"
ineligible to re-enter N/A live performance
Top 9 David Cook "Come Back to Me" 63 (debut) 40 (39,430 +498%) pre-recorded
Lady GaGa "Poker Face" 2 (-1) 2 (228,799 +11%) live performance
Top 8 Frankie Avalon "Venus" N/A N/A live performance
Flo Rida
"Right Round" 3 (=) 4 (179,913 +9%) live performance
Kellie Pickler "Best Days of Your Life" 50 (+53) 34 (46,825 +257%) live performance
Top 7

(week 1)
Jennifer Hudson "If This Isn't Love" 63 (+23) 86 (19,112 +172%) live performance
Miley Cyrus "The Climb" 4 (+4) 2 (189,566 +0%) pre-recorded
Top 7

(week 2)
David Archuleta "Touch My Hand" did not debut 107 (12,875 +558%) live performance

Freda Payne

Thelma Houston

Medley of

"Band of Gold"

"Don't Leave Me This Way"

"Get Down Tonight."
ineligible to re-enter N/A live performance
Top 5 Natalie Cole "Something's Gotta Give" did not debut N/A live performance
Taylor Hicks Seven Mile Breakdown did not debut N/A live performance
Jamie Foxx "Blame It" 2 (+2) 4(+6) live performance
Top 4 Paula Abdul "I'm Just Here for the Music" 87 (debut) 61(24,615 +999%) pre-recorded
No Doubt "Just a Girl" ineligible to re-enter TBA pre-recorded
Daughtry "No Surprise" 15 (debut) 7 (103,593 +999%) live performance
Top 3 Noah Mushimiyimana "I'm the World's Greatest" NA NA live performance
Jordin Sparks "Battlefield" 32 (debut) 12 (75,007 +999%) live performance
Katy Perry "Waking Up in Vegas" 13 (+38) 5 (103,921) +180% live performance
Top 2 Carrie Underwood "Home Sweet Home" 79 (re-entry) TBA live performance on May 19, 2009
Finale See Grand Finale for other performances NA NA

Elimination chart

Did Not Perform Female Male Top 36 Wild Card Top 13 Winner

Bottom 3
Bottom 2
Judges' Save

Stage: Semi-Finals Finals
Place Contestant Result
1 Kris Allen Winner
2 Adam Lambert Adv
3 Danny Gokey Elim
4 Allison Iraheta Adv Btm 3 Elim
5 Matt Giraud Elim Saved Elim
6 - 7 Anoop Desai Elim Adv Btm 3 Elim
Lil Rounds Btm 3 Btm 2
8 Scott MacIntyre Adv Btm 3 Elim
9 Megan Joy Elim Adv Elim
10 Michael Sarver Adv Btm 2 Elim
11 Alexis Grace Adv Elim
12 - 13 Jorge Núñez Adv Elim
Jasmine Murray Elim Adv

Ricky Braddy Elim Elim
Tatiana Del Toro Elim
Jesse Langseth Elim
Von Smith Elim

Final 3
Arianna Afsar Elim
Felicia Barton
Kendall Beard
Ju'Not Joyner
Nathaniel Marshall
Kristen McNamara
Taylor Vaifanua

Final 2
Matt Breitzke Elim
Mishavonna Henson
Kai Kalama
Nick Mitchell
Jeanine Vailes

Final 1
Ann Marie Boskovich Elim
Casey Carlson
Stephen Fowler
Brent Keith
Jackie Tohn
Stevie Wright

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.

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.

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.

4 Due to the judges using their one save, in order to save Matt Giraud, the Top 7 remained intact for another week.

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.

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.


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


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.

Overtime broadcast

On the April 7 (Top 8) performance episode, Idol ran nearly eight minutes past its set ending time, such that viewers who recorded the program on digital video recorders completely missed the final performance, Adam Lambert's performance of Mad World which received a standing ovation from judge Simon Cowell. The show attempted to prevent running over time the following week by having only two judges, either Randy and Kara or Paula and Simon, critique each performance; however, the episode still ended two minutes over the timeslot.


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 speculation about voter manipulation, a Christian voting bloc, and as many as "38 million" votes coming from Arkansasmarker, Kris's home state, a state with only 2.8 million people. There were also 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".

Awards and nominations

Primetime Emmy Awards

Year Category Nominee(s) Episode Result
2009 Outstanding Reality Show or Reality Competition American Idol
Outstanding Directing For a Variety, Music Or Comedy Special Bruce Gowers Show 833 (The Final Three)
Outstanding Host for a Reality-Competition Program Ryan Seacrest

Teen Choice Awards

Year Category Nominee(s) Result
2009 Choice Male Reality/Variety Star Kris Allen
Adam Lambert
Choice Summer Tour American Idol Top 10

See also


  1. Songwriter Kara DioGuardi joins 'American Idol' panel
  3. OK! Magazine - First for Celebrity News - Less is More for Next Season of American Idol
  4. ‘Idol's’ emotional focus will highlight Abdul
  5. Associated Press
  6. Lythgoe Leaving 'American Idol'
  7. American Idol Shelves "Give Back" Show for 2009 Season
  8. Fox releases 'American Idol' schedule, confirms format changes
  9. Who Will Be The Next Singing Superstar? - American Idol News
  10. Release says San Francisco; arena is actually in Daly City, though part of its property is in San Francisco.
  11. The filmed session before the judges was actually at Churchill Downs.
  12. Release says Phoenix; arena is actually in Glendale.
  13. Top 36 Revealed!
  14. American Idol
  15. Kris Allen - 19 Recordings Has Signed the American Idol Season 8 Winner and Has Licensed to Jive Records
  16. "American Idol finalists are church worship leaders" Associated Press via WNCT, February 20, 2009.
  17. "Milwaukee man says he's prepared to give his all to make 'Idol' finals" by Tim Cuprisin, Feb. 13, 2009, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
  18. "'Idol's grieving Danny Gokey hopes to lighten up" Jill Serjeant, Feb 19, 2009, Reuters.
  23. Anoop Before Idol
  24. The UNC Clef Hangers News
  25. UNC Clef Hangers Album Details
  31. (Idol Chatter blog)
  36. Format, special guests set for next week
  40. American Idol winner is crowned
  41. Kris Allen: How can you not love the new American Idol?

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