american idol

What Will Happen If Adam Lambert Doesn’t Win American Idol?

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Tonight, after more than four months of auditions, performances, ballads, and screeching, America will anoint the eighth American Idol. The media and your inner gay have you believing Adam Lambert has the win in the bag. But just as likely, he doesn’t. And what, pray tell, is going to happen if, when the house lights are brought down and Ryan Seacrest aligns the top two side-by-side, Kris Allen wins the grand prize?

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Well we’re not expecting marches on Washington, rallies on statehouse steps, nor rioting in the streets. But if Kris beats Adam, the media crackstorm that will engulf Allen, Lambert, and American Idol‘s four judges will undoubtedly include criticism that the competition is anti-gay, that it was rigged because 19 Entertainment doesn’t want to market and promote a gay guy, and that America is still the homophobic land where Don’t Ask Don’t Tell also applies to singing contests.

But if we’re to believe Idol‘s story, it’s America’s vote (and not producers) that determines the winner. Which means last night’s tens of millions of 866 dials and text messages truly determine Lambert’s fate: Will he become America’s first gay Idol?

Even as we pose the question, we laugh a little. Really? Whether a gay guy wins some Fox reality competition counts as important? Well, no. But also, in a very big way: yes. Lambert’s talent aside, his sexuality has become a growing part of his bonafides as a contestant. And everyone from tween girls to working moms to retired grandmothers — you know, the stereotypical Idol voting audience — is growing more aware of which team Lambert plays for; they have the Information Superhighway in Kentucky, ya know.

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Idol is pop culture’s lowest common denominator; it reaches more Americans every year than any other entertainment phenomenon. So if Lambert does win, it will in some meaningful way represent that not only does America think the guy can sing and perform and scream, but that they don’t care he can do all those things while dedicating them to his boyfriend Drake.

Of course, Lambert’s win will also be a rallying cry for social conservatives. Any O’Reilly or Gallagher worth her bigoted salt will be able to spin the crowning of Lambert as an example of the deterioration of American society and its social norms. We can already see the black-and-white footage of Lambert performing in the background of an upcoming National Organization for Marriage ad, with text scrolling over his face about the danger he represents to his teenage fans.

But if Lambert doesn’t win? The outrage and upset from the gay community will be tangible.

Queerty HQ expects this very site to erupt with comments lambasting America for its homophobia. It won’t be about whether competitor Kris Allen is a good singer (he is) or whether he deserves the Idol crown (he might), but that we’ve built up expectations that Lambert will win this thing — and if he doesn’t, the immediate conclusion will be America hates gays.

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As for Allen? He’s got an undeniable Christian base, even if he plays down (or chooses not to highlight) his past as a “worship singer.” Allen said Monday he hoped “having the Christian vote” wouldn’t decide whether he wins. (Does Lambert feel the same about having the gay vote?) “I hope it has to do with your talent and the performance that you give and the package that you have,” says Allen. “It’s not about religion and all that kind of stuff.”

But denying religious types are rallying behind a pretty poster boy would be foolish; legions of fans attached themselves to Allen simply because of his faith, the same way Lambert attracted plenty of gay fans (who might not even look twice if they saw him in a bar) simply because of his sexuality.

Which means if Allen wins, religious conservatives will declare God the winner. In beating Lambert, Allen will be evidence to this demographic that gays are inferior, and one of their own was destined to win.

But no matter the outcome tonight, fans of either contestant can rest assured: They’re both going on tour. They’ll both be in the press for weeks and months. And they’ve both got at least one album in ’em before we turn our backs and ready ourselves for Season 9.

And in case Adam’s same-sex loving ways weren’t clear, enjoy this pre-Idol performance (it’s loud, turn down your speakers):