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. 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.