A few weeks remain before "American Idol" officially anoints the nation's new pop icon, but right now, as has been the case nearly all season, it's all about Adam Lambert.
Judge Simon Cowell came out in full support of Lambert this week, telling Oprah Winfrey that there's no way the 26-year-old musical theater veteran won't win because he's fearless, he's unique and "he's got swagger" (as evidenced by his renditions of Aerosmith's "Crying" and U2's "One" Tuesday night.)
Cowell's endorsement adds to a heap of attention Lambert's received throughout his run on "American Idol." He graces the current cover of Entertainment Weekly, the latest media outlet (this one included) to do a feature on him.
Granted, it's not just Lambert's talent that's earned him coverage -- the speculation over whether or not he's gay and his coy refusal to address that question play into the media's interest. But it seems Lambert has made the competitive aspect of "American Idol" a moot point. Do the other two contenders, Danny Gokey and Kris Allen, have even a hope of winning when Lambert's stolen the spotlight?
Perhaps -- Lambert landed in jeopardy when he bottomed out in the lowest rung of contestants during the eighth week of competition. But he hung on while Matt Giraud got eliminated, and with Cowell and the other judges crowing about him -- Paula Abdul called him the Michael Phelps of the competition -- his hold on the "Idol" title appears stronger than ever.
That fact isn't lost on his fellow contestants. After losing to Lambert, Giraud spoke out about the judges' perceived favoritism.
"The judges have their favorites, and they're going to make sure they do well," he told ABC News Radio. "There were times when I felt, like, invisible in the competition."
Giraud also revealed Lambert took his fair share of ribbing from the other "Idol" candidates.
"If Adam had a good night, we'd go backstage and tease him, like 'Man, is that Adam Lambert Idol or what?' And he'd crack up like, 'C'mon guys,'" Giraud said.
Lil Rounds, who was eliminated on "Idol's" April 22 episode, echoed Giraud's sentiments. Asked by ABC News Radio how it feels to compete during a season when the judges and the media alike are convinced that one contestant is sure to win, she said, "Of course, you hear that, the judges' comments [but] you can't let it bother you."
"Idol" contestants are versed in maintaining the utmost professionalism towards each other, even after they leave the competition. Fans, however, need not exercise the same restraint.
"Fans resent favoritism. It makes them angry," said MJ, runs the 4-year-old "American Idol" fan blog MJsBigBlog.com. "What's dangerous for Adam is it can create a backlash."
Indeed, Tuesday, after MJ posted a video of Cowell on "Fox & Friends" lauding Lambert and saying finalist Allen isn't fit to be in the competition, fans of the latter got riled up.
"Grrrr. I was already planning to vote my fingers off for Kris now that my #1 is gone (Allison [Iraheta], of course), and this just makes me want to get all my friends to vote for him, too," commenter dreamr posted on MJsBigBlog.com.
But this is par for the course for "Idol." Around this time every season, Cowell comes out in favor of a particular contestant, singing their praises all over the talk show circuit. Often, the one he touts turns into the one who wins.