'American Idol' notes: Kris Allen (City Winery 12/22) interview, Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Clarkson

Posted Wednesday, December 20, 2017 by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Kris Allen's innate amiability helped him win "American Idol" eight years ago. He didn't quite have the Adam Lambert-level charisma to become an arena act, but his musicality and fan base have enabled him to remain a touring artist. He is currently doing his first full-fledged Christmas tour that ends Friday at the City Winery Atlanta. (Buy tickets here.)

So far, so good. "It's been received really well," he said in a recent interview. "People are getting into the spirit. That's what I wanted my job to be. I want folks to feel good being it's the holidays."

His set list is mostly Christmas songs, a blend of classic ("O Holy Night," "Winter Wonderland") and originals from his 2016 Christmas album "Somethin' About Christmas." And he'll throw in a couple of his best-known songs thrown in near the end ("Live Like We're Dying," "Heartless"). He had a knack on "Idol" to give his cover songs a very specific, very warm, soulful spin and he does the same with his takes on old-time Christmas songs. Check out his very cool version of "Here Comes Santa Claus":

While Fantasia said her grandmother was the inspiration for her Christmas tour that stopped at the City Winery last month, Allen said he modeled his after Christmas radio shows he found on the Internet from the 1940s when families would gather around the radio to listen. "Everyone is in their own world now," he said. "I'm guilty of it, being on the phone all the time. I was trying to throw a little bit of that old-school inspiration, for family and friends to celebrate the whole year together and have a good time around each other."

One of his favorite originals was "Mommy, is there More Than One Santa Claus?" He is thrilled when people ask him who wrote that because he did. "It seems like a classic tune," he said, with pride. A couple of other songs, he said, evoke classic tunes by the likes of Nat King Cole and Bruce Springsteen ("Baby Won't You Wait Until the New Year")

His two kids are still very young: a four-year-old son Oliver and an 18-month-old daughter Rose. (His son's daycare center plays Allen's music all the time so his son knows all his tunes. And he wants a Buzz Lightyear this year. But Allen wasn't too keen on sitting Oliver on Santa's lap. Oliver hated it last year.)

Allen has known his wife Katy for 16 years and has been married to her for nine years. After the Atlanta date Friday, they will drive up to Nashville, pack up the family and go straight to Arkansas for Christmas. Their biggest tradition is eating - a lot.

And like many other "Idol" contestants I have interviewed, he agreed that ABC bringing "Idol" back does seem too soon. But he did show up for auditions in Orlando with fellow winners Ruben Studdard and Jordin Sparks earlier this year. He hopes the focus of the ABC reboot will be more on the contestants than the judges, a plea also made by many others to stick with the original formula.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - AUGUST 17: In this handout photo provided by Disney Resorts, (L-R) "American Idol" winners Ruben Studdard, Jordin Sparks and Kris Allen cut the celebratory ribbon, with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse, to kick off auditions for the new season of 'American Idol' on ABC at Disney Springs in Walt Disney on August 17, 2017 in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Photo by David Roark/Disney Resorts via Getty Images)

It's now been five years since a nasty car accident screwed up one of his wrists and he had to re-learn the guitar all over again. He said he has hardly any natural movement in that wrist but he has adjusted. "I'm a more precise player," he said. "I've paid much more attention and have become a better guitarist overall. But I'm never going to be Jimi Hendrix."


Kris Allen

8 p.m. Friday, December 22


City Winery Atlanta

650 North Avenue, Ponce City Market, Atlanta

Buy tickets here


Jennifer Hudson, who just wrapped her run on the latest season of "The Voice," released a new piano-heavy soulful ballad "Burden Down." She has a new album coming out in 2018.

The chorus: “Can I lay this burden down? / Can you take it up for me? / When you run me in the ground that’s the day you will see. For all I’ve done all alone, just for a moment please could I not be strong? / Wish I knew how, how to lay this burden down.”

The lyrics might be referencing her super bitter breakup with her fiance David Otunga, who recently accused her of shading him on "The Voice" without ever uttering his name and alleging this breaks a gag order regarding child custody. (That's going to be a tough sell.)


Kelly Clarkson performed her possible third single off her current album "Medicine" during the "Voice" season finale. (Check it out below.) She will be a judge on the show in the spring. The season finale was the lowest ever in terms of ratings for a winter version of "The Voice" as Blake Shelton's pick Chloe Kohanski won for the sixth time in 13 seasons. She was originally Miley Cyrus' pick but Miley eliminated her and Blake was smart enough to steal.

She did some coaching already in the fall and hung out with Jennifer Hudson and the other judges here in some digital outtakes:


Season 14 runner up Clark Beckham hung out all day after driving six hours from Nashville to give auditioners a morale lift in Athens Sunday at the "American Idol" bus tour auditions. CREDIT: Rodney Ho/rho@ajc.com

Have gig, will travel.

Clark Beckham, runner up from season 14, is doing a six-week residence at Q’s Bar and Lounge at the Palazzo Versace in Dubai for six weeks starting January 9, 2018. 


Clay Aiken social media post of the week. He meets Joe Biden:

About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
I cover local radio and TV for both the print and online editions. I write a blog on the same topics.Rodney Ho's Radio & TV Talk blog (new) | Recent archiveSports...