The finale, which aired live via satellite on GMA Network (with same day replay on Q Channel 11), also featured a tribute to famously acerbic judge Simon Cowell who is leaving the show after this season. Past IDOL winners Kelly Clarkson, Reuben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Taylor Hicks, Kris Allen, Jordin Sparks and Carrie Underwood performed a tribute for the beloved Brit judge. Former IDOL judge Paula Abdul also appeared onstage for the emotional farewell to Simon.
“I didn’t think I was going to be this emotional, but I genuinely am,” Simon said on stage. “What Paula says is true: The show goes forward, it will be different, but I just want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the support, the fun.”
“The truth is, you guys are the judge of this show, and you’ve done an incredible job over the years,” he added.
DeWyze, the shy 24-year-old rocker became the dark horse in a season that was, in the beginning, filled with talented female finalists. But one by one, the girls got eliminated from the competition and Crystal Bowersox, the 24-year-old young mom from Elliston, Ohio, was the only one left to carry the torch for the girl finalists.
The Top 2 faced each other in a final showdown held in front of more than 7,000 fans at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. They sang three songs each: one of their choice from earlier in the season, one chosen for them by show producer Simon Fuller and the last song, the single that they will release if they win.
Bowersox, the dreadlocked soulful rock chick, put up a good fight. She performed knockout versions of “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Black Velvet” and “Up to the Mountain.”
The judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, Kara DioGuardi, and Ellen DeGeneres were all impressed. “I thought that was by far the best performance and the song of the night,” Simon added. “And since this is going to be the final critique I’m ever going to give, I would just like to say that was outstanding.”
Lee, on the other hand, chose “Everybody Hurts,” “The Boxer,” and “Beautiful Day.” Kara told him, “You have one of the most commercial voices this season and you deserve to be here tonight.” During performance night, Simon and the other judges have expressed admiration for Lee’s talent and character.
And after the viewer votes have been counted, the results are in and Lee was announced as the new AMERICAN IDOL. “I have never been happier in my life,” an emotional Lee said seconds after his name was called.
“This whole thing has been amazing from the very beginning,” Lee said during the final showdown as he looked back on his amazing IDOL journey. “I hope to be doing this for the rest of my life, whatever happens.”
Catch the replay of the final performance night on Saturday, May 29, 4:30 pm and the replay of the finale on Sunday, May 30, 3:30 pm on Q Channel 11!