It was a surprise win for Lee DeWyze, the 24-year-old paint salesclerk from Mount Prospect, Illinois, at the finale of American Idol Season 9, held earlier today, May 27 (May 26, U.S. time), at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, California.
Lee was able to beat Crystal Bowersox, the 24-year-old single mom-musician from Elliston, Ohio.
Lee was surprised himself and could barely speak when host Ryan Seacrest asked for his reaction. "Oh, my God!" he said.
Incidentally, Lee and Crystal both auditioned in Chicago, Illinois.
THE FINAL SHOWDOWN. A night before the finale, Lee and Crystal performed in front of around 7,000 people inside the Nokia Theatre and the four Idol judges—Randy Jackson, Ellen DeGeneres, Kara DioGuardi, and Simon Cowell.
The two finalists each performed three songs.
The first round was the Contestant's Choice, where Lee and Crystal picked one song they already performed on the show. Lee chose to perform Simon & Garfunkel's "The Boxer" while Crystal picked Roger Miller's "Me and Bobby McGee."
The second round was American Idol producer Simon Fuller's Choice. Fuller picked R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" for Lee and Alannah Myles's "Blue Velvet" for Crystal.
In the final round, the two finalists covered songs that would be included in their album if they win. Lee performed U2's "Beautiful Day" while Crystal sang Patty Griffin's "Up To The Mountain."
Based on the judges' critiques, it was very clear that Crystal took all three rounds, getting praises for all of her performances. Lee, on the other hand, only got "nice" comments from the judges.
A few weeks before the final showdown, it seemed like the judges were rooting for Lee to take home the title and be the successor of last season's winner, Kris Allen. But that all changed after last night's performances. Apparently, they only have love for Crystal, who in all fairness outshone Lee.
But the viewers disagreed and gave the title to Lee, who becomes the ninth and fifth male winner of American Idol.
THE FINALE. Today's finale featured spectacular production numbers from the Top 12 contestants and some of America's best performers.
The Top 12 opened the show with legendary rock star Alice Cooper.
Siobhan Magnus and Aaron Kelly did a number with Barry and Robin Gibbs of the Bee Gees ("How Deep Is Your Love"). Michael Lynche performed with Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers ("Takin' It To The Streets").
The female contestants (Crystal, Siobhan, Katie Stevens, Didi Benami, Paige Miles, and Lacey Brown) got to perform with Christina Aguilera in a "girl-power" number. After this, Christina performed a song from her new album
The boys (Lee, Casey James, Michael, Aaron, Tim Urban, Andrew Garcia), on the other hand, did a number with Daryl Hall and John Oates.
Crystal performed alongside Alanis Morisette with some of the latter's biggest hits.
Third-placer Casey James and Bret Michaels, former lead singer of Poison, performed "Every Rose Has Its Thorn."
Lee jammed with the band named after his hometown, Chicago.
Janet Jackson also made a special appearance.
Past American Idol winners Kris Allen (Season 8), Carrie Underwood (Season 4) performed songs from their respective albums.
Lee and Crystal did "A Little Help From My Friends" with legendary musician Joe Cocker for the finale.
Aside from the announcement of the winner, the highlight of the show was the reunion of past American Idol winners (Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, and Kris Allen—only David Cook was not present) and contestants as a "despedida" for Simon on his last show as Idol judge.
SIMON'S FAREWELL EPISODE. American Idol Season 9 marked the last season of Simon, who has been on the show since the first season along with fellow judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul and host Ryan Seacrest.
During tonight's finale, American Idol paid "tribute" to Simon by showing a video of some of his "best moments" on the show. Comedians Dane Cook and Ricky Gervais took turns in grilling the outgoing Idol judge.
Paula Abdul returned to the show to bid farewell to Simon. Paula left the show last season and was replaced by Ellen DeGeneres this season.
Simon decided to end his Idol stint to concentrate to another reality show that he developed, The X Factor, which will make its debut in the United States next year.
No announcement has made yet as to who will replace Simon.
A LETDOWN? Although the latest season of American Idol ended with another spectacular show, this season is a bit of a disappointment compared to the past seasons, according to most of the show's followers. It seemed to lack the excitement and talent that the previous seasons had, especially in Season 7 when David Cook and David Archuleta battled in the finale and in Season 8 when Kris Allen and Adam Lambert met in the final showdown.
Some observers say that the most popular show in America is starting to wear off, aggravated by the fact that Simon Cowell, who is undoubtedly the most popular among the judges, is leaving the show.
Aside from this, the ratings this season have dropped significantly—by at least 8 percent—compared to the last two seasons. But the producers of American Idol vow to boost the show for its tenth season—even without Simon.