It was a paint rags to riches story made for television, as Lee DeWyze was named the champion Wednesday night for the ninth season of "American Idol." The raspy and rock-friendly voice of DeWyze, 24, a paint salesperson from Mount Prospect, Ill., won out over the folk stylings of Crystal Bowersox, a 24-year-old single mom from Elliston, Ohio.
DeWyze was overcome by the win, bursting into tears and pacing around the stage in shock as the 7,000-person crowd at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles applauded for him. After some prompting by the on-stage orchestra, DeWyze began singing U2's "Beautiful Day," which will be the first single he releases as "Idol" champion.
Bowersox was the presumptive favorite for much of the Fox competition, but faltered in recent weeks while the judges - Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Ellen DeGeneres and Randy Jackson - became more vocal in their support for DeWyze. At the open of Wednesday night's results show, host Ryan Seacrest said that to date, there was only a 2% differential in votes between the two contestants.
The two-hour results show featured standout performances by Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera, Alanis Morissette - and a recouping Bret Michaels, who performed "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" with third-place contestant Casey James.
Wednesday night also served as a farewell to Cowell, who is leaving his post as judge to unveil his talent show "X Factor" on Fox. The tributes to Cowell ranged from tongue in cheek to heartfelt, with former judge Paula Abdul returning to the show to offer her best wishes and all of the former "Idol" winners - except for David Cook, who had a prior charity commitment - singing Delta Goodrem's "Together We Are One" to the departing judge.
The next step in the "Idol" journey is the annual summer tour of the top ten contestants, which begins July 1 in Detroit and will make 49 stops, ending September 14th in Pittsburgh.
With the low-rated season nine now over and Cowell's departure, "Idol" - the most watched show on television this year, as it has been for the past several years- stands at a turning point in terms of pop cultural relevance. A replacement for Cowell is expected to be announced over the summer, and producers have said "everything is on the table" when it comes to reinvigorating the show - including a move to New York or focusing more on the home lives and relationships between the contestants as they proceed through the rounds.
The auditions for season 10 start in September.