Third time’s a charm for Candice Glover.
The South Carolina native, on her third “American Idol” after auditioning in seasons 9 and 11, became the first female winner of the show since season 6’s Jordin Sparks, scoring the largest number of votes to defeat runner-up Kree Harrison.
Glover, 23, was overcome with emotion following her victory. “I can’t even… oh, my god,” she said through tears. “Three years.”
FINALE PHOTOS: ‘American Idol Season 12
The R&B/soul singer celebrated with a rendition of her first single, “I Am Beautiful,” pointing upward when the song reached its verse of “He says I am beautiful.” The single will undoubtedly be a part of Glover’s debut album, which host Ryan Seacrest announced was available for pre-order directly after the show.
In the end, R&B won over country’s Harrison, who came up just short of her “Idol” dream.
The two finalists shared a tender moment prior to the revealing of the results, dueting on “One Less Bell to Answer” and “A House is Not a Home.”
The two-hour finale special included an array of performances and guest stars, as well as former contestants in the crowd, including Scotty McCreery, Danny Gokey, Kimberley Locke and Bo Bice.
Multiple “Idol” judges got their turns in the spotlight. Keith Urban’s performances ranged his entire career; the first-year judge debuted new single “Little Bit of Everything,” a laid-back country tune in the vein of some of his best material, and performed “Where The Blacktop Ends,” off his 1999 self-titled debut album, with Harrison supplying additional vocals, fellow judge Randy Jackson on bass and drummer Travis Barker of blink-182.
Mariah Carey also got into the act, singing a medley of some of her most popular songs, albeit shortened, including “We Belong Together,” “Hero” and her newest single, “#Beautiful,” which unfortunately did not feature co-star Miguel.
Nicki Minaj, however, was absent from the performance schedule, amid the news that she’ll be leaving the judges’ panel at the end of the season. She joins Jackson as the judges leaving the show, with rumors persisting that the remaining two, Carey and Urban, will be let go as well.
The judges weren’t the only ones to get in the performing spirit. In addition to Harrison, each of the five female finalists performed with similar artists in each’s respective genre.
Glover teamed up with with former “Idol” contestant Jennifer Hudson on Natalie Cole’s “Inseparable,” placing the finalist with a kindred spirit in Hudson, both big-voiced divas complementing each other while getting definite opportunities to shine on their own.
Angie Miller performed two different songs with two separate artists. She began with a haunting rendition of David Guetta’s “Titanium,” joined by season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert. Then, Miller performed Jessie J’s “Domino” with the British singer herself. Miller had been rumored to be performing her debut single, “You Set Me Free,” and Jessie J, who also announced the release of her newest single, “Wild” featuring Big Sean and Dizzee Rascal, invited Miller to sing the song with her at an upcoming U.K. show, a proposition Miller accepted ecstatically.
The show continued its recent love affair with Emeli Sande, having fourth-place finisher Amber Holcomb sing the British soul singer’s big American hit, “Next to Me.” But unlike Candice Glover or Angie Miller before her, Holcomb got the chance to sing with Sande herself, trading verses and gelling vocally to put on one of the better showings of the evening.
Janelle Arthur was the fifth finalist to get a collaboration spot, dueting with The Band Perry on the group’s “Done.,” its percussive second single off the band’s sophomore release, “Pioneer.”
American audiences got another taste of K-pop with PSY’s debut on the “Idol” stage, The Korean rapper had one of the high-energy performances of the evening with new single “Gentleman,” featuring its infectious hook and hilarious dance moves, some of which resembled those of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
Former judge Jennifer Lopez returned to “Idol” to perform her newest single, “Live It Up,” featuring Pitbull. The singer is rumored to potentially be returning to the judges’ panel in 2014, though nothing has been formally announced.
Each group of top five contestants, the guys and the girls, had the chance to sing with living music legends as part of their collective performances together. The boys paired with Frankie Valli on a medley of Four Seasons tunes, most notably “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” The girls followed suit, though their counterpiece, Aretha Franklin, was unable to attend, instead reporting in from New York to sing a medley of her most notable songs, including “Think” and “A Natural Woman.”
All 10 finalists convened to perform The Wanted’s “Glad You Came” to kick off the show.