DeWyze's victory was based on votes cast after Tuesday's performance show
Lee DeWyze, a paint store clerk who overcame his shyness to impress American Idol judges and viewers with his spirit and soulful voice, triumphed over bluesy musician Crystal Bowersox in the contest's ninth season.
When asked by host Ryan Seacrest how he felt, an emotional DeWyze said, "I don't know. It's amazing, thank you, guys, so much ... I love you. Crystal, I love you."
The finalists had closely matched fan bases, with just a 2% voting gap between them coming into the finale, Seacrest said.
DeWyze's victory was based on votes cast after Tuesday's performance show, which drew more judges' compliments for Bowersox, 24, of Ohio, than for DeWyze, also 24, of Illinois.
The total number of votes cast in the finale wasn't announced by Seacrest. That's a departure from most years past: Last season, for example, the high-profile contest between Kris Allen and Adam Lambert drew 100 million phone and text message votes.
Fox didn't comment on the omission. But Idol, although still TV's top-rated show, has seen audience erosion this season that could have affected the tally. The talented but low-key Bowersox and DeWyze might also have provoked less interest.
The finale made the most of Simon Cowell's last appearance as a judge. A film package recounting highlights from the Cowell years was shown and comedian Dane Cook came on stage to sing "Simon Says," made up of the Briton's barbed comments, and to crack a few jokes.
The walk down memory lane continued with ex-judge Paula Abdul, who often played Cowell's sparring partner during the seasons the shared. "I've loved all the fun we've had together," Abdul told Cowell. "'American Idol's' not gonna be the same without you. But as only I can you, it will go on."
The finale, as usual, was stuffed with humour, including the return of Larry "Pants on the Ground" Platt and William Hung, return appearances by former contestants and music stars.
Kris Allen, last year's winner, sang "The Truth," with Carrie Underwood, Michael McDonald, Christina Aguilera, Hall & Oates, Robin and Barry Gibb, Janet Jackson and Joe Cocker were among those whose performances were scattered throughout the two-hour show.
By The Press Association