LOS ANGELES _ The big voice overwhelmed the beat box Wednesday night as Jordin Sparks was crowned the newest and youngest “American Idol.”
Sparks, 17, of Glendale, Ariz., prevailed over Blake Lewis, 25, of Bothell, Wash., after a triumphant performance Tuesday that wowed the show’s judges and viewers who gave her a majority of the record 74 million votes cast.
“Mom, Dad, I love you,” Sparks, the daughter of retired NFL player Phillippi Sparks, said tearfully after a bear hug from Lewis.
The contest came down to either the stronger singer, Sparks, or the better entertainer, Lewis. Sparks delivered her songs simply and powerfully; Lewis’ flourishes included his sound-effects beat-boxing and sharp dance moves.
The finale pulled out the stops and the stars, with Gwen Stefani, Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennett, Bette Midler, Green Day and more performing.
Past “Idol” winners and this season’s contestants got a hefty share of attention, starting with first-season winner Kelly Clarkson. She performed her new single “Never Again,” with the gritty rock song matched by her black dress and thigh-high boots.
Lewis, whose beat-boxing scored with viewers, performed with veteran rapper Doug E. Fresh on his old hit, “The Show.” It was a signature moment for a contest that has introduced young viewers to Gershwin and other standards.
“True originals,” host Ryan Seacrest said of the duo.
Hundreds of “American Idol” fans lined Hollywood Boulevard leading up to the theater before the show.
“I’m obsessed with the show. I auditioned for it this past season. I’m just coming out to show my love,” said Sarah Blackmon, 19, who drove more than two hours from San Diego County to attend the finale.
“I don’t like picking favorites. They say it’s a music competition, so Jordin’s going to win,” Blackmon said, but added, “I think Blake’s really hot.”
One of the series’ executive producers, Cecile Frot-Coutaz of FremantleMedia North America Inc., said Tuesday she’d be happy with either contestant as the new idol.
“These are some of the most commercial finalists we’ve had since Carrie Underwood,” Frot-Coutaz said. “Either one will make a great winner for the show and the brand. They both have the potential to sell many records.”
For their final performances, both contestants sang “This Is My Now,” the tune picked by viewers in an online “American Idol” songwriting contest introduced this season, along with two other songs of their choice.
On Tuesday, judges Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson made their choice clear. Paula Abdul kept her counsel as usual, praising both singers. Although the judges didn’t have a say in the decision their opinions have the potential to sway voters.
“You were the best singer tonight. You deserve it all, baby!” Jackson told Sparks.
“You just wiped the floor with Blake,” added Cowell, who then told Sparks he was wrong for initially thinking she wasn’t good enough to win the Fox talent show.
“I would say the best individual performance of the night was Blake on the first song,” Cowell said. “But, based on overall singing – Jordin.”