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Landslide vote names new ‘Idol’

 (The Spokesman-Review)
Cook (The Spokesman-Review)

LOS ANGELES – The grown-up rocker triumphed over the smooth-voiced kid as David Cook claimed the “American Idol” title Wednesday, and it wasn’t as much of a surprise as it seemed.

While the judges all but crowned 17-year-old David Archuleta the night before, the voters decided otherwise – and in a huge and unexpected way.

Host Ryan Seacrest said before the results that the margin was 12 million votes, and it turns out they broke in the favor of the 25-year-old from Blue Springs, Mo.

Cook was overcome with emotion, bending toward the stage after his name was announced. When he stood up, his eyes were filled with tears, the second time in as many nights that the scruffy, grainy-voiced belter had broken down.

“This is amazing,” he said. “This is all your fault,” he added, addressing his brother, Andrew. The story goes that Cook was only tagging along with his sibling to the “Idol” auditions to lend support, and wound up getting on the show.

To close out the show’s seventh season, Cook immediately took the microphone and began to sing “Time of my Life,” a midtempo rocker by Nashville singer/songwriter Regie Hamm, winner of the annual “Idol” songwriting competition.

Cook refused to bow to the conventional during his three-song set Tuesday, with Collective Soul’s “The World I Know” as his pick for a closing performance. He also sang U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and the power ballad “Dream Big,” his choice from the songwriting competition’s non-winning finalists.

Judge Simon Cowell declared at the time that the song choices had sunk him, and told Archuleta that he’d scored a “knockout” in the boxing-themed performance finale. But just before the winner was announced, Cowell uncharacteristically backtracked. He offered Cook an apology and said that the competition “wasn’t quite so clear-cut as we called it” – even letting on that, for the first time, he felt either finalist would have been a worthy winner.

While “Idol” ratings were down all season, the final contest turned that tide, with viewership for Tuesday’s show up 3 percent over last year’s performance finale.

That provoked a frenzy with a record 97.5 million audience votes cast by phone and text. Last year’s total vote count was 74 million.