Over 122 million votes came in the previous night, a new record. Cheering crowds were gathered in the two finalists' hometowns to await the results.
Scotty McCreery takes the crown.
The Top 13 sang the Lady Gaga song "Born This Way," all dressed in white. Nice preview of the summer concerts. ["Born This Way"]
James Durbin fulfilled a boyhood dream by performing with the metal band, Judas Priest. They performed a couple of the band's hits, including "Breaking the Law." Clad in silver studs and black leather, James was in his element, reaching for high notes on a stage full of flashing lights and pyrotechnics. See, everybody? We could have had a much more exciting finale if America had voted differently. [James and Judas Priest]
Host Ryan Seacrest said that this was also a chance to honor the judges, starting with a montage of Randy Jackson sound bites: first with him asking questions and then proclaiming everybody was "in it to win it."
Jacob Lusk and gospel star Kirk Franklin performed "Smile" (not the Charlie Chaplin song. Another famous singer, Gladys Knight, joined them onstage, and then a choir of backup singers. The three performers fed off each other's energy and surely gave a lot of people smiles, despite some sloppy moments from Jacob. [Jacob, Kirk Franklin & Gladys Knight]
Casey Abrams performed "Fat-Bottomed Girls" with Jack Black, both of them wearing gray suits. They got wacky with it and had a lot of fun, even having a scatting contest. [Casey and Jack Black]
Then the girls from the Top 11 performed a Beyonce medley and were joined onstage by Beyonce herself and some dancers to finish out with "Crazy in Love." [Girls with Beyonce, Part 1; Girls with Beyonce, Part 2]
Then a montage to Steven Tyler, "the loose cannon," featuring him talking dirty and acting odd, mostly during the auditions.
Haley Reinhart performed with Tony Bennett, "Stepping Out with My Baby." There was something weird going on with the mix, and Tony was hard to hear at times. Then again, he wasn't always singing directly into the mic, perhaps expecting it to pick up better. He and Haley danced a little during the bridge. Haley's performance was spot on. Maybe she should do an album modernizing standards. [Haley with Tony Bennett]
In a montage devoted to Jennifer Lopez, there was a montage of the contestants telling her how much they admire her.
TLC and L'il John performed next, with L'il John kicking it off and then TLC singing a montage of their songs with the Top 13 girls joining in, accompanied by male dancers. [TLC and L'il John]
Scotty McCreery sang "Live Like You Were Dying" with Tim McGraw, with the famous country singer starting off the song, then Scotty coming onstage. It was a very simple performance, with the two just singing, taking turns with the melody and also singing some harmonies. Very nice. [Scotty and Tim McGraw]
One of the wannabes who didn't make it past the preliminary stages but who said his real dream was radio did a voice-over for a series of highlights from the audition process.
Marc Anthony, also known as J. Lo's husband, performed next, backed by dancers with pink feather fans. In a surprise, he was joined by Jennifer Lopez, who danced onto the stage in a leotard covered with white fringe and did a shimmy before leading the background dancers in some Latin dancing. [Marc Anthony]
A montage focused on the most shocking eliminations. Casey and James argued over which was more shocking, Casey's first elimination or James' elimination. As they were arguing, Pia Toscana showed up wearing a tiara and a banner that said, "Most Shocking" on it. Cute. [Most Shocking Eliminations]
The Top 13 guys performed a medley of hits, with Stefano Langone leading off. Loved James singing "Pussycat, Pussycat," especially when he beeped Casey on the nose. "Delilah," led by Jacob, was a train wreck, though. Finally, they were joined by a very tan Tom Jones, who sang, "It's Not Unusual." [Guys with Tom Jones, Part 1; Guys with Tom Jones, Part 2]
After a montage of the Ford commercials for the season, the two finalists presented their favorite teachers with the keys to Ford Focuses. Ryan told the two finalists they would each be given a Ford of their choice. [Ford music video montage]
Lady Gaga performed "Edge of Glory," wearing an extravagant headpiece and standing on top of a fake rock formation. She threw off her robe, revealing an emblazoned bikini. Her dancing with a male dancer got very sensual, and she ended the performance by falling off the tower into an unseen gully. [Lady Gaga]
After the break, Lauren Alaina performed "Before He Cheats" with Carrie Underwood, and Carrie easily outshone her. Lauren was sometimes hard to hear. Again, a mixing problem or just nerves? [Lauren with Carrie Underwood]
Another funny montage, where the other contestants talked about how young the finalists are: they're just learning to write cursive. They still have Simulac on their breath. Casey ended with, "Thank you, America, for making us feel stupid." [Youngest Finalists Ever]
Beyonce took the stage next, silhouetted against a red-lit fog. In a heartfelt, emotional ballad, "1 Plus 1" she showed a different side to the performer many people know for glitz, glamour and dancing. She got a standing ovation from the judges. [Beyonce]
Bono, the Edge and Reeve Carney, the star of "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark" performed a song from the musical on a stage that looked like a big metal web, with a stunt performer as Spider-Man swooping through the audience at the beginning and landing twice in the aisle. At the end of the song, when Spider-Man hung upside-down in front of J. Lo, she pulled down his mask and... beeped him on the nose before he swooped back up into the rafters. [Spider-Man]
And now, a little surprise: Steven Tyler at the piano, performing "Dream On." And... that put us officially in overtime. [Steven Tyler]
After the commercial, time for "the most important moment of our season," Ryan announced. The official envelope was brought out, and the two finalists stood by, arms around each other. "The winner of 'American Idol' season 10 is... Scotty McCreery." This didn't seem to bother Lauren, who was smiling as she gave him a big hug. The other finalists ran up to him to congratulate him.
"What do you feel?" Ryan asked him.
Scotty said that Lauren had been with him from the first, and he had to thank the Lord who got him there. [Results]
In the final moments, Scotty sang his new single, "Love You This Big." He walked by the other finalists, asking James to hold his trophy for him. He made his way into the audience and hugged his family, his voice cutting out as he got emotional.
After he finished singing, he collapsed on the stage for a few minutes in tears as his fellow finalists gave him noogies. He stood up and tried to catch the confetti on his tongue, before Lauren covered his face in kisses. "Thank you so much!" he said in the final seconds of the show. [Scotty's Single]
I think, more than anything, the final showed why Scotty won. Not only did his performances improve throughout the competition but he was consistently good. Even non-country fans had to admit that he did well with his chosen genre. More than that, Scotty was the "guy next door" who cried over not speaking up for a group member who got tossed from his group during Hollywood week. In multiple video packages throughout the season, he demonstrated a good-natured, kind-hearted personality. And of course, the teenage girls thought he was cute, which didn't hurt.
Why didn't Lauren win? By contrast, she was less consistent and a lot less confident. If she hadn't waited until the finale to finally take a chance, she might have seen the confetti raining down on her. But she was gracious about Scotty winning, which will only make her look better to fans who might buy her album.
While I haven't been a Scotty fan throughout the season, I can see why America chose him. There's something about him that can appeal across sections, and his deeply resonant voice will no doubt be lighting up the charts within a short time.
The guy next door who's grown triumphs over the girl next door who didn't.