Tuesday night, it was Bo Bice, a Southern rocking boy from Alabama, versus Carrie Underwood, a countrified farm girl from Oklahoma, going head to head -- or more correctly, voice to voice -- in the last battle to determine which one would be the new American Idol.
Wednesday night, the votes were all tabulated, and it was the Sooner State's Underwood who walked away with the title, a management deal and a major-label recording contract.
The live two-hour season finale brought back all of the final twelve to perform in duets with guest artists such as Kenny G, George Benson, Babyface and Billy Preston. I was most impressed with the two remaining finalists' pairings: Bice sharing the stage with southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd; and Underwood with hit country artists Rascal Flatts.
The show also featured a slew of clips from throughout the season, interviews with the judges and the finalists, and promotional plugs a plenty, including the inevitable concert tour (which starts in July) and the cars each finalist received. Talk about a nice consolation prize.
The show also took a stab at using comedy to diffuse the recent controversy regarding judge Paula Abdul and former contestant Corey Clark. In the sketch, TV newsman Steve Edwards presented a satirical expose titled "Bad Judgment" regarding judge Simon Cowell's "secret relationship." After airing "interview footage" with co-judges Abdul and Randy Jackson, the secret turned out to be Cowell's self-centered love affair with himself. It was a lot funnier than Abdul's recent appearance on Saturday Night Live.
Tension was high by the time the show reached the announcement of who was going home as the newest American Idol. Going into tonight's final showdown, Bice was heavily favored to win, having delivered consistantly solid rock-tinged vocal performances. But as Cowell had predicted from the beginning, when the voting audience spoke, it was Underwood's name that host Ryan Seacrest yelled out.
Choking back the tears, Underwood offered a heart-felt "thank you" before launching into the song, "Inside Your Heaven," which both she and Bice performed in Tuesday's final round. The song will also be the lead-off single from her upcoming album.
The 22-year old college senior is the fourth American Idol to be crowned since the series started. But where her predecessors have all found various levels of success with pop/rock albums, Underwood says she will try to forge her career in Country music, her favorite genre.
Don't feel bad for runner-up Bo Bice, though. Most likely he will receive a recording contract, as did other runners-up like Clay Aiken. If all else fails, the Eat'n'Park restaurant chain is offering Bice $10,000 to re-record the company's jingle.
And if you felt left out on this round, producers of the show have already announced they will be conducting Season 5 auditions this summer in Austin, San Diego, Memphis, Chicago, Atlanta, Denver and Boston. Exact dates are yet to be announced.
So what do you think of the final announcement? Do you think Underwood deserves the win or do you think Bice should have walked away the newest Idol? Talk about it on the message boards.
*All images used in this review are copyright and used with editorial permission by Fox television and American Idol.