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Carrie Underwood is the little country girl who could.
The polite, quiet country crooner from small-town Oklahoma took home the title of American Idol last night, beating out southern rocker Bo Bice during a live, two-hour finale from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Calif.
After another blockbuster season for American Idol in which more than 500 million votes were cast, Underwood, 22, emerged the victor in a battle of the sexes and of pure vocals over showmanship.
She used consistency and a lovely voice to pass by the older Bice, 29, a soulful, long-haired rocker who took some chances in recent weeks, including singing a song a cappella.
According to the judges and apparently the voting audience it just wasn t enough for Bo.
Following the showdown between Bice and Underwood on Tuesday, judge Simon Cowell suggested she would win. He stuck with that prediction on last night s show.
I stand by what I ve said from Day One: She ll win the competition, he said.
Judge Randy Jackson agreed: I think that if I m really being honest I think Carrie probably won the night.
Upon learning she won, the woman from Checotah, Okla., welled up with emotion. She was mobbed by Bice and other finalists and could only say, Thank you so much.
About 100,000 people tried out for this year s installment of Idol, and Underwood, a student at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Okla., was tops among the 12 finalists. In second place was Bice, who hails from Alabama and entered the competition on a dare from his mother.
Last night s show was marked by retrospectives and live performances by both competitors as well as their fellow finalists. They were joined on stage by big names such as Babyface, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and Rascal Flatts.
This season of the smash Fox hit has had more than its share of snafus and controversy, some of which was parodied during a video clip on last night s show.
Things started in March when a popular contestant among Idol fans, Mario Vazquez, unexpectedly quit the show. Soon after, the show aired incorrect vote-in phone numbers for three contestants and had to add another episode for a re-vote.
More bad news followed when it was revealed that Bice had been arrested twice in the past four years on drug charges that were dismissed after he completed a diversion program. Another finalist, Scott Savol, had been arrested a few years ago after a confrontation with his fiancee.
Maybe the most ink was spilled on an alleged relationship between judge Paul Abdul and Corey Clark while he was a contestant on the show in 2003. Clark, who appeared on ABC s Primetime Live, claimed Abdul gave him tips and engaged in a short-term affair with him before he was bounced from the show .
Even so, Idol has been a ratings monster for Fox. The show averaged well over 20 million viewers a week and the finale could have claimed Fox a ratings win among viewers age 18 to 49.
For Underwood and Bice, the finale is just the beginning. Past winners of the show and runners up have used it as a springboard for albums and concert tours.
And in the immediate future, both are scheduled to be among the show s contestants appearing in American Idols Live! on Aug. 4 in Detroit.
Contact Ryan E. Smith at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6103.