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Published: Thursday, 5/27/2010

Crystal Bowersox: 'I feel like I've already won'


LOS ANGELES - It was a great run for Crystal Bowersox with an ending that likely will inspire impassioned debate for weeks to come.

Wednesday night at 10 p.m. Lee DeWyze was named the winner of the ninth season of American Idol despite a strong showing by Bowersox Tuesday night that both the show's judges and the general consensus across the blogosphere — not to mention in homes all across northwest Ohio — indicated were clearly superior to her competitor's.

Voters disagreed, handing the title to the 24-year-old Chicago-area paint salesman. As runner-up, Bowersox, a single mother from Elliston, Ohio, about 23 miles from Toledo ends the season with a significant jump-start to her singing career.

Already a strong songwriter with a gritty, bluesy Janis Joplin-like voice, she will immediately graduate from playing Toledo bars to a nationwide arena tour with the other top-10 Idol contestants.

After the show last night in which she sang duets with Joe Cocker and Alanis Morissette, Bowersox was upbeat and gracious, smiling frequently and joking with reporters.

When asked the most important thing she learned on the show this year, she answered, “That I could walk in heels, downstairs no less.”

She said she had a feeling that DeWyze would win and she told him that when they hugged before the show.

And despite finishing runner-up, she was noticeably happy, saying, “I feel like I've already won.”

The elimination came just one night after flooring judges and fans with performances of “Me and Bobby McGee,” “Black Velvet,” and, especially, “Up To the Mountain.”

Across the Internet yesterday, various sites that track Idol clearly gave the final round to Bowersox, citing DeWyze's tentative and somewhat stiff performances.

From the beginning of the season, Bowersox and her self-described “down-to-earth, organic” music and style appeared at odds with the pop-minded show.

But Bowersox took a chance, auditioning for American Idol in Chicago last summer for her young son, Tony, now 1 years old.

“I needed to turn bar gigs into a bigger career,” she previously told The Blade. “Kids aren't cheap and he needs everything I never had growing up.”

In Chicago, she impressed the judges with an a cappella version of Janis Joplin's “Piece of My Heart,” and was sent to Hollywood for the remainder of the competition.

Bowersox flourished from there, delivering weekly performances that drew raves from the judges, created a nationwide base of “Momma Sox” supporters, and made her an early frontrunner to take the Idol crown.

There was some drama along the way as well.

In early March, complications from diabetes, which she's had since 6, landed Bowersox in the hospital for an overnight stay that necessitated the switch of performing nights between the men and women semifinalists.

“I was fine the day that I was put in the hospital,” Bowersox later told The Blade. “I honestly was fine that evening, They kept me for observation, I was released in the morning, and I went to the show and did my thing.”

Her performance of Creedence Clearwater Revival's “Long as I Can See the Light” won unanimous praise from the judges, and prompted Cowell to call it the moment they realized “we've got a really serious artist with you.”

Weeks later, American Idol host Ryan Seacrest told celebrity news site TMZ that Bowersox was walking away from the show until he talked her out it, reminding her of what the show's top prize, a million-dollar recording contract, could mean to her and her family financially.

In response to the report, Bowersox allegedly texted a former Idol contestant to say that she had been “betrayed” by Mr. Seacrest; the two seemed to have patched things up by the following week, joking onstage together.

Beginning July 1 Bowersox and the other top 10 finalists from this season will hit the road for an American Idol tour, which lands in Toledo at the Huntington Center on Sept. 2.

And by not winning the competition, Bowersox is now free to sign with any record label. Based on what she previously told The Blade, her runner-up finish is exactly how it was meant to be.

“My whole life has just been a crazy series of good luck and bad luck and amazing coincidences,” Bowersox previously told The Blade. “I believe in fate. No matter what happens, I plan on working in this industry and pursuing music and just sticking to it.”

Contact Kirk Baird atkbaird@theblade.comor 419-724-6734.

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