Jordin Sparks, a teenager with a big voice and big dreams, was crowned as the newest and youngest American Idol.
Sparks, 17, was announced as the winner of the US television singing competition last night.
She triumphed over beatboxer Blake Lewis, 25, after a performance yesterday that wowed the show's judges and the viewers who gave her the majority of the record 74 million votes cast.
"Mom, Dad, I love you," Sparks, the daughter of retired NFL football player Phillippi Sparks, said after hugging Lewis.
The contest came down to either the stronger singer, Sparks, or the better entertainer, Lewis.
Sparks delivered her songs simply and powerfully; Lewis' flourishes included his sound-effects beatboxing and sharp dance moves.
The finale show in Los Angeles featured established stars including Gwen Stefani, Smokey Robinson, Tony Bennett, Bette Midler and Green Day.
The two-hour show opened with Lewis and Sparks duetting on the Beatles 'I Saw Her Standing There', followed by a touring Stefani singing '4 in the Morning' via satellite from Massachusetts.
Midler took the stage as the show came towards its close, singing 'The Wind Beneath My Wings'.
Past Idol winners and this season's contestants got attention, starting with first-season winner Kelly Clarkson performing her new single 'Never Again'.
Carrie Underwood, the fourth-season idol, sang 'I'll Stand by You' and was honoured by legendary music mogul Clive Davis for reaching six million in sales for her debut album, 'Some Hearts'.
Taylor Hicks, last season's winner, also had his moment, as did Ruben Studdard, the winner from year two.
Robinson, a Motown great, performed 'Being with You' after the top six male contestants, including fan favourite Sanjaya Malakar, sang 'Ooh Baby Baby', a hit for Robinson and his group the Miracles.
Blake, whose beat-boxing scored with viewers, performed with veteran rapper Doug E. Fresh on his old hit, 'The Show'. It was a signature moment for a contest that has introduced young viewers to Gershwin and other standards.
"True originals," host Ryan Seacrest said.
Gladys Knight took the stage with the six female finalists, belting out 'I Feel a Song' and 'Midnight Train to Georgia'.
Bennett performed a mellow version of 'For Once in My Life' that ended with a big finish.
"A true idol, Tony Bennett, ladies and gentlemen," Seacrest gushed.
Melinda Doolittle, arguably the best "Idol" contestant to miss out on the finale, returned to impress the crowd as she sang 'Hold Up the Line' with gospel stars BeBe and CeCe Winans.
"She has proven in the last few months to be spectacular," BeBe Winans said backstage of Doolittle.
The show took a serious turn when Green Day performed 'A Working Class Hero is Something to Be', a single from 'Instant Karma: The Campaign to Save Darfur', a fundraising album for the embattled region.
For their final performances, both contestants sang 'This Is My Now', the tune picked by viewers in an online American Idol songwriting contest introduced this season, along with two other songs of their choice.