NEW YORK (CBS/AP) Simon Cowell was granted his final wish on "American Idol."
Lee DeWyze, the bashful paint sales clerk championed early by the biting British judge on the Fox singing contest, was crowned "Idol" on Wednesday over single mother Crystal Bowersox. His victory was based on votes cast after Tuesday's performances, which drew more acclaim from the judges for Bowersox, though DeWyze was Cowell's favorite from the outset.
DeWyze knew it, too. Back during Hollywood Week, the show's rapid-fire post-audition phase, he took note of Cowell tapping along as he crooned The Fray's "You Found Me." It became clearer after his rendition of Snow Patrol's "Chasing Cars" during the first round of the semifinals that Cowell was pushing for the throaty underdog from Mount Prospect, Ill.
"I fought for you to be here," he told DeWyze. "I still believe in you."
Such affirmations helped the unassuming rocker to overcome his shortcomings, namely a lack of self-confidence, to take down Bowersox, arguably the ninth season's most powerful singer. Despite his innate shyness, DeWyze solidified himself as a contender early in the finals with deft takes on The Box Tops' "The Letter" and the Rolling Stones' "Beast of Burden."
"You are growing faster than anybody on this stage," Kara DioGuardi told him.
Indeed, DeWyze was always on the ascent, powering through walking pneumonia for the Cornelius Brothers' "Treat Her Like a Lady," and making everyone take notice when he unexpectedly dueted with a bagpipe player on The Beatles' "Hey Jude." The sheepish vocalist struggled more at conversing with Ryan Seacrest and maneuvering through the group routines than singing.
The panel wasn't just satisfied with DeWyze's raspy tone. Panelists demanded to see the scruffy, 24-year-old singer smile. He finally flashed them a goofy grin and started to hit a stride after Elvis Presley's "A Little Less Conversation." Meanwhile, Bowersox began to fumble when tasked with out-of-her-element genres. Still, her spot on the finale always seemed certain.
When the dreadlocked 24-year-old musician first belted out "Piece of My Heart" at her audition, Bowersox felt like a folksy singer who could appeal to the masses. She possibly peaked early in the semifinals with unapologetically flawless versions of Alanis Morissette's "Hand in My Pocket" and Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Long As I Can See the Light."
"We need you here," Ellen DeGeneres declared at that point.
However, DeWyze managed to swirl flavors from the previous two "Idol" champs - Kris Allen's boyishly reserved stage presence and David Cook's rocker-next-door musical stylings - to create a palette pleasing to the biggest bloc of "Idol" voters, namely the howlers looking for their next heartthrob who made certain DeyWyze never appeared as low vote getter.
Besting top seed Bowersox may have made DeWyze's win taste sweeter, but don't call it an upset. Several online outfits predicted he would take home the top prize: the "Idol" title and a record contract. DialIdol.com, which tracks busy signals on the separate phone lines dedicated to each contestant, correctly projected DeWyze as the winner Wednesday morning.
"This isn't about, 'Oh, I want to be the next big thing,' and then be gone," he said backstage after winning. "I want to do this for a long time, and that's really important to me - stay true to myself, and just make good music."
DeWyze's future success, as with all "Idol" winners before him, will be determined by record sales, not viewer votes. With his rock-infused singer-songwriter leanings, DeWyze has the potential, like eighth season winner Allen, to be eclipsed by a more daring runner-up or, in the case of fifth season fourth-place finisher Chris Daughtry, to rock out on his own.