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Sparks Is New "American Idol"

The big voice overwhelmed the beatbox Wednesday night as Jordin Sparks was crowned the newest and youngest "American Idol."

Sparks, 17, of Glendale, Ariz., prevailed over Blake Lewis, 25, of Bothell, Wash., after a triumphant performance Tuesday that wowed the show's judges and viewers who gave her a majority of the record 74 million votes cast.

"Mom, Dad, I love you," Sparks, the daughter of retired NFL player Phillippi Sparks, said tearfully after a bear hug from Lewis. Sparks ended the show by singing her new single, "This Is My Now."

2The 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.

In a backstage interview after the show, portions of which aired on The Early Show Thursday, Sparks told E! News anchor Guiliana DePandi she was overwhelmed, saying, "It's so crazy. It's just this whole whirlwind and — total blur, actually. I don't even know what I did five seconds ago but — it's OK!"

She added, "Now that I've won — which is so weird to say — I've wanted to do it for so long, and now that I've done it, it's just one of the most amazing things and — it means a lot."

Sparks also told DePandi she won't let her win go to her head: "I am totally just gonna keep my family around me and the friends that I know are my friends that have stuck with me through this whole thing. I'm just gonna keep them with me. And I know my parents will keep me grounded, 'cause, you know, they will!"


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The two-hour finale was star-studded, with performances by Smokey Robinson, Aerosmith's Joe Perry, Green Day and all but one of the former "Idol" winners. Fantasia Barrino is on Broadway in New York.

The show opened with Lewis and Sparks dueting on the Beatles "I Saw Her Standing There," followed quickly by a touring Gwen Stefani singing "4 in the Morning" via satellite from Massachusetts.

Bette Midler took the stage as the show came toward its close, singing "The Wind Beneath My Wings."


Photos: Season Six: A Look Back
Past "Idol" winners and this season's contestants got a hefty share of attention, starting with first-season winner Kelly Clarkson. She performed her new single "Never Again," with the gritty rock song matched by her black dress and thigh-high boots.

Carrie Underwood, the fourth-season idol, sang "I'll Stand by You" and was honored by legendary music mogul Clive Davis for reaching 6 million in sales for her debut album, "Some Hearts."


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Photos: Sanjaya Malakar
Photos: Idol Worship
Taylor Hicks, last season's winner, also had his moment in the finale sun, 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 fave 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," Seacrest said of the duo.

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.

Melinda Doolittle, arguably the best "Idol" contestant to miss out on the finale, returned to impress the crowd again 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.

The finale also had its share of filler, including bits such as the "Golden Idols," an award saluting the oddest of odd auditions, or the worst. The winners included Margaret Fowler, who proudly accepted her trophy and recited poetry after smooching Seacrest.

Hundreds of "American Idol" fans lined Hollywood Boulevard leading up to the theater before the show.

For their final performances on Tuesday, 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.

On Tuesday, judges Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson made their choice clear. Diplomatic Paula Abdul kept her counsel as usual, praising both singers. Although the judges didn't have a say in the decision their opinions have the potential to sway voters.

"You were the best singer tonight. You deserve it all, baby!" Jackson told Sparks on Tuesday.

"You just wiped the floor with Blake," added Cowell, who then told Sparks he was wrong for initially thinking she wasn't good enough to win the Fox talent show.

"I would say the best individual performance of the night was Blake on the first song," Cowell said. "But, based on overall singing - Jordin."

Lewis opened the show on Tuesday with a reprisal of his infectious interpretation of Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name." The crowd was thrilled the judges were less taken with Lewis' voice than his performance as a whole.

"Blake, you're not the best singer in this competition. But you're the best entertainer I think we've had," Cowell said.

He later chose to sing the Maroon 5 hit "She Will Be Loved."

Sparks crooned Christina Aguilera's "Fighter" and offered a soulful take on Martina McBride's "Broken Wing."

Lewis stumbled over the contest song, "This Is My Now," while Sparks soared on the ballad.

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