'Idol' Finale: Lee Wins Big and Simon Says Goodbye

End of an era: Simon Cowell bids adieu in an American Idol finale featuring Paula, Xtina, Bret Michaels and Janet Jackson

It was the results show we were all waiting for: The culmination of American Idol's ninth season, and Simon Cowell's last judging hurrah on the series that made him a household name. And it certainly did not disappoint! Taking home this year's title was sensitive crooner (and former paint store employee) Lee DeWyze, who beat out soulful single mom Crystal Bowersox.

"Oh my God," the teary-eyed Illinois native, 24, gushed to Ryan Seacrest after the big reveal.

"I don't know," he said, when asked how he was feeling. "This is amazing. Thank you guys so much for everything....I can't believe this...Crystal, I love you," he added, hugging the 24-year-old runner-up.

A slew of celebrity guests were on hand for Idol's big night, with musical performances by last year's winner Kris Allen, season 4 champ Carrie Underwood, and superstars like Christina Aguilera, the Bee Gees, Joe Cocker, and Janet Jackson.

The broadcast overflowed with surprises. Seemingly-unstoppable rocker Bret Michaels sang "Every Rose Has its Thorn" with third-place finalist Casey James, while the "Pants on the Ground" dude, Larry Platt, had his chance to woo the crowd along with Idol's most-famous reject, William Hung.

Among the parade of goodbyes to Cowell (who's departing Idol to launch a new TV talent contest, The X Factor), the most heartfelt came from ex-judge Paula Abdul, who told her pal "nobody could hold a candle" to him. A tribute song featured dozens of former Idol finalists and almost all the show's past winners -- Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, and Allen (David Cook had a charity event to attend) -- singing to the man who helped launch their careers.

When Cowell took the stage, he said, "I didn't think I would be this emotional, but I genuinely am....When everyone asks who's going to replace me, who's going to be the next judge, the truth is, you guys," he said to the audience, "are the judge of this show, and you've done an incredible job over the years."

But in the end, the episode was Lee DeWyze's shining moment. Taking the stage for the first time as the new American Idol, he sang U2's "Beautiful Day." And we can only imagine this will be the first of many beautiful days to come for the new Idol champ.

Plus:
- PHOTOS: American Idol: And the Winner Is...
- PHOTOS: Idol Champs vs. Runners-Up
-
Simon Cowell on Oprah:We Need a Judge Who 'Knows What They're Talking About'

Did the right singer win American Idol? Chime in below!

Like this? Want more?
preview
Connect with Us
Follow Our Pins

Yummy recipes, DIY projects, home decor, fashion and more curated by iVillage staffers.

Follow Our Tweets

The very dirty truth about fashion internships... DUN DUN @srslytheshow http://t.co/wfewf

On Instagram

Behind-the-scenes pics from iVillage.

Best of the Web