Jennifer Lopez was wrong. "Lauren, with that song, you may have just won," Lopez told American Idol finalist Lauren Alaina after she sang "Like My Mother Does" during the show's final competition. But when Wednesday night (May 25) rolled around, it was Scotty McCreery who walked away the big winner.
Photo Credit: Kevin Winter/Getty Images
"I've gotta thank the Lord first. He got me here," McCreery told host Ryan Seacrest after his name was announced. Then, after singing what will be his debut single, "I Love You This Big," and saying, "Thank y'all so much," McCreery sat down on the floor while the applause and adoration poured over him.
McCreery, 17, won the majority of the more than 122 million votes that came in after Tuesday night's show as he competed against the 16-year-old Alaina. But it sounded like his win would not be the end of their friendship.
"Man, it's been a year since me and Lauren Alaina tried out now," McCreery said. "Me and her have been together since day one, and we're gonna stay together."
His win came at the very end of a two-hour music spectacular. While there were the mandatory flashbacks from the season and the honoring of this year's new panel of judges, the show was packed mostly with music from top to bottom. McCreery and Alaina opened the night (along with the other 11 finalists) with Lady Gaga's "Born This Way." From there, the songs just kept coming. No stone was unturned. No genre ignored. Finalist James Durbin and heavy metal band Judas Priest came together for "Living After Midnight" and "Breaking the Law" with black leather, pyrotechnics and police sirens.
Then things turned gospel. Finalist Jacob Lusk, gospel star Kirk Franklin and the legendary Gladys Knight did "I Smile." Then came the fun. Shaggy-haired Casey Abrams had one of the most entertaining slots of the night. He got to laugh and sing along with actor/singer/funnyman Jack Black on Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls." With dancers, of course, in neon spandex short shorts.
Moving on to medleys, the female finalists tried to tackle a mix of Beyoncé's hits, like "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," "Irreplaceable," "Move Your Body," "If I Were a Boy" and "Deja Vu," but the medley wasn't perfect. Once Beyoncé herself and four dancers came out to join them all on "Crazy in Love," though, then the girl group nailed it.
Tony Bennett and Haley Reinhart did a jazzy "Steppin' Out With My Baby," even adding a couple of twists and twirls to the routine.
After that, it was time for a real good man. The spotlight shined down on Tim McGraw, dressed simply in jeans, a T-shirt and a black cowboy hat, as he started in on "Live Like You Were Dying." When it came time to "ask him when it sank in," McCreery joined McGraw to duet for the rest of the anthem.
Other songs that came and went during the two hours included Lil Jon and TLC on "Waterfalls," Lopez' husband Marc Anthony took the stage to sing, but his wife's salsa dance moves distracted him a little too much. Beyoncé came out again to do a new single, "One Plus One." Bono and the Edge of U2 sang "Rise Above" with Spiderman musical star Reeve Carney. Then there's Lady Gaga. As she often does, she created the night's biggest spectacle with her "Edge of Glory," singing the entire song atop a mountain of faux rocks. By the end of the song, though, it was hard to tell if she was still singing or making love to the shirtless male dancer who had joined on the peak.
When it was the guys' turn to sing, their medley was a tribute to the hits of Tom Jones: "Kiss," "She's a Lady," "What's New, Pussycat?," "Green, Green Grass of Home" (previously a Top 10 country hit for Porter Wagoner in 1965), "Love Me Tonight," "Delilah" and " It's Not Unusual," at which point Jones joined the men, looking and sounding like he was the Idol.
Carrie Underwood joined Alaina on her own smash hit "Before He Cheats." Underwood, in white shorts and slouchy silver T-shirt and heels, sounded like she was singing with an old friend. Like if she ever did have an ex who cheated, Alaina would be there for her -- with a Louisville Slugger in her hand.
And before McCreery's name was finally announced, Steven Tyler ended the musical performances with his own screaming hit, "Dream On." He is a tough act to follow, but if America is right about McCreery, maybe he'll be the legend who closes the show some day.
View photos from the finale.