The Grand FinaleWithin minutes of his – and everyone's – hearing Ryan Seacrest announce Jordin Sparks as this year's American Idol, Blake Lewis was backstage, facing the press. "It's bittersweet right now," he said, "because it's over, and like three seconds before I got on the stage with Jordin at the end of the – it was just like, 'Oh, man, it's done. This is like the last moment I get to step on the American Idol stage, and the journey has truly been a blessing.' " And just what was it Blake whispered in Jordin's era as Ryan's was breaking open the envelope? "I told her two things," said Blake. "I said, 'I love you, Jordin Sparks.' And I said, 'If it comes down to me singing this last song, will you do a duet with me?' "
Cutting a RugThe American Idol Finale red carpet completely blanketed the Hollywood Walk of Fame – except for one particular star in sidewalk: Ryan Seacrest's. So it could show through, a square hole was cut in the red carpet everyone to see. Everyone, that is, but Carrie Underwood, who was caught by surprise when she suddenly noticed the name – and then had to do a little hop, skip and a jump to avoid tripping on it.
Paula's PredictionOn the red carpet Paula Abdul rightly predicted Jordin Sparks would be victorious at the finale, but acknowledged that the female finalist had the upper hand when it came to the final song, "This Is My Now." "They shouldn't have given the same song to both male and female – it was more of a female song," Paula told PEOPLE. "What they've done the last few years is have songs written for the guys and songs written for the girls."
Mother Knows BestBlake Lewis's mom agreed about her son's lineup for his final performance. "I liked the first two [songs] and the last one. I knew that he wasn't hot on it, and Jordin did a better job," she said. "[But] I love it when he does rock because I'm an old rocker, so that was cool. He does very little rock so I loved the Bon Jovi!"
The Roaring CrowdA radiant and confident Jordin owned the carpet in her Badgley Mischka dress, shining above all else around her as she made her way past the media throng. For his arrival, Blake came in a sea of his top 12 Idols surrounding him like a human shield – while fans went crazy screaming his name. Also making their way into the foray: Jennifer Hudson, Taylor Hicks, Constantine, Mandisa and even more former Idols.
Frank Micelotta / American Idol / Getty
The Stand OutsNobody could miss Jonathan and Kenneth, the winners of Best Buddies on the night's show. The guys, who'd been terribly insulted by Simon at the very start of the season, were also perched on the red carpet as zany correspondents for the Jimmy Kimmel Live!.
Close CompetitorsInside the Kodak Theatre, when there were only 20 seconds remaining until the live broadcast, Debby the stage manager said, "Blake, Jordin, a little closer together." The finalists took the directions literally and hugged each other tightly before assuming their places side by side in time for Ryan Seacrest's final show open of the season.
The Beat Goes OnRapper-beat-boxer Doug E. Fresh had nothing but praise for Blake's duet with him. Of Blake's skills, "The Human Beat-boxer" said, "He's incredibly talented. He showed me some other stuff that we couldn't do on the show – we didn't have time. But it was really, really nice. Good dude, good heart, good spirit."
Teddy Bear HugFormer Idol Ruben Stoddard had nothing but good words for the two finalists. "I think they're both totally unique," said the Velvet Teddy Bear. "You know, Blake has that urban hip-hop flavor going for him. Jordin, you know, she's a cleancut young lady – very Smooth.
Legendary SupportSmokey Robinson knows a winner when he sees one. Of Jordin, he said after the show, "She is a great singer. She is an awesome singer. She sings so good it's hard to believe that she's 17. To sing like that you would have had to have lived for a long time. She's an old soul. She's great." As for what she will bring to the music world, "Herself," said Robinson. "I'm serious about that. She's a wonderful talent. She's got a lot to give. I talked to her after the show tonight. I told her to remember that she's very blessed and to keep the feet on the ground and go get 'em!
Motherly LoveJodi Sparks was in the Kodak Theatre when daughter Jordin's name was called. "I was just so proud of her," says her mom. "She set a goal five years ago and has been pursuing that dream and she's here and she's done it. It's amazing." As for how her 17-year-old daughter will handle the fame, "You know, she's fine," says the elder Sparks. "We've been through celebrity-type stuff before with her dad when she was younger, so she's kind of been there, done that. It think it prepared her. She's lived so much life in her little life. We've moved 22 times since she's been born. We've lived in New York. So she's been so adaptable in new situation and has had to along with her brother adapt every time we moved or change schools, switch teams, so I think that's really helped her." And to mark the victory? "I think we're going to a party now!"
Reporting by JED DREBEN and MICHELLE TAN