Susan Boyle Falls Short at Britain's Got Talent Finale

Susan Boyle Falls Short at Britain's Got Talent Finale
Susan Boyle
Ken McKay/REX USA

05/30/2009 AT 05:05 PM EDT

Despite being the runaway favorite, Susan Boyle failed in her bid to net the big prize on Britain's Got Talent.

She was beat in Saturday's finale by dance troupe Diversity and finished in second place.

"The best people won," Boyle said. "They are very entertaining lads. I wish you all the best."

Asked what the future holds by the show's hosts, Boyle added, "I hope to get an album out. Who knows? I will just play it by ear."

As for street dancers Diversity, judge Simon Cowell said, "You can see them open the Olympics. What you saw tonight was absolutely immaculate."

Cowell added of Boyle, "I am gutted for Susan but she was incredibly gracious. Susan's come out of this very well. We've never had a runner-up like Susan Boyle before. She's won over a lot of fans tonight through her graciousness. She's a really sweet person. She has a massive future ahead of her."

In the show's finale, the Scottish singer, who has captivated the world in the last seven weeks, reprised her performance of "I Dreamed A Dream" from the musical Les Miserables, the same song from her audition, which went on to be viewed 100 million times online.

Her prize would have been $150,000 and the chance to perform in front of Queen Elizabeth in the annual Royal Variety Performance.

After her barnstorming performance at the finale in London, Boyle demurely said a simple "thank you" to the people at home, the audience and the producers of the show. It had been a pressure-filled week for the 48-year-old, who had to be moved to a secret location after hounding by the media peaked as accusations flew of her swearing at her hotel.

Asked if it was worth it, she said, "Well worth it. I really feel at home on stage. Of course I do, I'm among friends."

The Judges' Take

The judges were more effusive. In the words of Piers Morgan, she sang the song "better than you did last time" and "that, to me, was the greatest performance in Britain's Got Talent history. I loved it." He, like fellow judges Cowell – who was famously stunned when he first saw her – and actress Amanda Holden were on their feet at the end of her performance.

With applause dying down, Holden told her, "Susan, I have never heard such powerful, confident vocals. You sang it so well this evening. You have been under an enormous amount of pressure but you did it, girl. Simon had a tear in his eye and I have never seen that before."

And Cowell said, "You had the guts to come back here tonight, face your critics and you beat them, and that's the most important thing. I've got to know the real Susan Boyle – which is not the person I've seen portrayed in the media – who is still a very nice shy person who just wants a break. I absolutely adore you."

The favorite from the beginning, Boyle became a household name after surprising the judges and the audience in the show that aired in April. And then, on May 24, she made it into the finale after performing "Memory" from the musical Cats in the semi-finals.

Since her first appearance caught the imagination of the world, Boyle, 48, has been analyzed at almost every step of the – even a $50 hairstyle was dubbed a makeover.

Britain Is Watching

On Saturday, more than 15 million viewers were expected to tune in and three of Boyle's nieces – including Kirsty Foy, who told PEOPLE, "We're all disappointed but very proud of Susan. She was fantastic tonight." – were in the audience. Back home in Blackburn, Scotland, families, including babies in strollers and infant carriers, gathered in the town's Community Education Centre. Handmade banners that read, "Good luck Susan," "Vote 4 Susan" and "Hands Up 4 Susan," were hung on brick walls. Fans watched on a giant screen with the show being projected and audio echoing throughout the hall.

When her image appeared, the crowd stood up and applauded so loudly Boyle's performance could hardly be heard. Some waved their hands in the air; some audience members stomped their feet, and others chanted "Susan, Susan, Susan." At the end, young boys left the hall chanting, "We love Susan Boyle!"

Before the results, Boyle told the TV cameras that people will see a "new Susan Boyle, Susan Boyle the singer. The pressure put on me this week has been overwhelming. It's the most important night of my life tonight. When I step on the stage it's the accumulation of 40 years of dreaming. A lifelong ambition."

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