American Idol Picks a Winner!

American Idol Picks a Winner!
Kristian Dowling/FOX/PictureGroup

05/26/2010 AT 01:00 AM EDT

After performing three songs each on Tuesday night, Crystal Bowersox and Lee DeWyze participated in Idol's grand finale Wednesday, paying tribute to Simon Cowell on his last night on the show before finding out which one was the season 9 winner.

While Lee went into the final night of performances a favorite, Crystal was the judges' choice for all three rounds of songs.

But who did America vote for?

Keep reading to find out the winner of American Idol ...

Lee DeWyze is the winner!

Even though his Tuesday-night performances weren’t as consistent or even as powerful as Crystal’s, the judges repeatedly remarked on an inching-forward that made Lee someone worth rooting for. Audiences saw that, too.

That just wasn’t quite the case with Crystal, who to her credit had a very good voice and a grounded stage personality. My problem was the sense that we were always in for a hootenanny. Simon’s early references to coffeehouse singers probably lodged in my mind.

Overall, as many frustrated fans of the show have already noted, it wasn’t a great season. The suspense of the title contest barely even heated up until the last few minutes of the show Wednesday night. (Ryan Seacrest said the voting had been tight leading up to the finale, but he made no allusion to how big a gap separated Lee and Crystal at the end.) What if it’d been, say, Katie Stevens versus Casey James?

Instead, the season's musical highpoint was arguably Gen. Larry Platt's “Pants on the Ground.” Unfortunately, his performance of it Wednesday night was spoiled with the arrival of William Hung, who’s stuck in the unhappy role of Idol jester.

The night mattered chiefly as a farewell to Simon Cowell, kingpin of the judges’ panel. The finale repeatedly paused to salute him, and rightly so. A good deal of the celebration was tongue-in-cheek, tweaking him for his acerbic opinions, his rudeness and so on. Dane Cook sang a small song with lyrics extracted from Simon’s insults -- a sort of miniature roast. It was so awful you wished thought balloons would appear above Simon’s head, full of toxic comments.

Finally, though, Paula Abdul was brought onstage -- looking absolutely fantastic -- and spoke of Simon with humor and affection. “American Idol’s not going to be the same without you … but it will go on,” she said, alluding as well to her own departure from the show. I got goosebumps: Does that make me pathetic?

Then former winners came out singing, and it was all much more genuinely sentimental than you or Simon would ever have expected. “You guys are the judge of this show,” he said to the audience after Ryan called him onto the stage, “and you’ve done an incredible job.”

That was a very fine, very British moment on American Idol. -- Tom Gliatto

Tell us: Did the right singer win American Idol? Will Lee and Crystal do well in the music industry? What's your message for the departing Simon Cowell?

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