Candice Glover and Kree Harrison each performed three songs on Wednesday night – a favorite of their choice from the season, one picked by producer Simon Fuller and the song that would become the winner's first single – in front of fans, friends, family and the Idol judges at the Nokia Theatre L.A. Live.
Mariah Carey said, "It's going to be very, very difficult for America" to decide a winner. Indeed, PEOPLE readers voted, giving R&B diva Candice only a slight edge over authentic country girl Kree.
So, who's the winner? Candice Glover is the new American Idol! And Kree Harrison is season 12's runner-up.
Candice and Kree held their heads together and closed their eyes as Ryan read the results. When he said her name, Candice stood up, looked shocked and then burst into tears. Kree was the first one to hug her. Soon, the rest of the top 10 were taking turns embracing Candice, who had been a frontrunner all along.
Meanwhile, the judges were standing in ovation.
Overwhelmed, Candice had trouble speaking. "I can't even – oh my God. Three years!" she muttered, referring the number of times she has tried out for the show.
Then Candice had to sing her brand new single, "I Am Beautiful," which she debuted the night before. She struggled through tears and emotion to get through the song as sparks and then confetti fell around her.
Matt Sayles / Invision / AP