In the final minutes of the two-hour finale of American Idol last night, Lee DeWyze, the 24-year-old crooner from Mt. Prospect, Ill., was crowned the Season 9 winner of the hit FOX singing competition!
"It’s an amazing experience," Lee told OK! on the red carpet after he was crowned the new American Idol. "I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders and now it’s time to get on to the real deal — let’s make an album, let’s tour it. That’s what this has been about for me. American Idol was a massive step in my life and it helped me get to where I’m at and now, it’s all about the next step. It never ends and I don’t want it to."
When asked what went through his head when host Ryan Seacrest said his name, Lee said it was hard to remember his exact feelings.
"It was just so fast," he explained. "There was confetti flying around my head and fireworks, songs were starting and people were cheering, I’m like turning around, it all happened so fast."
"It wasn’t a matter of really being surprised as much as it was me just being happy that I was up there and happy that they called my name," he added. "I don’t know how you react to something like that."
Lee topped off his coronation on Wednesday’s finale by singing “Beautiful Day,” which is available for download exclusively on americanidol.com and iTunes.
On Tuesday's show, Lee experienced some harsh critiques from the judges, but he said he remained positive.
"There have been ups and downs in this season for me and everyone," he said. "I think that is what makes the show so great. You go out there and do what you can — it’s really awesome, and sometimes it’s not. You just learn from your mistakes and become a better performer."
Throughout the Idol process, Lee and Crystal Bowersox (both Midwesterners who auditioned together in the same city) became very close friends, and Lee plans to keep it that way, expressing the utmost respect for his competitor.
"I told her I love you to death and you’re going to do amazing things and you deserve it as much as I do," Lee said on speaking to Crystal after the results were announced. "I wish nothing but good things for her; we’re going to be friends for a long time, so I’m not too worried about her. She’s going to be just fine. I guarantee that.
So what type of album can fans expect from the new Idol winner?
"I can’t wait to sit in the studio and really figure it out," Lee said. "I like a lot of things — folk, alternative, rock—a mixture of all those kind of things and I just want to do something that I really enjoy that I think everyone else can enjoy, too, and I’m excited to do it so to the fans, to my family, to everybody who had anything to do with this, thank you very much!"
As for Crystal, said she plans to write music to tell more of her life story.
"I’ve been writing since I was ten and you try to think, what does a ten-year-old have to say about life, but I’ve always had something to say about it," Crystal told OK! after the finale. "People don’t know about my story; they know a little bit about my story and I’ve got a lot more to say, so, I’m just looking forward to putting my messages and my autobiographical work out there and I feel like other people can relate to it and possibly heal themselves a little through music."
Crystal said she knew that Lee was going to win the competition.
"I just had a feeling and I couldn’t be happier for him and he deserves every minute of this," she said. "I don’t really know why it’s just something that I felt and I knew and I’m fine with that. I said before the show, we did some press stuff, and I just had this strange sense of peace and calm."
"I’ve been that way through the whole season," Crystal added. "I’m just mellow and I was willing, ready, and happy for whatever the outcome was. We both win. There’s not a winner or loser. Both of us are going to have very successful careers and we’re going to be friends for a long time.
The 24-year-old mother from Toledo, Ohio, said her son recognizes her voice, but doesn't really understand the full magnitude of American Idol.
"He hangs out in the VIP room and points at the TV and claps," she said. "He ‘gets it’ a little bit. He knows that mommy’s a singer and he recognizes my voice when he hears it. He’s just having fun. He’s just a normal kid. I’m a normal mom."
"He’s only 16 months," she continued. "Awesome is his favorite word right now. I went into my dressing room and he was there and he was like, 'Mommy!' He comes running. And that’s the best moment."
Crystal's boyfriend, usually a proud onlooker from the Idol audience was not present at the finale and when asked where he was, the singer responded, "driving somewhere."
Crysal performed "Ironic" and "You Oughta Know" with Alanis Morrisette on last night's finale and both Top 2 contestants joined Joe Cocker on “With A Little Help From My Friends.”
Top 3 contestant Casey James performed “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” with Bret Michaels.
"I feel great right now," Bret who recently suffered from a brain hemorrhage told reporters after his performance. "It’s been two months since I’ve played and a month and a half in the hospital and it’s such an amazing feeling to come out here tonight and jam with Casey. Casey’s such a great player. We had an amazing time."
Bret said he didn't tell his doctors he was taking part in the AI finale.
"All I told them was that I was doing Celebrity Apprentice, the finale," the rocker said. "I never told them I was coming here. I’m going to be honest — there’s obviously still a lot of pain I’m still experiencing. But except for a little hitch my left side from the stroke, I feel amazing."
Bret's advice for Lee: "My advice to Lee is very simple — as I said to Casey earlier... enjoy what you’re doing. Get good people around you and you’ll have a long career. That’s what makes it work. Believe in yourself."
Along with all the performances, the night also included a special tribute for judge and producer of the show, Simon Cowell, who will be resigning from his spot.
Past winners Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, and Kris Allen performed a touching tribute to the harsh, yet beloved, judge and former judge Paula Abdul returned for her own little tribute to her dear friend Simon.
Auditions for Season 10 of Idol will be held this summer in Jersey City, N.J., Nashville, Tenn., New Orleans, La.; and San Francisco, Calif. Other audition cities and more information to be announced.
Check out these videos for a recap of last night's grand finale!
Paula's tribute to Simon.
"Look Simon, my darling Simon, I've worked with a lot of people over the years ... but, if I'm being truly honest, none of them holds a candle to you, my friend," Paula addresses Simon, joking and roasting him throughout her speech.
Simon receives a farewell tribute from former Idol winners.
Reporting By Carole Glines