Twenty-two-year-old Oklahoma native Carrie Underwood won the fourth installment of the American Idol competition at Los Angeles' Kodak Theatre Wednesday night. She joins Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard and Fantasia Barrino as Idol champs, and is the first country singer to win.
At the Fox show's two-hour, star-studded finale, Underwood beat out twenty-nine-year-old Alabama rocker Bo Bice, making good on typically critical judge Simon Cowell's early prediction that she would take the competition. Underwood performed "Northern Star" with country stars Rascal Flatts, Bice was backed by Lynryd Skynyrd on his adopted theme song "Sweet Home Alabama," and the other top ten Idols were paired with the likes of George Benson, Billy Preston, Babyface, Kenny G and Kenny Wayne Shepard.
Underwood closed out the show with an emotional rendition of "Inside Your Heaven," ending the song with a loud, "Thank you, America." The song will serve as the newly crowned Idol's first single, to be released June 14th.
She, Bice and other top contestants will hit the road as part of the American Idols Live Tour, beginning July 12th in Sunrise, Florida.