DeWyze Defeats Bowersox on Simon Cowell's Last 'American Idol'

Paula Abdul, Janet Jackson, Christina Aguilera join 'Idol' all-stars for Season Nine finale

May 27, 2010 7:58 AM ET

Lee DeWyze didn't get the best critique from American Idol's judges Tuesday night, but after three months of charming performances, he won the popular vote. The 24-year-old former paint salesman from Illinois was named Idol's Season Nine winner at Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre last night. DeWyze appeared stunned after host Ryan Seacrest delivered the news, clutching his knees and thanking the crowd with genuine awe: "It's amazing, thank you guys so much for everything, thank you." Only two percent of the vote separated DeWyze and runner-up Crystal Bowersox, who both emerged from the show's August 2009 auditions in Chicago, where 12,000 hopefuls sang and only 13 were handed golden tickets to Hollywood.

The American Idol Rollercoaster: Checking in on the show's biggest winners and losers.

But before Idol looked to its future — a new winner, its first season without founding judge Simon Cowell — the show took a sharp detour to the past, bringing out rock and pop stars from the Seventies and Eighties to sing alongside the season's Top 12 finalists. Alice Cooper joined a zombie-kid chorus and twirled his staff to "School's Out" as guitarist Orianthi doodled along. The Bee Gees hit the stage with Siobhan Magnus and Aaron Kelly for "How Deep Is Your Love" and Michael Lynche dueted with Michael McDonald on the Doobie Brothers' "Takin' It to the Streets." The male contestants introduced a Hall and Oates medley that peaked with "Maneater" and DeWyze sat in with Chicago. Bret Michaels, fresh off a hemorrhage, a stroke and a Celebrity Apprentice win, busted out the Poison ballad "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" alongside fellow golden-locked singer Casey James. The retrospective performances were capped with the two finalists teaming up for the Joe Cocker version of the Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends" that featured a shouty assist from Cocker himself.

A trio of female vocalists injected some much-needed energy into the show, starting with Christina Aguilera, who popped up early in the live broadcast with the lady finalists, adding powerful blasts to their cover of "Fighter" and previewing the ballad "You Lost Me" from her new album Bionic. Bowersox performed the '90s anthem "You Oughta Know" alongside Alanis Morissette, who changed one of the song's racier lyrics to the more family-friendly "Would she go down with you to a theater." And Janet Jackson turned the Nokia upside down with a tightly choreographed version of "Nasty" that had the whole audience on its feet — rightfully so. It was the most exciting performance by a landslide.

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Song Stories

“Santa Monica”

Everclear | 1996

After his brother and girlfriend both died of drug overdoses, Art Alexakis -- depressed and hooked on drugs himself -- jumped off the Santa Monica Pier in California, determined to die. "It was really stupid," said the Everclear frontman, who would further explore his personal emotional journey in the song "Father of Mine." "I went under the water. Then I said, 'I don't wanna die.'" The song, declaring "Let's swim out past the breakers/and watch the world die," was intended as a manifesto for change, Alexakis said. "Let the world do what it's gonna do and just live on our own."

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