David Cook, American Idol: Season 7


David Cook, who earned comparisons to Chris Daughtry all season, ended up going one better than the chrome-domed chart topper.

The 25-year-old former bartender (emphasis on the "former") was named the winner of the seventh season of American Idol Wednesday night, besting velvety voiced runner-up David Archuleta by 12 million votes despite the massive amount of fawning the judges did over the 17-year-old ballad specialist last night—and the really unnecessary amount of criticism Simon Cowell directed at Cook, who more than held his own.

"When I went back home and watched it, it wasn't quite so clear-cut as we called it. David, I will take this opportunity to apologize, because I think I was verging on disrespectful to you," Cowell, who apparently reads the comment sections on all the blogs, told Cook before the big reveal.

"You're tryers, and you've both given it your best. You're both nice people and, for the first time ever, I don't really care who wins. I think you've both done terrific," the Brit said.

"I'm honored and proud to be sitting here," Paula Abdul said "This is anything but a final—it's the start of the destination of your career." All right.

A record 97.5 million votes—with, as Ryan Seacrest teased at the beginning of the broadcast, 56 percent going to one David and 44 percent toward the other—decided this year's contest, which for most of the season seemed to be in Archuleta's pocket, at least as far as voter appeal and basic vocal skill were concerned.

But Cook, with his piercing gaze, garage-rock vibe and a deep, raspy timbre that is equally suitable to the sort of records Clive Davis is gonna want to make, hung right in there, going from dark horse to obvious contender to fan favorite.

When Seacrest announced the news, Archuleta, if not relieved, seemed perfectly happy to finally turn the spotlight over to his fellow David, secure in the knowledge that his star is only going to rise (and looking more composed than he usually did after a round of gushing accolades from the judges).

Tears immediately made their way into Cook's eyes, and then the stoic, shrug-favoring rocker had to cover his face and take a moment while the emotion flooded through him.

"I started this season—much to Simon’s chagrin—as the word nerd and I’m absolutely at a loss for words," the new American Idol said. "Thank you guys. This is amazing. Thank you."

The finale concluded with Blue Springs, Mo.'s favorite son crooning the winning ballad from this year's Idol songwriting contest, "Time of My Life" by Regie Hamm.

Then, although the homebound audience didn't see it, the man of the hour was reportedly supposed to shout , "I'm going to Disney World!" when asked what he was going to do next.

Really. (Albeit because Idol producers Fremantle Media and 19 Entertainment have licensed the rights to build the American Idol Experience, an attraction opening in January 2009 at the Orlando theme park.)

David Archuleta, American Idol: Season 7


Actually, there were quite a few Disneyfied touches in this Idol finale, which for the most part was thankfully light on audition-round horrors and shameless promotions (oh, there were some, of course) and heavy on tasteful collaborations, big-ticket performers and celebratory pop, as befitting a show that supposedly exists to better the state of the music industry.

From ABC (owned by Disney) personality Jimmy Kimmel yukking it up for the crowd to Disney Channel heartthrobs the Jonas Brothers making that crowd scream its collective head off, the Mouse House had a larger than usual presence tonight.

Perhaps because it's looking to lure the kid-friendly David A. into the fold? (Miley sure would make a great prom date...)

Otherwise, some highlights of tonight's two-hour sendoff:

  • Jason Castro, who some called a breath of fresh air and others referred to as this season's Sanjaya, reprising his touching cover of "Hallelujah." The difference: Castro takes us over the rainbow, while Kimmel jokes about valet-parking his car and wondering how much to tip Sanjaya.
  • The surprisingly unscrewy duets: Syesha Mercado joining Seal on "Waiting for You"; Brooke White stripping down (acoustically) for Graham Nash, who embodies the sound she was striving for all season; OneRepublic with Archuleta; Cook and ZZ Top; Donna Summer and Bryan Adams doing the medley thing with the top gals and guys.
  • A '70s-era clip of Gladys Knight singing "Midnight Train to Georgia" with some oddly recognizable Pips: Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. A shameless promotion for the upcoming comedy Tropic Thunder, but hot just the same. And all money earned from downloading the video on iTunes goes to charity.
  • Seacrest opting not to get too fancy when announcing the results and getting to the point with class and respect.


  • The admittedly shameless promotion of the upcoming Mike Myers flick The Love Guru, which would have been acceptable if only the movie didn't appear so disturbingly unfunny.
  • Making the Top 12 wear all white during the opening medley. Are they supposed to be pretending they're in heaven? Or driving ice cream trucks?
  • Could Amanda Overmyer have wanted to be there less?

On the fence:

  • David A. and David C. doing their best Tom Cruise-in-Risky Business impressions in dual commercials touting the jam-tasticness of Guitar Hero.
  • George Michael. We weren't too bothered by the ballad, but it would have been more fun to see him in "Faith" mode.

While viewership has been down overall this season, off about 7 percent from last year, plenty of people have remained enthralled with the star-making going down in this corner of the country.

Last night's performance showdown attracted 27.1 million people, a clean victory over the last two thirds of Dancing with the Stars' three-hour finale overkill, for which 20.1 million viewers tuned in to see Kristi Yamaguchi hoist the mirror-ball trophy.

As always, it will be interesting to see how many fans this year bet on one of two Davids and watched him ride all the way to the finish line.

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