Crystal Bowersox, Lee DeWyze, Ryan Seacrest, American Idol

Vince Bucci/FOX

The American Idol season finale was the usual mixture of pleasant highs (Bret Michaels, looking the picture of health) and embarrassing lows (Dane Cook, really?).

But we didn't tune in Wednesday for the parade of guest stars (Janet! Alanis! Christina!), or the return of seven of eight Idol champs and dozens of prominent also-rans for the big Simon Cowell send-off.

Actually we feel kinda sorry for Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox because they had to share the biggest night of their lives with Simon's last show—and that massive sing-along was really cool.

That does not change, however, the fact that one of them is now the new American Idol...

It was a "Beautiful Day" indeed for Lee DeWyze.

"Oh my God," the 24-year-old onetime paint store clerk couldn't stop gasping as Ryan Seacrest moved in for the post-win reaction.

"I don't know," he said, when asked how he was feeling. "This is amazing. Thank you guys so much for everything. Thank you, thank you, thank you guys so much, everybody, I can't believe this…Crystal, I love you," he added, hugging the 24-year-old runner-up.

Crystal may have had the better performance finale last night, but Lee managed to edge her out by a 2 percent margin, according to the figures announced tonight.

"I'm just happy, man," Lee said. "I'm so happy right now. I've never been happier in my life."

And because this finale was packed with ever-so-much action, here's a rundown of the highs and lows:


Simon's send-off: Just when we thought it was going to be disappointingly lackluster, what with Dane Cook's pretty unfunny tribute song, the blah montages and Paula Abdul's disjointed commentary, out came Kelly Clarkson, followed by almost every other Idol winner (David Cook was doing a charity event) and a bunch of finalists from seasons past. We don't even remember what they sang, but the effect was awesome. "I didn't think I would be this emotional, but I genuinely am," Simon said in thanks. "The truth is, when everyone asks who's going to replace me, who's going to be the next judge, the truth is, you guys," he said, gesturing to the audience, "are the judge of this show, and you've done an incredible job over the years."

The return of Paula: Sure, she has just as much trouble pulling off teleprompter-speak as she does off-the-cuff commentary, but she looked beautiful and made us smile. She really was the heart of this operation. And her revelation that she had a baby backstage with Simon's haircut—"it's your turn to feed him, sweetheart"—was worth a tune-in all by itself.

Bret Michaels: Third-place Casey James easily stole the duet show, scoring "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" and reality-TV star du jour Michaels as his jamming partner. This was definitely the highlight of the finale's first hour.

Lee, Crystal and Joe Cocker: We thought we heard the opening strains of The Wonder Years! The finalists jamming with the Woodstock veteran to "A Little Help From My Friends" was an inspired choice.

Lee and Chicago: Perhaps Crystal and Alanis Morissette were a better fit, vocally, but there was something subtly organic about the eventual runner-up jamming with the band, who may have been picked solely because Lee's from Chicago.

Janet Jackson: It's always a good time to listen to "Nasty Boys."


• At first, all the also-rans sound so good on the American Idol finale, you wonder how the same contestants had such ear-splitting moments earlier in the season. Then they bring out the guest hitmakers, and you realize that Siobhan Magnus and Aaron Kelly can't hold a candle to the brothers Gibb once the Bee Gees got cranking on "How Deep Is Your Love"—let alone the top six girls in comparison to chanteuse supreme Christina Aguilera.

• Did we mention Dane Cook?

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