- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2008

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The grown-up rocker triumphed over the smooth-voiced boy as David Cook claimed the “American Idol” title yesterday, and it wasn’t as much of a surprise as it seemed.

While 17-year-old David Archuleta was heaped with praise by the judges the night before, the voters decided otherwise — and did they ever. Host Ryan Seacrest said before the results that 12 million votes was the difference, and it turns out they broke in favor of the 25-year-old from Blue Springs, Mo.

Mr. Cook was overcome by emotion, bending toward the stage after his name was announced.

“This is amazing,” he said.

“This is all your fault,” he added, addressing the brother whom Mr. Cook had accompanied to the “Idol” audition that started it all.

Mr. Cook immediately took the microphone and began to sing “Time of My Life,” which won the annual “Idol” songwriting competition, to close out season seven.

Mr. Cook refused to bow to the conventional during his three-song set Tuesday, with Collective Soul’s “The World I Know” as his pick for a closing performance. He also sang U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and the power ballad “Dream Big,” his choice from the songwriting competition’s finalists.

“If I had to choose between playing a song that not a whole lot of people know that I could get behind, or the opposite, I’ll choose the lesser-known every time,” he told the Associated Press backstage Tuesday.

Judge Simon Cowell said at the time that the song choices sunk him, and told Mr. Archuleta that he’d scored a “knockout” performance in the boxing-themed performance finale.

Mr. Cook was unshaken, and now his choices are vindicated.

While “Idol” ratings were down all season, the final contest provoked a frenzy with a record 97.5 million audience votes cast by phone and text. Last year’s total vote count was 74 million.

Early in the show, Mr. Seacrest played it coy, announcing that the split between the two contestants was 56 percent for one David, 44 percent for the other. Of course he left in question who got the majority; that detail didn’t come until the closing moments of the two-hour live broadcast.

While Mr. Archuleta was showered with praise by the judges all season, online bookies and observers kept the faith with Mr. Cook. One Web site, which tracks busy signals on the separate phone lines dedicated to each contestant, projected Mr. Cook the winner yesterday morning.