- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The big voice overwhelmed the beatbox last night as Jordin Sparks was crowned the newest and youngest “American Idol.”

Miss Sparks, 17, of Glendale, Ariz., prevailed over beatboxer Blake Lewis, 25, of Bothell, Wash., after a triumphant performance Tuesday that wowed the show’s judges and the viewers who gave her a majority of the record 74 million votes cast.

“Mom, Dad, I love you,” Miss Sparks, the daughter of retired NFL player Phillippi Sparks, said tearfully after a bearhug from Mr. Lewis.

The contest came down to either the stronger singer, Miss Sparks, or the better entertainer, Mr. Lewis. Miss Sparks delivered her songs simply and powerfully; Mr. Lewis’ flourishes included his sound-effects beatboxing and sharp dance moves.

Even the famous were gushing over Miss Sparks.

“She is an awesome singer,” finale performer Smokey Robinson said backstage. “She sings so good, it’s hard to believe she’s 17. To sing like that you would have to have lived for a long time. She’s an old soul.”

The finale to announce the winner after Tuesday night’s performance pulled out the stops and the stars, with Gwen Stefani, Tony Bennett, Bette Midler, Green Day and more singing. The two-hour show opened with Mr. Lewis and Miss Sparks singing a duet of the Beatles “I Saw Her Standing There,” followed quickly by a touring Miss Stefani singing “4 in the Morning” via satellite from Massachusetts.

Miss Midler took the stage as the show came toward its close, singing “The Wind Beneath My Wings.”

Past “Idol” winners and this season’s contestants got a hefty share of attention, starting with first-season winner Kelly Clarkson. She performed her new single “Never Again,” with the gritty rock song matched by her black dress and thigh-high boots. Taylor Hicks, last season’s winner, also had his moment in the finale sun, as did Ruben Studdard, the winner from year two.

Mr. Robinson, a Motown great, performed “Being with You” after the top six male contestants, including fan fave Sanjaya Malakar, sang “Ooh Baby Baby,” a hit for Mr. Robinson and his group the Miracles.

Mr. Blake, whose beatboxing scored with viewers, performed with veteran rapper Doug E. Fresh on his old hit, “The Show.”

“True originals,” host Ryan Seacrest said of the duo.

Gladys Knight took the stage with the six female finalists, belting out “I Feel a Song” and “Midnight Train to Georgia.” Mr. Bennett performed a mellow version of “For Once in My Life” that ended with a big finish.

“A true idol, Tony Bennett, ladies and gentlemen,” Mr. Seacrest gushed.

Melinda Doolittle, widely seen as the best “Idol” contestant to miss out on the finale, returned to impress the crowd again as she sang “Hold Up the Line” with gospel stars BeBe and CeCe Winans.

Miss Sparks and Mr. Lewis competed on Tuesday’s show with three songs each. Both contestants performed “This Is My Now,” the tune picked by viewers in an online “American Idol” songwriting contest introduced this season, along with two other songs of their choice.

On Tuesday, series judges Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson made their choice clear. Diplomatic Paula Abdul kept her counsel as usual, praising both singers. Although the judges don’t have a say in the decision, their opinions have the potential to sway voters.

“You were the best singer tonight. You deserve it all, baby,” Mr. Jackson told Miss Sparks.

“You just wiped the floor with Blake,” added Mr. Cowell, who then told Miss Sparks he was wrong for initially thinking she wasn’t good enough to win the show.

“I would say the best individual performance of the night was Blake on the first song,” Mr. Cowell said. “But, based on overall singing — Jordin.”

“Blake, you’re not the best singer in this competition. But you’re the best entertainer I think we’ve had,” he said.

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