Deep-voiced country singer Scotty McCreery won the tenth season of "American Idol yesterday, defeating rival Lauren Alaina who had been dubbed the front-runner by the show's judges heading into the night.
McCreery, 17, hugged the other "Idol" contestants from the season and his family after host Ryan Seacrest proclaimed him the winner of the television singing competition.
"Never in my wildest dreams. I got to thank the Lord first. He got me here," McCreery said.
A grocery store clerk from Garner, North Carolina, McCreery sang "I Love You This Big," his first single, before a packed audience on the live broadcast.
A record 122 million votes were cast by phone, text message and online after McCreery and Alaina - both country singers - each gave their final performances on Tuesday.
British company Telescope has managed the voting for the show over 10 years. This year they introduced online voting for the first time.
Alaina, 16, emerged as the judges' favourite on Tuesday after overcoming a blown out vocal chord to deliver an emotional performance dedicated to her mother. But backstage following the show, Alaina said she had expected McCreery to take home the title.
"I told him at the beginning of the episode, 'Scotty are you ready to win?'" Alaina said. "He's my best friend and I love him and I couldn't be happier for him."
Also backstage, McCreery joked that with the win under his belt he'd like to spend some time "on the couch watching some 'SportsCenter' and eating some chips."
The results were announced following a two-hour star-studded live broadcast that included performances from Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Judas Priest and even new "Idol" judges Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler.
McCreery won over audiences during the season with his distinctive voice and a poise onstage that belies his youth. He is the first country music champion since Carrie Underwood took the title in 2005 and went on to become the top "Idol" earner in terms of record sales and tours.
When asked about plans for his album, McCreery said he's focused on getting good songs.
"It's all about the songs after this," he said.
McCreery's win marked the fourth straight year that a male contestant has won the competition.
As the new "American Idol," McCreery wins a record contract with a Universal Music Group record label. An album of songs McCreery performed during the season was released Tuesday, exclusively on the iTunes music store. Alaina's songs from the season are also being sold as an album on iTunes, and she has her own single, "Like My Mother Does."
Now in its 10th year, "American Idol" has been a ratings juggernaut for Fox and the nation's most-watched TV show for the last seven years.