After enduring weeks of live performances and judges’ critiques — not to mention the frosty Mariah Carey-Nicki Minaj feud — Candice Glover has defeated Kree Harrison to win the 12th season of American Idol.
Kree, a worthy competitor, hugged an emotional Candice at L.A.’s Nokia Theatre on Thursday night. Confetti rained down upon the mega-talented 23-year-old soul singer from St. Helena, S.C., as she wiped away tears and struggled to get through her coronation song, “I Am Beautiful.”
Highlights leading up to the result included a roof-raising, standing O-worthy duet of “Inseparable” between Candice and Jennifer Hudson. Second-place runner-up Angie Miller also impressed tag-teaming on “Titanium” with glam-rock Idol alum Adam Lambert, one of her biggest celebrity supporters, and British powerhouse Jesse J, who invited the ecstatic finalist to film a music video together in the U.K.
Joining Angie, the rest of season 12′s top 10 returned to take the stage alongside Candice and Kree. Amber Holcomb dueted with Scottish singer Emile Sande on “Next to Me” while Janelle Arthur and The Band Perry partnered on “Done.” The guys — Devin Velez, Burnell Taylor, Paul Jolley, Curtis Finch Jr. and Lazaro Arbos (he’s baaaaack) — crooned backup for the legendary Frankie Valli for “I Love You Baby,” prompting Keith Urban to dance and sing along in his chair.
And speaking of Mr. Nicole Kidman — he of the Aussie-tan skin and perfectly highlighted hair and endearing aversion to snark — the Idol judge grabbed a guitar (along with Randy Jackson) and jumped onstage to accompany Kree on his country hit “Where The Blacktop Ends.” Randy also backed Mariah during a medley of her chart-toppers such as “Hero,” “My All” and “We Belong Together.” The pre-taped performance had diehard fans tweeting that the diva “slayed” and “sounded awesome.” (Just FYI: she was not lip-syncing.)
Looking “Gangnam Style”-ish, Psy made a cameo to perform his latest single, “Gentleman,” and Aretha Franklin — making an appearance via satellite (she hates to fly) — led the lady sing-testants in a rousing mash-up of her classics including “(You Make Me Feel Like) a Natural Woman.”
Ex-judge Jennifer Lopez, who was recently contacted by producers in a scrapped effort to replace Mariah midseason, returned to the Kodak with Pitbull in tow to get the crowd going with the club-banger “Live It Up.” (Cut to Mariah, fake-smiling politely. How awkward.)
The show also paid tribute to Randy, who departs Idol after 11 years on the panel. Following a montage of some of the catchphrase-loving veteran’s most memorable moments (set to the tune of Daniel Powter’s once-ubiquitous “Bad Day”), Ryan Seacrest declared: “The door is always open, my brother.”
“I am so blessed and so honored and so lucky,” replied Randy, adding of the show’s contestants, past and present: “Hopefully I touched their lives a little bit — they certainly touched mine.”