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Thursday, 5 September, 2002, 12:30 GMT 13:30 UK
US picks its Idol
Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini
Clarkson won 58% of the vote to win

America has chosen 20-year old Kelly Clarkson as its Pop Idol.

US TV viewers selected the former waitress from Texas after a competition in which ten thousand young Americans sought to become their country's next superstar.

Some 15.5m votes were cast by telephone with 58% of American Idol viewers in favour of Clarkson over her rival, Justin Guarini, a one-time door-to-door salesman.
American Idol contestants
Group hug: Fellow contestants congratulate Clarkson

Both finalists seem destined for success and were signed to the management books of Simon Fuller, creator of the Pop Idol format, after the show.

The final showdown took place at Hollywood's Kodak Theatre, home to the Academy Awards.

Clarkson and Guarini sang three songs, two of which were specially written for the show, broadcast on the Fox network.

The ballads, Before Your Love and A Moment Like This, will now be released by Clarkson on a CD scheduled to be available by the end of the month.

The British judge, Simon Cowell, commonly referred to as Mr Nasty, said the atmosphere was electric.

"Suddenly, where you shoot the Oscars, there they are, all of America's watching, only one of them is going to win, but they were amazing," he said.

"It was a one sided competition as far as I was concerned because Kelly, without question, was the better singer."

Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini
Runner-up Justin Guarini with the winner
Cowell, who acknowledged that the US contestants were more impressive than their British counterparts, predicted Clarkson would become a world-class celebrity.

"The audience were witnessing a star," he said. "It was like that movie, A Star is Born."

Cowell is reportedly being paid $1m (637,000) to take part in a second series of American Idol, according to industry reports.

His fellow judge, record producer Randy Jackson, agreed with Cowell's verdict.

'Phenomenal talent'

"It makes me proud to be part of the show because you are such a phenomenal talent," he told Clarkson.

As long as you keep your feet on the ground it's fine

Will Young's advice
The third judge, 1980s pop star Paula Abdul, known for being more diplomatic in her comments, heaped praise on both contestants.

"Enjoy this moment," she said. "Both of you have done an amazing, wonderful, tremendous job this entire journey."

Clarkson told the audience she was getting used to adoring fans greeting her with, "I love you."

The American Idol judges
Simon Cowell, right, with Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul
Her prize is a recording contract with a single due to be released on 17 September and an album in November.

In one sense, the final shows have been something of an anti-climax. The UK's Pop Idol demonstrated that it is not necessary to win the competition to secure a lucrative career in the music business.

Nevertheless, American Idol has been the summer's most popular new programme on American TV with audiences in excess of 15 million.

For several weeks it has been the most-watched show among teenage and young adult viewers.

'Rollercoaster ride'

The final competitive performances by Clarkson and Guarini took place on Tuesday's show, although the result was not announced until a special two-hour edition on Wednesday.

Kelly Clarkson
Clarkson gets in tune with the audience
The last show reunited the competition's top ten finalists for an ensemble performance, but it kicked off with a trip down memory lane.

The show broadcast the viewers' choice of the ten worst auditions screened during its search for a superstar. The montage of out-of-key wannabes turned out to be curiously more entertaining than some of the polished performances by the finalists.

The Hollywood shows were also used to showcase the talents of Will Young, Britain's Pop Idol winner. The 23-year-old's first record became the fastest-selling debut single in UK history.

"It's quite a mad rollercoaster ride," he told the American Idol audience.

"It's just beginning to calm down for me. As long as you keep your feet on the ground it's fine," he said of the media frenzy surrounding his career.


He was asked about his performance to mark the Queen's Golden Jubilee in June.

Justin Guarini
Justin Guarini's hair alone had its fans
"I sang for the Queen and the royal family in Buckingham Palace - in the gardens," he said. "It was very posh."

"Well, there are probably some queens here tonight and you're going to sing, right?" responded American Idol presenter Ryan Seacrest.

"Yeah," replied Young, with a laugh.

The audience seemed to miss the joke.

See also:

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