Country singer Carrie Underwood has been voted the latest American Idol in the climax to the fourth series of the TV talent show.
Underwood wants to stick with country music
The 22-year-old student from Oklahoma beat rocker Bo Bice on the two-hour finale on the Fox network on Wednesday.
"Thank you America," Underwood, who won a recording contract, told viewers.
"I hope this doesn't change her," her mother Carole said. The show is still a ratings success and the three previous winners have all enjoyed chart hits.
The judges on Wednesday night's show, including Simon Cowell, thought Bice had performed better on the night but the viewers disagreed.
"This is the best night of my life. And it's going to get better," Underwood said after the show.
Previous winners of American Idol have veered towards pop and ballads in their careers, but Underwood says she is going to stick to her country roots.
"That's where my heart is. I feel like that's the music that's the most pure. And the people, the artists, are so nice. ... Those are the people I want to be among," she said.
The judges backed Bo Bice
Bice, 29, said he was pleased with his runner-up position, having only entered the contest following a bet with his mother.
"We can look forward to an album coming out soon, so keep your eyes open," he said.
During the live finale, the final 12 contestants all returned to give performances.
They were joined by a number of stars including George Benson, Kenny G and Billy Preston.
Guests in the studio included Courtney Love, with her daughter Francis Bean, David Hasselhoff and Ben Stiller.
The next season of American Idol is due to begin in January 2006.