The "American Idol" contest between teenage country crooners Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery drew a record 122 million-plus votes, host Ryan Seacrest said during Wednesday's star-studded finale, were McCreery emerged with the show's top prize.
"I gotta thank the lord first," he said after getting the good news. "He got me here."
The Fox TV show itself attracted high-wattage stars including Beyonce, Jack Black, Tom Jones and Tony Bennett, who performed at the Nokia Theatre with the top-finishing "Idol" contestants.
Judge Jennifer Lopez even got into the act. Draped in a scanty outfit and shaking her famous booty, she took the stage to dance while husband Marc Anthony sang, briefly turning the night into a salsa-flavored family affair.
The show remains a hot promotional platform, with Seacrest helping some of the pop stars push either movies (Black's new "Kung Fu Panda 2") or a Las Vegas show (Gladys Knight). Lady Gaga, whose new album "Born this Way" is out this week, was another performer.
The grandest bid for attention came from Broadway's troubled "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," with composers Bono and The Edge performing with the musical's star, Reeve Carney.
Alaina, 16, and McCreery, 17, represented the first all-country finale and the youngest duo ever to compete on "Idol." Last year, by contrast, Fox didn't announce the total in the much lower-key contest between winner Lee DeWyze and runner-up Crystal Bowersox.
When winner Kris Allen and Adam Lambert duked it out in 2009, more than 100 million votes were cast.
The season's vote total was more than three-quarters-of-a-billion, Seacrest announced as the show got under way. For Fox, it's affirmation there's still life in the series that's had a long ratings reign as No. 1.
There was drama during Tuesday's performance show when Alaina of Rossville, Ga., required medical treatment for a vocal cord injury suffered during rehearsals for Tuesday's performance show. She soldiered on with three tunes, drawing high praise from the Fox TV show's judges.
"This is a very tight race tonight, but Lauren, with that song, you may have just won," Lopez said after Alaina sang an emotional "Like My Mother Does," the last of her trio of tunes.
But it was up to viewers to choose between Alaina and McCreery of Garner, N.C., an equally fresh-faced performer but one with a strikingly mature voice.
Randy Jackson said backstage Tuesday he thought Alaina's performance, not her vocal problem and a possible sympathy reaction, would count in the voting.
"I think she sang brilliantly tonight," said Jackson, who thought she outsang McCreery on two songs.
But the judge stopped short of predicting her victory.
"Going into tonight, Scotty definitely had an edge and he may still have a slight edge," Jackson said. But Alaina "was the best tonight."
Both are impressive singers for the show's "first-ever, all-country final," he said. "These kids are so young ... I just go, 'Wow.' They embody what this whole show is about."
Alaina's other tunes were Carrie Underwood's "Flat on the Floor" and Pam Tillis' "Maybe It was Memphis," which was selected by former "Idol" winner Underwood.
McCreery sang his own possible future single, "I Love You This Big," Montgomery Gentry's "Gone" and George Strait's "Check Yes or No," Strait's pick for the teenager.
After the show, Alaina gave reporters the silent treatment to protect her voice, with McCreery offering his services as spokesman while she scribbled answers on a memo pad or whispered to him.
When Alaina was asked if her finale performance had been at risk, he replied, "She says, 'Yes.'"
Judge Steven Tyler said it's not unusual for steroids to be used for a vocal cord injury.
"You pay for it dearly the next day," he said, adding that Alaina shouldn't be affected because she was on stage briefly Tuesday.
The show started with host Ryan Seacrest bringing Dr. Shawn Nasseri on stage to explain that Alaina blew out one of her vocal cords but had been given "a lot of medicine" to be able to sing during the finale.