LOS ANGELES (AP) – Candice Glover was crowned the new “American Idol” on Thursday after defeating country singer Kree Harrison.
The booming 23-year-old R&B vocalist from St. Helena Island, S.C., looked stunned when “Idol” host Ryan Seacrest announced she bested the soulful 22-year-old country singer Harrison from Woodville, Texas.
“Three times,” exclaimed a weepy Glover, referencing the trio of times it took before she made it to the finals of the Fox singing competition.
After her coronation, an emotional Glover sobbed her way through her new single “I Am Beautiful.”
Thursday’s finale also served as a farewell for Randy Jackson, the show’s lone remaining original judge who announced last week that he’s leaving “Idol” to focus on his record label and other business opportunities. The other judges are hip-hop diva Nicki Minaj, pop royalty Mariah Carey and country star Keith Urban.
Jackson has served as a judge on all 12 seasons of “Idol.” He first appeared on the panel alongside Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul when the competition debuted in 2002, becoming famous for his easygoing “yo, dawg” rapport with contestants.
“I love everybody that walked on this show,” Jackson said. He added, “Hopefully, I touched their lives a little bit. They certainly touched mine.”
Grammy- and Oscar-winning former “Idol” finalist Jennifer Hudson returned for Thursday’s finale to duet with Glover on Natalie Cole’s “Inseparable.”
Hudson was among the guest stars who helped fill out the two-hour finale show, including Psy, Frankie Valli, Emeli Sande, Jessie J, Aretha Franklin and former “Idol” judge Jennifer Lopez. Current “Idol” judges Urban, Carey — along with Jackson on bass — also performed.
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Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang .