AMERICAN IDOL: We have a winner
Jordin Sparks, an amateur teen singer from Arizona, was crowned the new “American Idol” on Wednesday after the record-breaking TV talent contest came to a finale at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. Sparks, 17, who auditioned for the sixth season of the show in Seattle, had no formal music training, and now gets a record contract and a place in the showbiz spotlight, joining five previous “Idols.” The daughter of former pro-football player Phillipi Sparks, Jordin outsung hip-hop-inspired runner-up Blake Lewis in the competition that drew a record 74 million votes. TV’s highest-rated show opened with Sparks and Lewis dueting on the Beatles song, “I Saw You Standing There.” It opens with the line “Well, she was just 17,” a nice fit for the 17-year-old champ. Kellogg, Pop-Tarts and Coca-Cola are major sponsors, and all the judges, hosts, and contestants are often seen drinking out of cups bearing the Coca-Cola logo. Wednesday’s extravaganza included guest shots from Motown star Smokey Robinson, “Idol” season one winner Kelly Clarkson, Gladys Knight, season five winner Taylor Hicks, Tony Bennett, season four winner Carrie Underwood, Bebe and Cece Winans, Bette Midler, and hip-hopper Doug E. Fresh. Green Day performed John Lennon’s acerbic “Working Class Hero,” a song whose message of anti-consumerism surely sailed over the heads of most in the audience. And in the most touching segment, four of the five previous “Idols” (third season winner Fantasia couldn’t make it because she’s appearing on Broadway in “The Color Purple”) did numbers from the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” album, released 40 years ago this summer. To help fill the two hours leading up to the big moment, host Ryan Seacrest introduced blooper reels of memorably failed auditions and joke bits. Sparks also performed the Motown chestnut “You’re All I Need to Get By” with second season winner Ruben Studdard, a segment that had Abdul dancing at the judges table. Even as “Idol” winner Sparks begins thinking about cutting her album, there are no guarantees millions will buy it. Record sales vary widely among winners. Last year’s winner, Hicks, hasn’t broken the 700,000 mark with his debut, while Chris Daughtry, last season’s fourth-place finisher, has the top-selling album of all season five contenders with 2.5 million albums sold. Fifth-season runner-up, Sherman Oaks’ own Katharine McPhee, sold around 322,000 copies of her debut disc, according to Nielsen SoundScan.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! Earlier in the day, Hollywood Boulevard was packed with fans holding signs and cheering for their favorites as the stars floated down the red carpet. Across the street, around the pool of a trendy hotel, “Idol’s” British owners-producers Fremantle Media, which has aired local versions of “Idol” in 35 territories worldwide, celebrated with a private party where spirits were high and top-shelf liquor flowed. Some poolside chatter centered on judge Simon Cowell, who announced he would be leaving the show in four years once his contract was up after the 10th season. His fellow judges, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, had no comment. The consistently popular “American Idol,” a copy of a British series called “Pop Idol,” is a ratings and revenue bonanza. Athough its 25 million average weekly viewers declined in recent months, Fox won its third consecutive season among 18-49s when the season ended Wednesday. The network’s 4.0 rating and 11 share comes in 0.3 ratings points over CBS, giving it the biggest margin of victory for any network in five years, according to the trade publication Media Life. This year, a 30-second spot averaged more than $600,000, according to Advertising Age magazine. That makes it the highest priced regular season commercial buy, followed by ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” at a reported $394,000 per spot. Wednesday’s season-ender was expected to top the 29.4 million viewers that watched last season’s finale, and commercial spots for the finale reportedly went for $1.3 million.