In what may go down as the biggest upset in the show's history, Kris Allen won "American Idol" tonight, beating out Adam Lambert, the season-long favorite.
Host Ryan Seacrest said on tonight's finale that nearly 100 million votes were cast for the finalists. The 23-year-old Allen, a student from Conway, Ark., bested the 27-year-old Lambert, a musical theater veteran from San Diego.
"Idol's" two-hour finale included performances by the Black Eyed Peas, Cyndi Lauper, Carlos Santana, Rod Stewart, and last year's "Idol" winner, David Cook. Lambert performed with Kiss and Allen dueted with Keith Urban.
Before the announcement, the two finalists dueted on "We are the Champions" with the surviving members of Queen.
Tuesday night, Lambert showed off his vocal prowess by making good of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" and Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come," while Allen belted out "Ain't No Sunshine" and Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On."
Both contestants also sang a song penned by newbie "Idol" judge Kara DioGuardi, "No Boundaries." Allen performed it again after scoring the "Idol" title tonight.
Hanging over tonight's finale was the overwhelming speculation that Lambert would win it all.
In recent weeks, Lambert emerged as the favorite of "Idol's" judges, guest performers and critics. The usually snarky Simon Cowell came out in full support of Lambert earlier this month, telling Oprah Winfrey that there's no way Lambert won't win because he's fearless, he's unique and "he's got swagger." Paula Abdul called Lambert the Michael Phelps of the current competition.
Last Wednesday, pop star Katy Perry wore a cape bearing his name for her "Idol" performance of "Waking Up in Vegas," the same week Entertainment Weekly gave him a cover.
One factor that may have tipped the scales in Allen's favor: fans of Danny Gokey, who was eliminated from "Idol" last week, putting their votes towards the underdog. Some 88 million votes were cast in that round, with only 1 million votes separating Lambert from Allen, according to host Seacrest.
Playing into Lambert fever was the speculation over whether he's gay and his coy refusal to address that question. He dodged questions about his lifestyle outside of Los Angeles' Nokia Theater Monday, telling reporters that he doesn't think the competition "has anything to do with your religious background, what color you are, your gender. It doesn't have anything to do with that. It's about music."
Allen echoed his competitor's sentiments -- the 23-year-old college student from Arkansas gained support from Christian fans in part because he worked as a worship leader for his hometown church.
"For me, I hope that having the Christian vote doesn't help with anything," he said. "I hope it has to do with your talent and the performance that you give and the package that you have. It's not about religion and all that kind of stuff."
In the end, apparently Allen had the right stuff. In addition to the "Idol" title, he scored a recording contract with 19 Entertainment and a place in pop culture history.
Reporting contributed by The Associated Press.