After seven seasons, the winner of American Idol is finally ready to rock.
With 56 percent of the 97.5 million votes cast, David Cook, a 25-year-old bartender from Missouri, trounced David Archuleta, a 17-year-old high-schooler from Utah, to win the latest edition of TV's top-rated show. Cook choked up as host Ryan Seacrest announced the winner amid a packed house at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.
"I started this season ... as the word nerd and now I'm at a loss for words," Cook said as his family joined him onstage. "This is amazing."
While country and R&B; have been represented by winners Carrie Underwood and Fantasia, Idol has been lacking in the rock department. Fifth-season contestant Chris Daughtry has since become a star, but he never got to the glitzy finale. Now it's up to Cook to show whether a wholesome Idol winner can also be a gritty rock star.
Here's how it happened:
How he won: It's hard to be creative on what amounts to a televised karaoke contest, but Cook gave it his all. From "Billie Jean" to "Eleanor Rigby," Cook stood out from the pack by reworking classic songs and sticking to the rock genre without being repetitive. And the fact that Idol producers allowed instruments this year didn't hurt, as Cook frequently had a guitar slung over his neck. What's a rocker without his ax?
Best moment this season: "Billie Jean" is not his cover. But it was the one that got America talking about David Cook. He took alt-rocker Chris Cornell's version of the 1983 Michael Jackson hit and spun it into a winner.
Where he ranks: He will probably never match the star power of past winners Kelly Clarkson and Underwood or even successful finalist Daughtry. But his more current sound is bound to help him rise above such recent Idol duds as Jordin Sparks or Taylor Hicks.
Finale highlights: Paula Abdul is apparently a huge ZZ Top fan. Gladys Knight got a new set of Pips in Ben Stiller, Jack Black and Iron Man's Robert Downey Jr. And the best moments weren't even part of the show: Cook and Archuleta rocking out in their undies courtesy of a pair of Guitar Hero commercials.