May 16, 2013: Finalist Candice Glover, left, and Jennifer Hudson perform at the "American Idol" finale at the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live in Los Angeles.AP/Invision
May 16, 2013: Judges Mariah Carey, left, and Randy Jackson walk on stage at the "American Idol" finale at the Nokia Theatre at L.A. Live in Los Angeles.AP/Invision
Longtime "American Idol" judge Randy Jackson bid farewell to the Fox talent competition during Thursday's 12th season finale, a showdown between vocal powerhouse Candice Glover and country singer Kree Harrison.
Candice Glover was crowned the new "American Idol" 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 soulful 22-year-old country singer Harrison from Woodville, Texas . The vote count was not announced.
A weepy Glover performed the new single "I Am Beautiful" after winning the 12th edition of the singing competition. Glover auditioned for the show three times before making it as a finalist this season.
Just before Glover's name was announced, Jackson bid a final farewell.
"I love everybody that walked on this show," said Jackson. He added, "Hopefully, I touched their lives a little bit. They certainly touched mine."
Jackson, the show's lone remaining original judge, 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, famously telling them they were "pitchy" and "in it to win it."
Either Harrison or Glover will be awarded a record deal and could follow in the footsteps of such chart-topping winners as Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood -- or less successful champs like Lee DeWyze and Kris Allen.
Former "Idol" finalist Jennifer Hudson returned to the show for Thursday's finale to duet with Glover on Natalie Cole's "Inseparable."
Hudson was among the guest stars helping to fill out the two-hour finale show, including Psy, Frankie Valli, Emeli Sande, Jessie J and Aretha Franklin. Current "Idol" judges Urban, Carey -- along with Jackson on bass -- also performed.
During Wednesday's final performance round, Harrison, the soulful 22-year-old country singer originally from Woodville, Texas, sang Sarah McLaughlan's "Angel," Patty Griffin's "Up to the Mountain" and potential future single "All Cried Out."
"I think all three of your performances showcased your beautiful voice and your beautiful soul," said Minaj of Harrison.
Jackson declared the finale a dead heat after Harrison and Glover performed their tunes.
"Dude, this is so close," he said.
According to Nielsen Co. figures Friday, Glover's victory over Harrison was watched by 14.3 million viewers. That's a 33 percent drop from the year before, when 21.5 million viewers saw Phillip Phillips claim the "Idol" crown. That represented the show's previous record low finale audience.