Kris Allen's smooth vocals and boy-next-door image propelled him to "American Idol" victory Wednesday, turning the theatrical powerhouse Adam Lambert into the most unlikely of also-rans.
"I'm sorry, I don't even know what to feel right now. This is crazy," said a stunned Allen, 23, of Conway, Ark.
As host Ryan Seacrest said in announcing the result of the viewer vote, "The underdog, the dark horse, comes back and wins the nation over."
Lambert's commanding vocal range and stage presence -- and the judges' adoration of him -- at times turned "Idol" into "The Adam Lambert Show," with the other contestants mere guests. But it turned out that "Idol" viewers could embrace a gifted performer like Lambert, one who sported black nail polish and bold self-assurance, only to a point.
Before the results were announced, Lambert and Allen had a moment of musical camaraderie: They joined together with Queen on the rock anthem "We Are the Champions."
The outcome echoed last year's contest, when Cowell all but crowned David Archuleta after the performance finale -- but the victory went to David Cook.
Lambert's triumph was never inevitable. When Allen and Lambert were declared the finalists last week, just 1 million viewer votes separated the pair out of 88 million cast.
Allen bloomed during the season, gaining more assurance onstage and winning viewers over with his smooth, heartfelt vocals, modest demeanor and well-scrubbed good looks.
There was also the Danny Gokey factor. Gokey made it to the top three before he fell out of the contest, leaving his supporters up for grabs.
Allen seemed the likely candidate for those viewers' affections, for on- and offstage reasons. Allen and Gokey, 29, of Milwaukee, were downright conservative when compared to Lambert's elaborate staging and wardrobe choices. Allen is a married college student and has worked as a church worship leader. Gokey, a widower, is a church music director.
Lambert, 27, of Los Angeles, brought measured rock flashiness -- daring, not freaky -- with songs including "Whole Lotta Love," the first-ever Led Zeppelin tune on "Idol." He's largely kept his personal life under wraps, saying "I know who I am" when asked about it.