"This is the best day of my life," said 29-year-old rocker Nick Fradiani after he was crowned the second to the last "American Idol" in not the best of weeks for the long-running music competition show.
On Monday, Fox announced that American Idol, the former prime-time powerhouse and star-maker will end next year after 15 seasons following steadily declining ratings in recent years.
Fradiani, from Guilford, Connecticut, bested soulful 22-year-old vocalist Clark Beckham of White House, Tenn., to win Wednesday night's 14th edition of "American Idol."
"This is amazing," he told "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest. "This is the best day of my life."
Fradiani joins such champions as Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Phillip Phillips and Kris Allen, some of whom have found their own pop stardom.
Before he was revealed as the winner, Fradiani dueted with singer-songwriter Andy Grammer.
"I can't even think right now," Fradiani said after Seacrest informed him that he received the most viewer votes — without revealing the exact number cast.
Fradiani's win came on the strength of his renditions Tuesday of Matchbox 20's "Bright Lights," Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up" and "Beautiful Life," intended as his first single. Beckham sang Ray Charles' "Georgia on My Mind," Bill Withers' "Ain't No Sunshine" and "Champion."
The two-hour extravaganza kicked off with Fradiani and Beckham joining Fall Out Boy on their song "Centuries."
The series' penultimate finale also resurrected Chic, Ricky Martin, NKOTB, Michael McDonald and Steven Tyler for performances, as well as judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr.
The once-blockbuster singing contest, which hit a peak of 30.3 million viewers in 2005, is now averaging 9.15 million viewers per episode, according to the Nielsen company.
Lopez, Urban and Connick Jr. are due back at the judges' table for next year's 15th and final "Idol" outing. Beckham had a few words of advice for those looking to become the last-ever "Idol."
"You have to be good at lot of different things," he said. "It's not just singing a song."
In an interview with Billboard.com, Fradiani said, after his win:
At what point did it click that you could win American Idol?
I think when I went to Top 3 I said, “Wow. I guess you have a legitimate shot.” I was really unhappy with myself from about Top 12 down to 8. I was not liking what I was doing as a performer. I would go back and think, “That is not you.” My bandmates would call me and be like, “What are you doing man? You look so uptight up there. You don’t look like yourself.” I came to this realization that I was treating it like a competition. I was worried about other people. I was worried about, “Can I sing like this person? No I can’t hit that note that he’s doing. I can’t do what she’s doing.” And finally, it was actually the “Teenage Dream” performance, Katy Perry. It wasn’t the best vocal that I did but for some reason I just broke loose and my friends called me “Alright. That looked like you. Now go do your thing, man.” I started to wake up. So that’s when I felt like I was moving in the right direction.