As American Idol's 2005 winner, Carrie, a 22-year-old college senior from Checotah, Oklahoma, joins Idol 1 winner Kelly Clarkson, Idol 2 winner Ruben Studdard, and Idol 3 winner Fantasia Barrino as the winner of a car, a management contract with Idol creator Simon Fuller's 19 Management, and a recording contract with a division of the BMG Music Group that's headed by industry legend Clive Davis.
Despite being considered a pop music program, American Idol's fourth season came down to a shutdown between two contestants who considered themselves strongest in other music genres -- country (Carrie) and rock (Bice.)
Both Carrie and Bo performed "Inside Your Heaven," a ballad that will now be released on June 14 as Carrie's first single, during Tuesday night's final performance show, giving viewers a rare chance to judge the performers head-to-head.
Bloated as viewers have come to expect, American Idol 4's two-hour finale featured a Beach Boys tribute by the show's previously eliminated finalists, recaps of some of the season's most memorable moments, interviews with the finalists and the show's judges, and a series of live performances in which the finalists performed with established performers including Kenny G., George Benson, Billy Preston, Babyface, and Lynyrd Skynyrd.
Carrie and Bo, a 29-year-old from Helena, Alabama, each also once again performed songs that they'd performed previously in the competition, with Carrie singing "Angels Brought Me Here" and Bo performing The Ides of March's "Vehicle." Additionally, Carrie also performed Martina McBride's "Independence Day" while Bo sang "Long, Long Road."
Carrie choked back tears after Idol host Ryan Seacrest announced her victory. After hugging her fellow finalists and giving an emotional thank you to the audience, she launched into one final performance of her upcoming "Inside Your Heaven" single, ending the broadcast.
A strong supporter of Carrie throughout the competition, judge Simon Cowell remained so right up until the announcement of the competition's winner, congratulating viewers for once again being "absolutely right" in voting Bo and Carrie as the show's Final 2, but also predicting that Carrie would win the competition.
In a not-so-subtle attempt to defuse the controversy-plagued show's latest minor scandal, Anerican Idol also used its finale to fire back at ABC News' recent Primetime Live "Fallen Idol" expose that centered around former Idol 2 contestant Corey Clark's allegations that he had a sexual relationship with judge Paula Abdul while still competing on the show. Lampooning both itself and ABC's broadcast, television personality Steve Edwards presented "Bad Judgment," a satirical report that claimed to reveal Simon's "secret relationship" -- a love affair with himself. "We won't let the truth get in the way of our ratings," the report boasted -- while making no specific mention of either the ABC report or Abdul.
Over 500 million votes were cast during American Idol 4's just-concluded season, a season record for the reality franchise.
Carrie was thankful for her victory during a live interview conducted with Fox's Providence, RI affiliate only a half-hour after her victory, gushing that "I'm just so happy." "Definitely not" was her reply when asked if she ever thought she'd win the competition. "It [only] kinda hit me about 4PM [today] that I could possibly win this thing." "We had some incredible talent, I was just honored to be among it," she added.
Asked what she hoped to do with her upcoming debut album, the country sweetheart didn't hesitate, replying that "country is where my heart is.... some crossover stuff possibly, but you know [country] is just where my heart is."