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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, September 6, 2002

'American Idol' winner heads next for Las Vegas

By Anthony Breznican
AP Entertainment Writer

Kelly Clarkson, who survived a crowded field to be selected the "American Idol" winner, has a performance in Las Vegas in her future and a recording contract i her pocket.

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — So the big question: how does it feel to be an instant American Idol?

"I feel a little bit of everything — anxious, excited ..." answers Kelly Clarkson, the 20-year-old Texan selected as the nation's newest pop star Wednesday on the Fox reality show "American Idol."

Less than an hour after claiming the honor, she clenches her hands trying to catalog the other emotions in her head. Finally, she gives up and just grins until her eyes pinch shut.

Based on the results of more than 15 million telephone votes, the Burleson, Texas, native beat Justin Guarini, the 23-year-old pompom-haired heartthrob from Doylestown, Pa.

An estimated 22.5 million people watched the finale of Fox's "American Idol" Wednesday night, even more at the show's peak when Kelly Clarkson was crowned the nation's latest pop princess.

As expected, the talent show hit its ratings peak with the concluding episode, when it was revealed that viewers had selected the 20-year-old Texan over Justin Guarini, 23, the big-haired heartthrob from Doylestown, Pa.

Clarkson's victory was announced nearly at the end of a two-hour show. The audience swelled to just under 28 million when the announcement was made, Nielsen Media Research said yesterday.

More than 18 million people watched Tuesday night, when the two finalists sang three songs each to try and sway fans.

Clarkson wins a recording contract, and her first single is due to be rushed to the stores later this month.

The contest began with 10,000 entrants vying for a prize that many singers work years for — a recording contract, a professional manager and the opportunity to perform in front of millions of people.

In the early stages, entrants were eliminated by the thousands, then by the dozens until only 10 remained.

Along the way, the Fox series became the television hit of the summer, particularly among young viewers. More than 100 million votes were cast over the course of the show. More than 18.2 million people watched Tuesday as Clarkson and Guarini engaged in their final battle of the power ballads.

Wednesday's two-hour finale featured a duet of "It Takes Two" between the pair, and medleys of various 1960s hits and Motown songs from all 10 of the finalists.

Clarkson choked back tears as she roared out the song "A Moment Like This" after being selected the winner. "That was hard," she said backstage. "I had to put on my actress mode and think of something else to get through it."

Guarini, who hugged her after losing, said he became good friends with Clarkson during their work on the show and felt she generally performed better than he did.

"Kelly Clarkson deserves it," he said backstage. "I ...I ... I can't sing those songs nearly as good as she can."

All three of the show's judges — singer Paula Abdul and producers Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell — agreed Clarkson was the most deserving.

Record deal, Las Vegas-bound

The Texas cocktail waitress, who is now signed with RCA Records and managed by 19 Management, said she and Guarini are planning to write a song together and sing it as a duet for her as-yet-untitled album, which is set for release Nov. 26.

She will also join the show's 30 finalists for a live performance in Las Vegas on Sept. 23, and expects to tour with the group while recording her new songs.

"How crazy is that?" she asked.

Clarkson recorded the song "Before Your Love" last Saturday, which will debut as a single Sept. 17. Guarini also recorded the song, but only the winner's will be released.

Other finalists may also get recording deals, but they have agreed not to release music until a period after the winner's album is in stores.

Will Young, who won the British version of "American Idol," sold more than 1 million copies of his first single.

A sequel to the show is expected on Fox this winter, but producers have yet to decide whether it will have a different format. Nigel Lythgoe, co-executive producer of "American Idol," said he wasn't sure whether the panel of judges would change.

Cowell created legions of fans and detractors by playing the villain, often humiliating contestants with his bored attitude and