A prematurely grey soul singer from Alabama who was once likened to a drunken dad at a wedding triumphed in the American Idol finale, which drew more votes than have ever been cast for a president in a US election.
Taylor Hicks, 29, emerged as the winner in the finale of the TV show on Wednesday night in which 63m votes were cast. It is the biggest single voting night in the five-season history of the show. In the 1984 US presidential election, 54.5 million voters backed Ronald Reagan – the most votes obtained by a president. British viewers can watch the show tonight on ITV2.
Hicks had been dismissed by the British judge Simon Cowell as a no-hoper; at one point, Cowell compared his stage-stomping to the antics of a drunken father taking an ill-advised turn on the dancefloor.
"Thank you, America, I’m living the American Dream," he said after beating fellow finalist Katharine McPhee: "I’m heading to the studio as quickly as I can. But I’ll take a few days off to clear my head." Hicks, the latest in a string of southern and midwestern contestants to win the contest, is rewarded with a recording contract and a new car.
The show’s fifth and best-rated edition yet took a leap in stature when Prince, Mary J Blige and other big names performed during the finale. The series has given big boosts to the album sales of pop stars who have appeared on it.