Either way, a teenage country singer was going to take home the season 10 "American Idol" crown Wednesday night (May 25), it was just a matter of whether it was Scotty McCreery or Lauren Alaina.
After Tuesday night's final performance episode, Fox announced that more than 122 million votes poured in, marking a new record in "Idol" history, bringing the season total to more than 730 million votes. And while Scotty looked like the unbeatable favorite, there was some doubt going into the finale, thanks to Lauren's gutsy performance just 24 hours before and her knockout delivery of what could have been her "Idol" coronation tune, "Like My Mother Does."
Two hours into the final show, Seacrest finally got the golden envelope, and McCreery and Alaina gave each other a playful, youthful shove in anticipation of the news. To almost no one's surprise, the name inside was Scotty's, and the Garner, North Carolina, baseball star and church choir member burst into tears, bending over with his hands on his knees as the giant screen behind him flashed "Scotty Wins!"
A smiling Alaina gave him a warm kiss, and the two pals embraced as judge Jennifer Lopez walked over to present a microphone-shaped trophy to the 17-year-old country crooner who never wavered from his signature, deep-voiced delivery throughout the competition. The rest of the season's finalists engulfed Scotty in a group hug as Seacrest brought him center stage and raised his hand like a boxing champ after a 12-round brawl to end it all.
"It's been a year since me and Lauren Alaina tried out, and me and her have been together since day one and we're gonna stay together. ... Never in my wildest dreams," said a shell-shocked McCreery. "I gotta thank the Lord first, he got me here."
Handing the platinum microphone off to James Durbin, McCreery moseyed out to the audience to hug his folks and his family (but not disappointed actor Jack Black), as he sang his coronation tune, "I Love You This Big," stopping along the way to hug each finalist and tell them he loved them while sparks and confetti rained down on his big moment.
As the song ended, he crumpled into a heap center stage for a good cry and then a few more embraces for the rest of the cast.
The performance-packed two-hour finale opened with the season's top 13 -- dressed in white and silver lamé -- taking a peppy, Broadway jukebox musical-style run at Lady Gaga's "Born This Way."
Speaking of Gaga, Mother Monster returned to the "Idol" stage for a surprisingly sedate performance of "The Edge of Glory." Standing at the top of a rocky crag while wearing an elaborate diamond-shaped headdress and black cape that she tossed aside to reveal a metal-studded leather bikini, Gaga mostly stood in place until a male dancer approached to engage her in a hip-to-hip ballet interlude that ended with a lover's leap.
He wanted to bring metal back, and fourth-place finisher James Durbin got his chance. Slipping into some studded metal duds to rock the stage with hard-rock legends Judas Priest on their classics "Living After Midnight" and "Breaking the Law," Durbin traded snarling vocals with singer Rob Halford and unleashed some of his signature rebel howls to the likely confusion of many in the audience and at home.
Jacob Lusk hooked up with gospel great Kirk Franklin and R&B legend Gladys Knight for Franklin's sanctified "I Smile"; bearded lover-man Casey Abrams threw down with "Kung Fu Panda 2" star Black on a greasy, scat-tastic romp through Queen's "Fat Bottomed Girls"; and the ladies of "Idol" (minus Lauren) did a sassy medley of Beyoncé songs, including "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)," "Irreplaceable," "Get Me Bodied" and "If I Were a Boy."
Things were seeming a bit long until B herself showed up to show the girls how it's done, with a fierce, heel-stomping "Crazy in Love." Queen B got another chance a bit later, debuting her emotional new ballad "1+1," from her upcoming album 4.
With composers Bono and The Edge in tow, Reeve Carney, star of the troubled Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark," sang the meditative beat-rock ballad "Rise Above," capably trading vocals with the Irish rock icon in a pleading voice that was eerily reminiscent of Bono's own plaintive wail.
The top 13 guys also got a chance, singing Prince's "Kiss," which allowed Stefano Langone to break out his squeaky falsetto and Paul McDonald to do his scarecrow dance once more for Tom Jones' "She's a Lady," before Sir Jones himself came out to bring it home with "It's Not Unusual."
Haley Reinhart got to show off her jazz roots during a duet with musical icon Tony Bennett on a finger-snappin' "Steppin' Out," which included a bit of soft-shoe and fancy dance moves from the duo. One of the night's biggest surprises was the reunion of the two remaining members of 1990s girl group TLC with rapper Lil Jon and the top 13 girls for "Scrubs" and "Waterfalls."
Finally, it was time for McCreery to get the spotlight, sharing a microphone and holding his own with Tim McGraw on "Live Like You Were Dying." Also getting a chance to shine after mentoring the "Idol" contestants behind-the-scenes all season was Latin star Marc Anthony, who brought some salsa fire with "Aguanile," during which he was joined by wife Lopez, who showed off her dancing assets during a Sheila E. timbale breakdown.
In keeping with the judges' sharp use of the biggest platform in TV to plug themselves, Steven Tyler took the spotlight to sing an abbreviated version of Aerosmith's "Dream On," though, curiously, not his new debut solo single.
Alaina also got her time to shine, singing a grinding version of Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats," with a California-beach-babe-looking Underwood sauntering out to trade sassy verses, with the two Southern gals making beautiful music together.
And so season 10 ended with the coronation of the first country "Idol" winner since season four's Underwood, who just happens to be the biggest star in the show's history. So Scotty's got that going for him.
Don't miss a special edition of "Idol Party Live" Thursday at noon on MTV.com for analysis, finale red-carpet coverage and the last "Idol in 60 Seconds" of season 10. Get in the conversation by tweeting with the hashtag #idolparty! In the meantime, get your "Idol" fix on MTV News' "American Idol" page, where you'll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.