Jordin Sparks Is 'American Idol's' Teen Queen

By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, May 24, 2007

Jordin Sparks, the perky 17-year-old high school student from Glendale, Ariz., won the sixth round of "American Idol" last night, beating out 11 other finalists, including several who were better singers, but none with her winning package of big voice, big smile and teetering-on-womanhood.

Did we mention she's only 17, as the show's three judges reminded viewers at every possible moment in the four-month-long competition? That makes her the youngest "Idol" winner ever.

Sparks defeated Blake Lewis, the Beat-box Boy from Bothell, Wash., whose utter detachment from the rituals of the competition had to have given the "Idol" producers and the Fox network the vapors as he worked his way to the final two.

Sparks was the perfect contestant for this season of "Idol" as the show evolved from youth-market sensation to family-viewing experience. During taped interviews this season, Sparks wanted the audience to know how happy she is to come from an undivorced, intact family, and that she has been keeping up her grades (all A's and B's!) as she continued her schooling during the months of competition.

Her singing and song choices were made for family viewing as well. Sparks's breakout moment came during Diana Ross week sitting demurely on the stage, singing "If We Hold on Together" from "The Land Before Time," which judge Simon Cowell, generally supportive of Sparks, was moved to call "pageanty" and not just for her vocal style but for her floor-length prom dress.

Sparks's vocal style is straightforward -- clear tones, punctuated at moments of peak emotion by tantrum-y arm flings, raising some doubts whether she was singing about lost love or a lost American Girl doll. But her voice is undeniably big and pop-ready, though perhaps not yet deserving of the high praise heaped on her by celebrity guest coach Barry Gibb, who said that, at 17, "she is going to be, I think, one of our greatest female recording artists."

Sparks's win was practically a foregone conclusion when, during Tuesday's final performance show, she nailed the traditional "American Idol" Treacle Tune, specially written to be the first single released by the winner.

Blake, who had made one of the quirkiest, almost-hip runs ever at an "American Idol" championship, petered out in his performance of the song "This Is My Now," which, given the image he's so carefully cultivating, is probably just as well. When Sparks was announced as the winner, Lewis was utterly gracious -- and looked relieved.

The "Idol" producers having at long last cleared Beatles tunes, the two finalists had kicked off last night's finale singing "I Saw Her Standing There":

She was just 17

You know what I mean

And the way she looked

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