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American Idol winner announced

The 2012 winner of the American Idol contest was announced.

American Idol finalists Phillip Phillps and Jessica Sanchez. Picture: AFP
American Idol
Entertainment Lifestyle

LOS ANGELES - Indie artist Phillip Phillips won American Idol on Wednesday, becoming the fifth male singer in a row to take the title and a guaranteed recording contract.

The 21-year-old guitar player from Georgia, who brought an indie vibe to the top-rated TV contest, beat ballad singer Jessica Sanchez, 16, of California in the public vote.

American Idol host Ryan Seacrest said a world record 132 million votes were cast by phone, text and online for the two finalists.

The winner was announced at the end of a two-hour finale on Wednesday featuring performances by Rihanna, Neil Diamond, Reba McEntire as well as Idol judge Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler's band Aerosmith, which closed the show by going back to their hard rock roots with the 1976 classic Walk This Way.

Phillips looked stunned as Seacrest announced his name, and could not finish his performance of his new single Home as he fought back tears. Instead, he unstrapped his guitar and with eyes brimming walked off the stage to hug his family in the front row of the audience.

Sanchez, bidding to become the youngest ever winner of American Idol, was thought to have the edge after dominating social media and Twitter mentions in the last few days.

But Phillips' goofball humor and individual style earned him a large, young female fan base, and he had never appeared in the bottom three in public votes during earlier stage of the Fox TV show.

The Idol judges also raved over his singing at Tuesday night's performance show finale of what will now be his first single - the folk-rock ballad Home.

American Idol launched the careers of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert - who on Wednesday scored his first No. 1 album with his second disc Trespassing.

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