May 18, 2006 at 11:45 AM EST - Updated July 1 at 5:50 PM
The record-setting fifth season of AMERICAN IDOL came to a spectacular conclusion as Taylor Hicks was crowned the winner during the live two-hour season finale on FOX. Hicks, 29, from Birmingham, AL, emerged as America's choice in a competition that began with tens of thousands of hopefuls who auditioned in San Francisco, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Greensboro, Las Vegas and Denver. Over the course of the season, viewers cast approximately 580 million votes in support of their favorite contestants.
Superstar singer/songwriter Prince made a surprise appearance on the grand finale, performing two songs from his new album "3121" - "Lolita" and "Satisfied." The show also featured the Top 12 AMERICAN IDOL contestants performing with guest artists Clay Aiken, Burt Bacharach, Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, Al Jarreau, Live, Meat Loaf and Dionne Warwick. Last season's winner, Carrie Underwood, took the stage for the last time as the reigning American Idol, performing "Don't Forget to Remember Me." Among their multiple performances, McPhee sang "It's All Coming Back to Me Now" with legendary singer Meat Loaf, and Hicks was joined by Toni Braxton on "In the Ghetto."
Hicks is the fifth American Idol to be crowned, joining Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia and Carrie Underwood as winners of the coveted title, a major recording contract and a management contract.