LOS ANGELES (AP) – Carrie Underwood, the country sweetheart who beguiled national TV audiences with her strong voice and bright smile, is this year’s “American Idol,” defeating Southern rocker Bo Bice in the show’s finale Wednesday night.

The Oklahoma native received more viewer votes than runner-up Bice, of Alabama, after Tuesday’s final round, snaring the title and a record contract.

Underwood, a 22-year-old college senior, became the talk of her hometown of Checotah – and the choice of fourth-season “Idol” voters – as she delivered almost uniformly consistent performances each week.

She couldn’t compete with rock ‘n’ roller Bice on his style of music (“I’m not sure I’m loving the rocked-out Carrie,” judge Randy Jackson said after one attempt) but shone on her favorite genre, country.

On a show used to controversy, this season brought a doozy with ex-contestant Corey Clark’s allegation of an affair with judge Paula Abdul, which she denies. “American Idol,” however, remained a ratings leader.

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