One way or another, youth was going to be served on American Idol Wednesday night.

In a result that has seemed preordained for months, Scotty McCreery, the 17-year-old with the surprisingly deep and resonant voice, was revealed as the newest Idol at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

It was an unusual climax to a season in which the Fox show saw significant changes after the departure of hanging judge Simon Cowell.

More than 100,000 hopefuls were winnowed down to two adolescents from Southern towns so small, their fan rallies moved to nearby cities.

McCreery is from Garner, N.C. The other finalist, Lauren Alaina, 16, is from Rossville, Ga. It's the first time that the finals have come down to two singers both rooted squarely in the country genre. It's the second time, after Jordin Sparks, that a 17-year-old has won.

McCreery made an impression from the beginning when that sturdy, Randy Travis-like baritone emerged from his reedy body.

His distinctive but limited style would probably not have survived in previous seasons when versatility was rewarded more than originality.

Alaina never quite lived up to the potential she showed in her first audition, when she dueted with judge Steven Tyler. But despite obviously suffering from nerves all season, she showed tenacity in making it to the top two.

The two-hour finale had less excitement than in previous years. It felt more like a telethon that had been hastily slapped together.

There was a markedly mercenary air to the evening. Spend an afternoon as a mentor at some point in the season, you're guaranteed a performance slot (or two) in the finale.

The appearance by Bono and the Edge to promote their troubled Broadway musical, Spider-Man, was awkward and obtrusive.

As usual, the finale had more commercials than content. But none was as obnoxious as the ultralong promotion for Ford vehicles built right into the show.

The announcement of the winner seemed almost an afterthought. There wasn't much suspense in waiting for the results.

Scotty stood out from the crowd of contestants from the start. In a climate of diminishing success for Idol winners, he may be different enough and talented enough to make a lasting mark on the music industry.

Contact staff writer David Hiltbrand
at 215-854-4552 or dhiltbrand@phillynews.com.
Read his pop-culture blog at www.philly.com/dod.