This is it, America. American Idol, the biggest show of the first part of the millennium, is over. And it said goodbye with a finale bursting at the seams with past Idols. It was a veritable parade of "Oh, I remember her" and "Hey, it's that guy!" Fifty contestants from all 15 seasons performed, with dozens of songs combined into medleys. There were tears, there were surprises (Simon!) and "Pants on the Ground" guy showed up. It was a fittingly grand, nostalgic, excessive and inspiring.
And it wasn't just a retrospective. Finalists Trent Harmon and La'Porsha were gone for most of the show, until they had to crown the last American Idol: Trent Harmon!
Trent was overcome with emotion and couldn't let go of La'Porsha, and then he immediately had to launch into his victory song "Falling." The rest of the season's Top 10 joined him, and they all seemed thrilled for him. He worked so hard to get here. Remember when he had mono? Congratulations, Trent!
There was really, truly too much (50 singers!) to encapsulate everything that happened in the two-hour extravaganza, but here are the highlights.
President Obama getting out the vote
In a pre-taped segment, President Obama basically said, "You all did so much voting in American Idol. Please redirect some of that energy toward voting in the presidential election." So yeah, don't forget to register to vote! What if it was possible to vote in elections via text? That would be both amazing and pretty scary.
Everybody singing with "One Voice"
The first number of the night had everyone come dressed in white, singing Barry Manilow's "One Voice." Seeing all that accomplishment in one place was a major goosebump moment.
What's up, Brian Dunkleman?
If you recall, the first season of American Idol was co-hosted by Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman. Ryan Seacrest became a cultural institution, and Dunkleman...didn't. He showed up to poke fun at his footnote status and congratulate Seacrest on doing such a good job without him.
During the first of the show's many medleys, Season 1 runner-up Justin Guarini was there, and I didn't recognize him without his signature curls. It shouldn't have been a surprise to see him, but it was.
Kelly Clarkson's medley
Kelly Clarkson couldn't be there for the finale because she's too pregnant, but she recorded a medley of her vast catalog of hits during her appearance earlier in the season. It started with her first post-Idol single "Miss Independent" and ended with her Idol victory song, "A Moment Like This."
Keith Urban and Carrie Underwood's duet
Kelly Clarkson couldn't be there, but American Idol's other true superstar graduate made up for it. She performed twice: solo before the winner was announced with her song "Something In the Water" and a duet with judge Keith Urban on Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty's "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around." It was a total surprise coming from the country singers, and it was the single best performance of the whole night. Plus, Carrie Underwood looked incredible, like a glam-Spartan.
During a medley featuring, I guess, good singers -- the theme was unclear -- Season 2 runner-up and former Congressional candidate Clay Aiken showed up. It was a surprise, because Clay Aiken harshly dissed the show in January. But I guess it's water under the bridge. Also, if you need just one piece of evidence of American Idol's cultural importance, a guy who didn't win used it to launch his political career that wouldn't peak for another dozen years. You can't make this stuff up.
Jennifer Lopez performs
J.Lo debuted a new single, "Ain't Your Mama," and then played her classic salsa song "Let's Get Loud." Her booty shaking almost broke the show.
The Three Divas, reunited
Season 3's breakout stars Fantasia, Jennifer Hudson and LaToya London sang a gorgeous, a cappella version of Simon and Garfunkel's "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Jennifer Hudson got robbed then, but Fantasia's solo performance reminded me why she won in the first place.
Rupert Murdoch and Jerry Hall!
There was a blink-and-you-miss-it crowd shot of retired Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch and his new wife Jerry Hall. I was not expecting these newlyweds to be there! It's hard to get used to the idea that they're married!
La'Porsha's baby trying to steal the mic from Ryan Seacrest
While Ryan Seacrest was interviewing La'Porsha's mother, her infant daughter kept trying to touch Seacrest's microphone. She was completely transfixed, and her insistence on grabbing it almost derailed the show. It was an amazing reminder that even the most carefully planned and expensive production can be disrupted by the simplest, dumbest thing. Never forget that so much of American Idol was live.
Randy Jackson! Paula Abdul! SIMON COWELL!
At 9:39, original Idol judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul came out to say their goodbyes. As they were about to talk about why third OG judge Simon Cowell couldn't be there, the man America loved to hate came strolling out, genuinely surprising Randy and Paula. "Thank you, America, for inviting us into your homes," he said. Seeing the three classic era judges together really brought home that this is the end.
And it wouldn't have been a proper American Idol goodbye without William Hung singing "She Bangs." Hung was a meme before memes. God bless him.
"Goodnight, America...for now."
American Idol is dead. Long live American Idol. See you again in a couple of years on a different network.