‘American Idol’ 2013 winner: Candice Glover defeats Kree Harrison

Third time’s a charm.

Candice Glover, 23, took home the Season 12 title on “American Idol” tonight, out-dueling budding country star Kree Harrison for a victory well-deserved. The sweet South Carolina girl with the powerhouse chops becomes the first female “Idol” winner since Jordin Sparks won Season 6 in 2007.

Candice, an “Idol” veteran auditioning for a third time, was a huge judges’ favorite from wire to wire this season. Her Hollywood and Las Vegas performances were great and all, but once the Top 10 came around, the girl with the monster voice really let it all out.

Candice had a slew of show-stopping, awe-inspiring, stand-up-and-cheer moments this season, but a few that shine brighter than the rest include incredible versions of Ben E. King’s “I (who have Nothing),” West Side Story’s “Somewhere” and the now-“Idol” classic “Love Song” by the Cure.

And her showings in Wednesday night’s finale at the Nokia Theater sealed the deal. Her brand new single, “I am Beautiful,” was a powerful pop ballad and her revamped “I (who have Nothing)” was as show-stopping and strong as Candice has ever been.

american-idol-2013-winner-candice-glover-kree-harrison.JPGCandice Glover was named the winner of “American Idol” tonight at the conclusion of the two-hour Season 12 finale. She defeated Kree Harrison.FOX

As the confetti begins to settle and Candice finally stops crying, one thing becomes clear — this was the right choice. This was always the right choice.

Candice was undoubtedly the strongest vocalist of the season, combining a unique tone with a seasoned rasp to pump out world-class performances one after another. There was also a fantastic old-fashioned catch in Candice’s voice that allowed her to dominate the classic songs during the older theme weeks. And her falsetto was top-notch.

In other words, Candice was pretty much the whole “Idol” package.

About a month ago, Candice seemed to plateau just a little, but from audition to finale, the Beaufort native had this in the bag. Yes, there was the shocker last week when fellow frontrunner Angie Miller went home, but if it was meant to be, Angie would have been on that stage with her family and friends instead.

For Kree, who turns 23 in two hours, second place should still be a very welcome birthday present. She’s a great singer, has a beautiful effortlessness about her and will do well in the country music world.

As for Candice, she will have to carve out a more unique niche for herself to be truly successful in the real world. She has a terrific voice, but her image may not be strong enough to stand out. Let’s hope her voice does the talking, as it did for the last 5 months.

By Bobby Olivier/The Star-Ledger