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‘American Idol’ finale: There’s still no beating Kelly Clarkson

The original Three Divas -- Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell -- reunite for the finale of "American Idol."

The original Three Divas -- Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell -- reunite for the finale of “American Idol.”

(Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images)

The president offered his thanks, Brian Dunkleman forgave Ryan Seacrest, JLo reminded everyone how it’s done, and Simon Cowell and his chest hair were once again reunited with Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul.

Oh, and in a big upset, Trent Harmon won the thing.

But even in the 15th and final finale of “American Idol,” it was tough to beat Kelly Clarkson.

See the most-read stories in Entertainment this hour >>

The competition’s first winner was one of the few famous Idols who did not appear live at the Dolby Theater for the blow-out farewell; as Seacrest explained, she is closing in on the due date for her second child. She did, however, manage to tape a mini-concert of her biggest hits when she visited the show in February. Which, for reasons of their own, the producers chose to run early in the finale even though it could easily have been one of the climactic numbers.

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Many have said, with a regularity that borders on mania, that no other winner embodies the inner grit, eternal enthusiasm and musical passion of the “American Idol” ethos better than Clarkson, and Thursday night’s medley offered final and fabulous proof.

Never mind the litany of hit songs with which Clarkson proved that winning a talent competition really could launch a legitimate and long-lasting career. Never mind her still stunningly powerful voice or the moving rendition of her Season One signature, “A Moment Like This.”

What was truly amazing was that she did it all pregnant. Not just a little pregnant, a lot pregnant.

Do you know how hard it is to breathe when you’re that pregnant? How hot you get anyway, even without the form-fitting black dress and relentless stage lights?

But there Clarkson stood, in high heels, belting out song after song, a musical mother goddess with enough self-deprecating sass to tweet, during the performance: “Who’s that sweaty, pregnant girl singing? Oh snap, that’s me hahaha.”

Which is pretty much “American Idol” in a nutshell: Sing big, own your brand and leverage social media.

Even for those of who stopped watching “Idol” years ago, the finale was worth watching for Clarkson alone.

But there were plenty of other amazing moments too. Opening with President Obama’s masterful pivot from the importance of “Idol” to the importance of voting in November, the finale was essentially “American Idol’s Greatest Hits,” two hours filled with strong and varied performances from stellar fan favorites, from Pia Toscano and Jordin Sparks to the goofy “pants on the ground guy” and William Hung.

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FOR THE RECORD

April 8, 2:16 p.m.: An earlier version of this article misspelled William Hung’s last name as Huang.

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Keith Urban teamed up with Carrie Underwood, Katharine McPhee showed up blond, the Three Divas —Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia and LaToya London — amazed (and Fantasia continued her personal style revolution) and a group of male “Idol Rockers,” including Caleb Johnson, James Durbin and Chris Daughtry brought down the house.

For once “Idol” seemed all about the music (as opposed to all the sappy back-story, back-stage stuff), but the show’s other in-house celebrities had their moments as well. As Seacrest attempted to open the show, he was interrupted by his original co-host, Dunkleman, finally forgiving him for elbowing him off the show.

But the big reunion came late in the game. Original judges Jackson and Abdul came out on stage grumbling about Cowell, who then appeared, amid thunderous applause, to make a lame joke about how Paula had been the mean one. Thus proving, once and for all, that it was the actual unscripted moments that made that particular trinity work for so long.

Even for those of us unable to name every performer and his or her season, it was a splendid end to a significant show. More important, with tweets flying like they did in the good old days, #Idolfinale beat #Scandal three to one.

As Clarkson proved, though the due date is near, the original can still bring it.

mary.mcnamara@latimes.com

Follow me @MaryMacTV

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