(LOS ANGELES) — Thirty-seven-year-old country singer Tate Stevens beat out a 13-year-old girl and a five-member girl group to be crowned the winner of the second season of The X Factor on Fox Thursday night.
Stevens, a former highway worker from Belton, Mo., wins a $5 million recording contract. He was part of the Over 25s category that was mentored this past season by judge L.A. Reid.
Carly Rose Sonenclar, 13, finished second. She was mentored in the Teens category by Britney Spears. The all-girl group Fifth Harmony, mentored by Simon Cowell, came in third place. The results were decided by a nationwide vote, following the final live performances on Wednesday.
Stevens is a husband and father who began performing at the age of 4 when he hopped onstage with his own father, who was a big influence on him. Stevens later hit the road right out of high school with his band, the Dixie Cadillacs, which opened for many of today’s biggest country stars, including Sammy Kershaw.
After his win Thursday, Stevens thanked “the man upstairs,” his family and all the country music fans. Stevens looked visibly moved when he declared, “This is the best day of my life.”
It was also a satisfying win for mentor L.A. Reid, who had been hesitant about handling the Over 25s category. Reid recently announced he would not be returning to The X Factor judging table next season.
Runner-up Sonenclar lives in Westchester County, N.Y., and has been singing since the age of 2. She has performed at the Birdland Jazz Club in New York and writes her own songs.
Here’s a rundown of some of Thursday’s special performances:
— The evening featured guest performances from Pitbull, who sang “Don’t Stop the Party,” and One Direction, who performed “Kiss You.”
— The final three acts performed at various times throughout the evening. As they emerged from a line of limousines onto the red carpet, they sang “All You Need Is Love,” by The Beatles, while making their way into the studio. There, they were greeted by other season two favorites.
— Getting into the festive spirit, Stevens sang “Please Come Home for Christmas,” originally sung by Charles Brown. Fifth Harmony performed a version of “Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)” by Darlene Love. Sonenclar sang the Mariah Carey holiday song “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”
— Sonenclar and Stevens joined forces to duet on “The Climb,” by Miley Cyrus.
— Stevens finished the night with his victory song, “Tomorrow,” by Chris Young.
The X Factor will return to Fox in 2013.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Brian Stelter, CNN
Jackie Wattles, CNN
Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com