TV show produces Britain's new pop idol

— Britain's latest pop idol has never made a video and has yet to release a record.

But 23-year-old Will Young is the latest object of Britain's love affair with manufactured pop.

On Saturday night, Young won "Pop Idol," a reality-television quest for a new singing star that has transfixed millions of TV viewers.

Almost 9 million people voted by telephone poll in Saturday's final between fresh-faced Young and 17-year-old Gareth Gates, whose battle to overcome a stutter endeared him to many viewers.

After listening to Gates belt out the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody" and Young sing The Doors' "Light My Fire," viewers chose Young by a narrow margin.

"I just cannot get my head 'round it to be honest," Young told ITV television after his victory.

"I am absolutely ecstatic. It's something I have always wanted to do, and throughout this competition it's just felt more and more right to sing. I am really ready for it."

"Pop Idol" attracted about 10 million viewers a week during its 18-week run, in a country of 58 million. Millions phoned in to vote as a field of thousands of entrants was whittled down from 50 finalists who had to perform before a panel of music-industry judges.

Along the way, "Pop Idol" produced a host of instant celebrities, including Rik Waller � whose soulful voice led pundits to predict stardom even though he was told by a judge he was "too fat to be an idol" � and Darius Danesh, a flamboyant Scot who made it to the final three contestants.

Both Young and runner-up Gates have been given contracts with RCA Records' Simon Cowell, one of the program's judges.

Young's first single, "Evergreen," is already in production, Cowell said.

The show's makers hope Young will match the success of Hear'Say, the band created by last year's "Popstars" series. Their first single, "Pure and Simple," topped the charts � though subsequent records have fared less well.

"The show will undoubtedly be an incredible launch pad for a surefire number one," said Emma Jones, editor of Smash Hits magazine.


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