Turned out the plumber had the best pipes. Although one judge said he looked like a hobbit, Norway's Kurt Nilsen won international musical bragging rights as the top vote-getter on ''World Idol.'' America's Kelly Clarkson, who had been the early favorite, finished second; she scored 97 out of a possible 112 points, while Nilsen earned 106 points. Now she knows how Justin Guarini feels.
Nilsen, a gap-toothed 25-year-old former plumber, wowed the international judges with his Christmas Day rendition of U2's ''Beautiful Day,'' but Australian judge Ian Dickson (apparently channeling Simon Cowell) told him, ''You have the voice of an angel and the face of a hobbit. If they had a Middle-earth Idol, you'd be it.'' Finishing third was Belgian Peter Everard, who sang Nirvana's ''Lithium'' (''Kurt Cobain's worst nightmare,'' opined Cowell).
Nilsen's victory was not a Nielsen victory. According to the ratings service, only 7.7 million viewers tuned in to Fox to watch the competition's finale on Thursday, a night dominated by ABC's Orange Bowl and Rose Bowl coverage.