It's been one amazing season, with many surprises and twists. To say I was shocked that David Archuleta didn't take the "American Idol" 2008 crown is an understatement. I nearly fell off the couch.

However, David Cook is certainly talented and unique enough to be a very deserving winner. Rumor has it that they've both been offered deals — no surprise there! Really, the only thing Archuleta is missing out on is the title itself (and a few extra songs on tour).

Like Clay Aiken, runner-up for Season 2, Archuleta is every bit as popular as the winner and has nothing to be bummed about. In fact, this could actually work toward his advantage.

Archuleta can now do one of two things: He can choose to go with his own label in his own direction (I'm sure he'll have his pick — I've even heard a rumor Disney has approached him) or sign on with Clive Davis at RCA like Aiken and Blake Lewis (last year's runner-up) did. If RCA picks him up, he'll be well-promoted and taken care of.

He'll be in good company. The label is home to several other "Idol" contestants (Chris Daughtry, Kelly Clarkson, Fantasia Barrino, Blake Lewis, Aiken, Jordin Sparks and Carrie Underwood), half of which were winners, half of which were not, but all have had great success at the label.

If Archuleta chooses to go with another label, as Kelly Pickler of Season 5 did (she's with BNA Nashville, a sister record company to RCA), or Josh Gracin of Season 2 (Lyric Street Records), he'll also be in a good position. Not only do the other labels want to compete with RCA in selling records, sometimes the independent labels have more time and money available to spend on individual artists.

Both Gracin and Pickler are on major labels and have had gold-selling records and have had top 20 hits on the Billboard charts. Gracin has had three songs hit the top 5 and a No. 1 single, "Nothin' to Lose."

Obviously, they've both been able to stay in the public eye several years after their seasons ended and have had very successful careers. Either way, because of the popularity of Archuleta, he'll be able to build successfully a career with — or without — the help of the RCA label.

I'm really happy for Cook. I didn't think he needed the show to win because of his talent and experience. But now he has a great opportunity to be the first-ever rock singer to have won the show. I think he'll put out a very genuine album and that the fans will love it.

He is original, creative and innovative. I don't think he was a wrong choice to win.

I did find it interesting that the judges were so hard on Cook Tuesday night (although I did agree with most of what they said) only to turn around and have Simon Cowell apologize on Wednesday just in time for the results to show that he had won.

"I want to take this opportunity to apologize (to Cook). Last night I think I was verging on disrespectful with you, and you don't deserve that."

Simon then went on to congratulate them both. "What I like about both of you is that you're both triers. For the first time ever, I don't really care who wins, I think you've both done terrific."

For the most part, although basically all of us here in Utah (and beyond) were rooting for Archuleta to win, I agree with Cowell's remarks. It truly doesn't matter with two incredibly talented people like Archuleta and Cook. They've already proved themselves. The sky is now the limit.

I've truly enjoyed writing these columns week to week. It's been fun to recall past stories and experiences. "American Idol" brings out so many different emotions, even to past contestants.

Thanks for letting me share my feelings and opinions and for all of the great supporters who have encouraged and complimented me through this new process. I've learned quite a bit and am so grateful for this opportunity. Thank you, fans, and thank you Deseret News! For "American Idol," Season 7, this is Carmen Rasmusen-Herbert signing off.

Utah recording artist and actress Carmen Rasmusen-Herbert came in sixth place during the second season of "American Idol." She wrote about her experiences in her book, "Staying in Tune." Her first full album is "Nothin' Like the Summer," featuring the single of the same name.

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