Carrie Underwood, Grammy Award Winner, Helps Take American Idol Mainstream

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When Carrie Underwood picked up two Grammy Awards last night, she underscored the growing impact of the TV talent show that tracks the rise and fall of musical wannabes on U.S. pop culture.

Underwood, the American Idol Season 4 champion, took home the Grammy for best female country vocal performance and best new artist becoming the latest in a growing list of Idol winners to score the music industry's most valued prize.

Carrie Underwood at the Grammys
"This is my first Grammy, hopefully, the first of a few more," Carrie said.

In accepting her Grammy, she thanked God and Simon Cowell, along with various others including record mogul Clive Davis.

Underwood's single, "Jesus, Take the Wheel" also earned a Grammy for Best Country Song, a songwriter's award. The songwriters were Brett James, Hillary Lindsey and Gordie Sampson.

Kelly Clarkson, American Idol's first winner, took home two Grammys in 2006, while another winner, Fantasia Barrino, scored four Grammy nominations in 2006 and winner Ruben Studdard also received one nomination at the 2004 Grammys.

On the big screen, of course, Jennifer Hudson took home a Golden Globe for her role in the film Dreamgirls and is up for an Oscar for the same performance.

The Grammys even stole a page from American Idol this year: the awards show ran an Idol-like contest to choose a singer to perform a duet with Justin Timberlake on Sunday's telecast.

"We thought we could try a new and fresh element that would speak to the world about the next generation of undiscovered young talent," Neil Pornow, president of the Recording Academy, which hands out the Grammys, told Reuters in a recent interview.

Matt Richenthal is the Editor in Chief of TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter and on Google+.