Mario Anzuoni / Reuters
Finalists Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez on the season finale.
“American Idol” voters sure love guys with guitars. Phillip Phillips continued the dominance of the guys on the show, winning the season 11 title and the million-dollar recording contract that goes with it. The normally laid-back singer was overwhelmed when host Ryan Seacrest announced the results, breaking down midway through his performance of “Home” and leaving the stage to hug his parents.
It was a rare misstep for the former pawn shop worker from Georgia, who was never announced as one of the lowest vote-getters at any point. Though his voice lacked the power and range of some of the other finalists and he battled health problems throughout the season, he was the most contemporary of the contenders and should have a big seller with that first single.
Jessica Sanchez finished second, continuing an “Idol” trend. No woman has won the show since Jordin Sparks in season six, and if the folks behind the show want to change that next year, they should probably avoid selecting the same types of singers to compete each season.
The two-hour, seven-minute finale took its time getting to that final envelope, with the decision made by a record 132 million votes. The show used some of those 127 minutes to make fun of the judges (though it largely spared the contestants, except for one early audition montage), and there were the usual live performances featuring selected contestants sharing the stage with music legends.
Phillip sang with John Fogerty, breaking out the Creedence Clearwater Revival hits “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” and “Bad Moon Rising.” If the post-"Idol" career doesn’t go as expected for the new champ, he’s got a future in a CCR or Dave Matthews cover band for sure.
Jessica, meanwhile, got original "Dreamgirl" Jennifer Holliday for “I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” It was one of the best performances of the season, though sadly for Jessica it came after the votes were already counted.
In addition, Joshua Ledet sang with “the biggest inspiration of my life,” season three champion Fantasia Barrino, a duet that likely shattered glass throughout the greater Los Angeles area. Skylar Laine got Reba McEntire as her partner, and Hollie Cavanagh sang with Jordin Sparks.
For the group numbers, Chaka Khan came onstage with the women, while the legendary Neil Diamond joined the men and thrilled Red Sox fans everywhere by performing “Sweet Caroline.”
And that’s not all! Viewers saw the first “Idol” proposal in history, as Diana DeGarmo (season three finalist) said yes to Ace Young (season five seventh-place finisher). There was also a Bee Gees tribute from the “Idol” guys, and Rihanna performed without a wardrobe malfunction or lyrics that caused the Fox censors to faint with worry. Jane Lynch was also spotted rocking out in the stands to the Chaka Khan set. Maybe there’s a “Glee” guest appearance in her future.
Other notable moments in the finale:
- Ford did wind up giving Phillip a car despite his bailing on most of the promotional videos. Also getting new wheels were Jessica, Phillip’s brother-in-law and Jessica’s family friend/music mentor. However, Ford did not pull an Oprah and give everyone in the audience a car.
- The “Idol” finalists showed that you can sing the phone book, as Randy Jackson always says, but it’s not exactly something that cries out for an iTunes download.
- “Idol” showed that it can indeed survive without J.Lo as a judge, as she was absent for a good portion of the broadcast to get ready for her two-song set.
- Steven Tyler also took the stage along with Aerosmith for two tunes. Apparently, Randy, who was the only judge not to perform, doesn't have much pull with his former bandmates. Those Journey days must seem like they happened a very long time ago. Oh, wait. They did.
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