I can not believe I'm saying this because it means this is already the end of May, but last night was the final performance show for American Idol Season 11. Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez each performed their last three contest songs and now we just have to wait a few more hours to see which one will be crowned the champion. In reality it probably won't matter which one is named the "winner" since both will probably have successful careers. It isn't up to Idol anymore. Their careers now rest in the hands of the record label and their own abilities to handle what the labels throw at them. It will all depend on their strength of will to know what is right for themselves. I believe that Phillip has this strength in him already. Jessica, being so young, still has to find this ability. She needs to sing what she knows she can and should, and stop listening to people who are only in it for the money. She needs to listen to things Phillip has said all along. One of my favorite things he told Ryan was that he wasn't worried what others said about him, he just wants to perform. If people like his music he is ok; if they don't, he is ok too.
Yesterday, before the show, I looked back on my comments from this season to see what my first impressions were on the two contestants. Phillip was one of the contestants we saw on the very first audition episode from Savannah. He was the last one shown that day and I loved him from the start. He auditioned with "Superstition" without his guitar which was good, but then he was asked to do something else with the guitar and totally blew away everyone, including me, with "Thriller." Jessica, for some reason, was hidden from us for quite a while. We heard a lot about her on the blogs and around the internet, but Idol didn't let us see her until the Top 70 Vegas rounds. Then she was shown in a group with DeAndre Brackensick and another female singer. She sounded pretty good and definitely powerful. It was just a little taste of things to come.
So, with all of that said, and the finale only a few hours away, here is what I heard and saw on my TV last night.
We start off with a nice introduction telling about the dreams of these contestants and how they can come true if they don't let them slip away.
Enter the judges and Randy is wearing his "Dreamsicle" jacket again.
Ryan asks for his traditional cheer-off for each contestant. Sounds like we have more P2 fans in the audience than JS fans tonight.
Ryan explains we will have three rounds: the producer's choice (Simon Fuller has to have his say), the contestant's favorite performance reprised, and each contestant's "winner's single." (For some reason these songs are usually lame)
Ryan tells us that Phillip won the coin toss and has elected to go second.
Round 1: Producer's choice
Jessica- "I Have Nothing" - Whitney Houston (surprise! a diva ballad)
This song might be too big for this girl tonight. I hope she can handle it.
Jessica doesn't move well in this dress. Only choice is to stand in one spot most of the song. She sounds pretty good. It seemed to be missing something, but not bad for the first one out tonight. She has to be nervous. I hope she has something else planned for her reprise choice instead of another ballad.
Phillip- "Stand By Me"- Ben E King (Really Simon, after the terrible trouncing Joshua got from doing "Imagine" last week you ask Phillip to sing another song associated with Season 7 runner-up and Idol all-time favorite, David Archuleta. Are you trying to do him in, or what?)
Phillip is seated on a bar stool playing his guitar. It's a nice performance. Definitely a P2 twist to it. Very different than David's so I won't even go there on a comparison. (Of course I love the way David sings this some. He means every word of it, and it shows.)
I really don't think Simon Fuller chose the right songs for these two tonight. He wasn't very original in his thinking. At least he didn't pick "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me" for Phillip. That would have totally doomed him.
Judges verdict on round 1: J- "Battle of the opposites." R- Round 1 to Jessica. Jennifer agrees with Randy. Steven doesn't say anything.
Jason DeRulo has completed his Coke's Perfect Harmony song that Idol viewers helped write. It's ok. Nice beat and nothing vulgar in it like many hip-hop songs out there. His girlfriend, Jordin Sparks, is singing along in the audience.
Round 2: Contestant's Reprisal
Jessica- "The Prayer" (Oh no, another ballad)
I normally like this song, but Jessica doesn't need to sing another ballad tonight and especially not one that she always overdoes the vibrato in. Jessica looks very tired just standing there on the platform all statue-like. Her voice sounds off to me. Maybe she is just exhausted from it all. She is ok but not stellar.
Phillip- "Movin'Out"- Billy Joel
Thank you for giving us something that has some life and movement to it Phillip.
Phillip starts out standing at center stage, just him and his guitar. Very subdued beginning, but then the rest of the band joins in and everything picks up, including Phillip. A new energy takes over and a smile is on his face. This lights up the audience too. Awesome ending with lots of power and somewhat of a growl. I love the "dischord" ending. Very nice job and the audience is up and loud.
Judges verdict on round 2: ST-Jessica took it again. R-dead even. JLo-Phillip wins that one for me. We've heard Jessica do that before. That was authentic Phillip Phillips right there.
Round 3: "Winner's single"
Jessica- "Change Nothing" (We know nothing about this song.)
We have Jessica seated on a white baby grand piano. This is another slow tempo song. This one is a pop ballad and it is not that good. Jessica sounds ok, but the song itself is yuck. Jessica really looks tired now. She is working too hard to make this song something it is not. Her power notes sound way off to me, kind of strained. Nothing special about this performance.
Phillip- "Home" (Nice title, I wonder what it will be about. Maybe next years exit song?)
We have Phillip standing center stage with his guitar for an acoustic beginning. Nice sound. He is joined by another acoustic guitar and a tom tom. Great beat to this song. sounds like Mumford and Sons, whom I happen to really like. this is a really good song for an American Idol "first single" performed on Idol song. He adds a marching band drum corps to the stage and it really is like a Mumford and Sons performance. They were here in Austin in March and had my son's high school's marching band on stage with them and it was awesome.
And we end with the audience and the judges on their feet. The only Standing O of the night.
Randy- "I loved the song, I loved you, I loved the production, I loved the marching band. Everything about that was perfect. That was the best performance of the night. Reminds me a little of Mumford and Sons." (YES)
J- "What was so moving about that was that it was so different. I couldn't think of any other singer or band you sounded like. That was a Phillip Phillips song."
ST- "By virtue of your vulnerability and style, you have made the world your home my friend. I heard a little Paul Simon in there and other ungod-like creatures in that. You were perfect. You are the Man."
And to totally seal the deal for me tonight, while Ryan is babbling on about the plethora of voting numbers for tonight, Phillip is just standing there surveying the 7,000 person audience at Nokia LA Live. He seems to be just soaking it all in.
As we leave, Phillip and Jessica stand at stage left hugging each other and Scotty McCreery treats all to one last live performance of "Please Remember Me" on the Idol stage before he passes the crown on to another season's champion.
If the audience has any say in the matter the champion should be Phillip. Did America agree with the studio audience? I sure hope so. I know I voted for Phillip.