After a season full of standout performances and unexpected eliminations, finalists Jessica Sanchez and Phil Phillips stood side by side for the biggest night of their careers. According to Ryan Seacrest, a new world record was set with over 132 million votes bringing in the final results. But first, there was a two hour live show that almost made you forget their was even a winner being announced!
Jennifer Lopez summed up the finale night best saying, “It’s a tough one because it’s like a competition of opposites.” But as Phil and Jessica left their dressing rooms and walked together on stage, it was clear they had shared a common journey to get to this point.
The night opened with the eliminated contestants (in all white attire) singing Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby” which electrified the crowd at the Nokia Theater and proved why these contestants will be such a huge draw on their summer tour. The crowd’s excitement only grew as judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler, and host Ryan Seacrest took the stage. And the two hour spectacle was well underway!
I can’t help but point out that when the season started out there was an overwhelming feeling that the women were the stronger contestants and that a female would become the first Idol since Jordan Sparks in 2007. In fact, four of the top six contestants were women and my bets were certainly on the gals. But when it came time to make the final announcement, no one was stronger than Phil Phillips!
Phil Philips again wowed audiences by performing alongside John Fogerty of Credence Clearwater Revival) to both “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” and “Bad Moon on the Run”. Phil was my early personal favorite but going into the competition he was perhaps a long shot to ever win Idol. He was often compared to Dave Matthews and many thought his voice wasn’t the traditional sound of an Idol winner. Throughout the competition, Phil stayed true to himself- even at times ignoring the advice of the judges. In the end, America was ready for something new and Phil proved his sound was truly unique. His laid back attitude, good looks, and charm made it easy for fans to cast their votes!
Jessica Sanchez reprised her tribute to Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”. She also sang alongside Jennifer Holliday on the Dreamgirls signature song “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” This duet highlighted exactly why Jessica was the one to beat throughout the competition. She has a spectacular set of pipes for such a tiny girl and a maturity in her voice far beyond her years. In recent weeks, her performances lacked the spark she brought early in the competition, but there is no doubting her ability to sing. Jennifer Hudson did not win Idol either but something tells me Sanchez will find the same type of success. The crowd’s standing ovation should eliminate any doubts of that.
While Phillips has been known for being a go with the flow guy, he certainly showed a bit of well earned emotion when he broke down in tears while singing his winning song and soon to be first single “Home”. After being crowned the winner, he walked off into the arms of his proud family and then to receive congratulations from the judges and fellow contestants.
Idol Odds & Ends
•The female Idol contestants joined Chaka Kahn for a glitz and glam rendition of “I’m Every Women”. It was nice to see these talented ladies back on stage looking more stunning than ever.
• Ford gave both finalists a new car! Including the choice of the new 2013 Ford Fusion.
• Rihanna performed her new hit single “Where Have You Been” emerging from a box that contained a pyramid of laser lights with the star at its center. The performance included stilt walkers, aerialists, and an army of male dancers dressed in tribal gear and beating drums. It was Cirque du Soleil meets The Matrix meets god knows what… but somehow, awesome!
• Reba McEntire sang “Turn on the Radio” with Skylar Laine, and Neil Diamond performed classic hit “Sweet Caroline” with the male contestants (an audience favorite).
• The show included a reel of the best and worst auditions from the season, a quirky “phone book” spoof in honor of Randy’s infamous comments, and humurous outtakes of Jimmy Iovine mistakenly calling Jennifer Lopez, Jessica, over and over again.
• The audience was full of celebrity guests and ex-Idol contestants and winners including Carrie Underwood and Glee’s Jane Lynch.
• Steven Tyler has a pet sloth…enough said.
• Joshua Ledet sang beside “the biggest inspiration in his life” Fantasia Barrino to Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot”. This soulful rendition was an easy reminder of why he was the third runner up this season and could have easily been standing in the finals.
• Jordin Sparks joined Hollie Cavanaugh for “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, showing how easily Hollie can hold her own even with a past Idol winner and current mega-star. I have no doubt we will be seeing more of Hollie soon.
• The male finalists paid tribute to the recent passing of Robin Gibb by performing a selection of Bee Gees classics, including “How Deep is Your Love,” “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” and “To Love Somebody.”
• All finalists (minus Jessica & Phil) sang with Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes for “Up Where We Belong”.
• Even the Idol judges took to the stage. Jennifer Lopez performed “Goin’ In” with Flo Rida and Lil Jon, and “Follow the Leader” with Puerto Rican duo Wisin & Yandel. Steven Tyler hit the stage with Aerosmith to perform their new single “Legendary Child” (to plug their upcoming tour) along with “Walk This Way”.
• Fifth season finalist Ace Young proposed to girlfriend Diana DeGarmo (Season 3 runner up) complete with a plug for his jeweler. Diana said ‘Yes’ making it the first live Idol proposal. Nothing says forever like shameless product placement!
The top ten Idol finalists kick off their summer tour July 6th in Detroit. If tonight’ s show was any indication, it will be one hot ticket. Check here for tour dates near you.
I can’t wait for next season of Idol already! Think you could be the next American Idol, auditions start in June in Los Angeles. Visit American Idol to find out the nearest venue to show the judges what you’ve got!