The moment we have all been waiting for has arrived. After over 132 million votes, 21 year old Phil Phillips from Leesburg, GA has been crowned the winner of American Idol Season 11. What a glorious moment this was. The finale was jam packed with surprise performances, a two hour celebration concert leading up to the big moment, the win that many may have wanted but not anticipated actually happening. That’s what makes this win so fantastic! The underdog took it home! The one contestant who made no apologies or excuses for being true to himself all season long took the win. Congratulations Phil Phillips! A win well deserved!
A Top 12 reunion was our first treat of the night as our favorites (minus the two finalists) opened with “Runaway Baby” by Bruno Mars. This was one of the most unforgettable group performances for a few reasons. First, this was a wonderful song choice and even with all of the choreography, the ex-contestants were genuinely having a great time, not at all stressed about the performance. Their harmonies were on point and everything went well until… well, that brings us to number two. Somehow, Joshua Ledet convinced the Idol camp to let him show off his dance moves, or vice versa. Either way, this was a bad call. Ledet needs to put out a debut album before trying to go after being a double and triple threat. He made a complete fool of himself trying to dance, not being able to get up from the ground and out of the shot for the actual professional dancers there to give us the real show. How embarrassing! What a fail! If you thought falling in your own home was embarrassing, try tripping yourself up in front of millions of people!
While this performance and Ledet’s trip took us to quite a high, Phillips graced the stage next to perform “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” with John Fogerty, as well as “Bad Moon Rising” and took things down a notch. Between Phillips’ duet and 16 year old Jessica Sanchez’s duet, Sanchez won. After all, she did sing “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” with Jennifer Holliday. What a moment. For those following Sanchez long before Idol, this duet was especially fulfilling. If this isn’t a full circle moment, I do not know what is. No matter what happens in her career, Sanchez will always be able to say that at 16 years old, she sang with Jennifer Holliday.
Getting back on stage shortly after one of the most embarrassing moments of his life, Joshua Ledet sang an Elton John favorite with his Idol, Fantasia Barrino. This may have compensated for the fall for Ledet but it did absolutely no good for us. Barrino made this performance two times the scream fest that it usually is with a very unflattering outfit to boot. Did anyone else get the Tina Turner wannabe vibe from Barrino? If any performance were a miss this week, it is this one.
Ledet faired better when he performed with the rest of the guys that were in the top 12 as the harmonies were as tight as ever and the songs were choices many may have wished they heard earlier in the season. The boys were joined by Neil Diamond, what a treat that was! It is difficult to say which performance was better, the guys or the girls. Then again, the guys had a nice touch of Diamond whereas the girls barely got time to shine before it became the Chaka Khan show. Something I did realize when the girls were starting out their Chaka Khan medley was how well Testone and Van Pelt sound together. Did we ever get to hear a duet from them this season? If only Idol still released albums for each season, a duet from these two would definitely be something to capture.
A lucky few finalists were able to sing one last time on the Idol stage this season with their idols as well as Ledet. One of the best performances of the night went to Skylar Laine who sang “Turn On the Radio” with Reba. It was quite funny to see spunky Skylar alongside a fairly stiff Reba. Reba broke out the two step every now and then but she wasn’t working it like Laine. This performance was all about Laine and what a fabulous performance it was. Who else cannot wait to see Skylar Laine in concert? Hollie Cavanagh also had the pleasure of performing with Jordin Sparks but the idea of this sounds significantly better than the actual performance. Perhaps if the song choice were different, this duet may have been more worthwhile. Instead, it was rather yawn worthy. Sorry Sparks! Skylar Laine and Reba take the win here!
The final Ford music video of the season came, set to “I Was Here” featuring snippets of some of the music videos from this season. Other time fillers included the moment when the final two were rewarded Fords, along with their music mentors and shortly after, a tribute to those we have lost so far this year in music. But the best time filler came with a very entertaining footage of the top 12 singing the phone book. This was without a doubt, the best bit we have seen on Idol possibly ever. But love trumps all so that wasn’t even the best part. The absolute best extra came when Idol alum, Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo were introduced to the world as a couple for those not in the know and then Young brought DeGarmo on stage to propose to her. What a sweet moment! Talk about Idol history! Congratulations Young and DeGarmo!
An American Idol finale is not complete without performances from the musical judges, so naturally, Jennifer Lopez and Aerosmith took the stage respectively. Lil John and Flo Rida among others joined Lopez. Each set was about twice as long as everyone else’s. Their time to shine since… where else are they going to? Really. As previously announced, Rihanna took to the stage and while a grand production, she definitely needs to work on her vocals while performing. Being out of breath by the end of one performance? Take notes from Beyonce girl. Take notes.
Before the results, Jessica Sanchez also gave a standout performance of “I Will Always Love You” and sang a duet with Phillips which was a really beautiful account between the two. And then the results! Those last few seconds before host, Ryan Seacrest opened the envelope and revealed Phillips’s name seemed like a life time. We were all expecting Sanchez’s name to be read while still easily being satisfied with either win. In an Idol change of pace, a victory was made for the indies, the jazz enthusiasts, the Phillip Phillips of the world. Sanchez may not have won the competition, but her career has won. Idol winner or not, it’s in the cards for her. Surely, people were making deals for her before this moment just in case she didn’t win. It is only a matter of time before we hear of her signing.
That said, I did mention in an earlier review that we know Sanchez has a voice but we don’t know her sound for an album so that may factor into her win. It clearly did. Not many may have wanted to put a vote behind something so vague. Whereas, we know what we are getting with Phillips and we like it. So Phillips won season eleven and I’d say that this was quite a delightful win. The tears came when Phillips got choked up on his winning song and made a beeline for his mother. How sweet it was to see, Phillips relishing in that one moment when he knows his life has changed. The past few seasons of Idol have not been all that satisfying but this year, this win was so worth watching. Season eleven brought one of the best top 12, best finalists moving forward, and best wins in a long, long time. Congratulations to everyone involved and break a leg on tour!
Sitting in the audience for the finale were Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina (with a cute new pixie cut), Taylor Hicks, Jane Lynch, Lisa Rinna, Harry Hamlin, Mary Murphy, Carrie Underwood, Jason Derulo, and Alyssa Milano among others. Auditions for season twelve begin next month. Stay tuned for Idol‘s return next season!
Watch American Idol Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8/7c on Fox.
*Photo Credit: Michael Becker / FOX