Were you surprised by last night's result? From reading various other blogs, it appeared likely that the final two contestants would be Phillip Phillips and Joshua Ledet - especially after Joshua brought the house down Wednesday with "No More Drama." And, again according to these various blogs (as well as dialidol.com, who measure busy signals), it wasn't that close a call.
So what happened? Conspiracy theorists will claim that the fix was in. The judges made it clear that they favored 16 year-old Jessica Sanchez over everyone else. I don't know exactly why that was, other than Steven's obvious inappropriate crush on Ms. Sanchez (he's 48 years her senior, gross!). I agree that Jessica has a beautiful voice and has talent beyond her years. But the fawning over her has been a blessing and a curse. She's benefited from the judges love, but the tremendous praise - even when it wasn't warranted - seems to also have gone to her pretty little head. She does have more confidence because of it. But she has also become more conceited, which is not surprising given her age.
Considering American Idol is mainly a singing competition, the reality is that the one who should not be in the finals is Phillip. He is an emotional singer who throws everything he has into every song he sings. But he has no range and really wouldn't have any success without a band around him. Both Joshua and Jessica have voices that hold up on their own. However, what Phil does have is the ability to make every song he sings into a "Phil Phillips" song. Also, he has the kind of personality that seems to motivate people to vote for him - reminiscent of previous winners David Cook and Lee DeWyze.
So now we are down to two. As you can tell from my previous Idol posts, I favored Joshua to make the final. Furthermore, while I liked Phillip more than Jessica, I did say I thought she would also advanced. What I didn't didn't factor in was Phillip's popularity, which clearly has put shushed his vote totals to to the top. I have a very hard time believing Jessica has the same size fan base for no other reason than her finishing in the bottom 3 a few times, as well as actually having to be saved by the judges.
With that in mind, here is my prediction for the season finale:
2 -- Jessica Sanchez
There is no questioning Jessica's talent. She simply has a beautiful voice and sings with a passion rarely seen in someone so young. I agree that she deserved to have been saved when the judges saved her. She certainly was a better singer than most of the others who were safe that week. However, again I will say she doesn't add much to the songs she performs. Now in truth, that isn't surprising given her age and experience. But I also believe that is the reason so other 16-year-old has won in the past.
Of the three songs Jessica sang this past week, I thought she did best on "I'll Be There." But even Jimmy said he regretted that choice because while she has a similar voice as Michael Jackson, it's actually Jermaine Jackson who sings the verse (MJ sings the chorus). Because Jessica relies on her singing/karaoke abilities, as opposed to her own style, that makes a difference. Her first song, Mariah Carey's "My All," was a very difficult sing for anyone to sing. And while the judges (both past and present) have warned the contestants not to sing songs by Mariah or Whitney Houston, Jessica has the voice to do just that. However, it has seemed that this was all Jessica has done this season. We get it, you can hit the ridiculous notes that those divas can hit. So what? What does she add to it?
Her second song was Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss A Thing." To me, this was clearly motivated to appeal to Steven Tyler and it obviously worked. Steven is so smitten with Jessica that it almost sounded like a love letter between the two - creepy. On the other hand, she sang it well. But once again, Steven Tyler has that rare ability to hit notes that most others only dream about. Because Jessica has that same ability, she is able to sing the song just as originally recorded.
My feeling is that this issue is the biggest reason she will fall behind Phillip and end up as the runner-up. Not a bad finish for someone so young.
1 -- Phillip Phillips
Phillip will win the competition for one reason and one reason only; because he is so unique. While he has not been as consistent as Jessica, he has shown his ability to adapt every song to fit his own personal style. In the past, only a handful of Idol contestants have successfully managed to do this and these have been the most successful over the past few years (Chris Doughtry, Blake Lewis, David Cook, Adam Lambert and Lee DeWyze). Because his competition is now just Jessica Sanchez, he has the ability to show why he deserves to win. This week, he saved his best for last, when he received a well deserved standing ovation for his rendition of Bo Seger's "We've Got Tonight." Stripped down to only Phillip and a piano accompaniment, Phillip relied on his voice and personality to showcase his abilities. As Jimmy and Randy both said, it was the perfect song at the perfect time. I agree 100%.
His first song on Wednesday was Madcon's "Beggin'" (originally a Four Seasons' song)." It was a good performance and did show off Phil's unique style. But because it really isn't a well known song, I think he lost some of that connection he has with the his fans. His second song, Matchbox 20's "Disease" was not very good for two reasons. Number one, Phil sounds so much like Matchbox 20's lead singer - Rob Thomas - that it was hard to differentiate between the two. However, Phil slowed it down and added more of a laid-back reggae feel to the song. That may play well as an album track, but it was too boring and safe for this show. After that performance, I felt it was over for him.
Clearly, he saved himself with "We've Got Tonight." Like many rock and roll bands, the surprising slow ballad is the one that succeeds the most (see Styx' "Babe", Foreigner's "Waiting For A Girl Like You" and Kiss' "Beth"). While I felt Joshua was the winner of the night, Phillip's version of "We've Got Tonight" was the best of the evening and really saved him from from himself. It may well have been the the song to win it all.
With Phillip riding high from his last performance, I think he already has the advantage in votes. The question is who will receive all the Joshua votes? My gut tells me that the majority of people who voted for Joshua did so because he was so much more than a karaoke singer. If so, Phillip stands to benefit the most. Adding Phillip's charm and good looks (although Jessica is a very pretty girl, the voting public is mostly young women who have in the past favored good looking male contestants. This, of curse, bodes very well for Phil and the reason I'm picking him to win it all.
Word leaked this week that Jennifer Lopez will not be returning for Season 12. I'm happy nor sad about this announcement. I had liked Jennifer in that seat but was taken aback by her cheerleading, especially the way she acted when Jessica was eliminated. I never really felt she added to much to show and didn't have quite the charm of her predecessor, Paula Abdul. On the other hand, much like Paula, Jennifer has experience in the industry and seems to be a likable person.
As for me, I think it's time for a complete shake up of the judging staff. The show desperately need someone who is unafraid to tell the truth and not be so diplomatic. I believe that was what Randy was tasked with these past two seasons and he really hasn't done a particularly good job of it. I have no problem with Randy returning, even if just for familiarity. But he needs to slide back over to his role when Simon ruled the roost. Randy's catch phrases work best when he isn't the lead dog (dawg?). As for Steven, he really hasn't mattered. In fact, during the two years he has been a judge, the only thing I recall Steven getting right was his criticism of Heejun Han's lack of seriousness, when he called Heejun out. Other than that, Can't think of anything Steven said, other than "that was beautiful" or "over the top." Heck, for the money he makes on the show, I can do that and more!
I also think there should be some format changes as well. I think they should go back to the format where the top 24 gets whittled down to 20, then 16 and than 12. I think they should expand the mentor's roster (haven't we had enough Queen, Gwen Stefani or songs from the year they were born - especially since most the songs in that category were not originally written or recording that year, but were remakes?). In addition, I think the judges should be far more impartial and not play favorites. What I think they should continue is having Jimmy Iovine's input each week, as well as keeping the current rules about saving a contestant. Although they should return to the plan of eliminating 2 contestants the week following a save.
What do you think next season should look like? Is there anyone you feel should be hired on a judge? What changes do you thing should be made?