Phillip Phillps and Jessica Sanchez posed alongside judges Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. On the penultimate performance show, the judges' panel gave kudos to both performers but especially liked the folksy, game-changing song selected for Phillips called "Home."
Jessica Sanchez, the 16-year-old wunderkind from Chula Vista, Calif., performed an effortless cover of Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing." Cue the praise from Jennifer Lopez and company.
Phillip Phllips, the 21-year-old heartthrob rocker from Leesburg, Ga., put his signature folk singer-songwriter spin on Ben E. King's "Stand by Me" and Billy Joel's "Movin' Out."
Celebrity guest performer Jason Derulo sang his song "Undefeated" the night before the May 23 finale. Afterward, he revealed to THR that he's a Jessica Sanchez fan and girlfriend Jordin Sparks, who won season six of Idol, was rooting for Phillip Phillips.
Last year's winner, Scotty McCreery, closed out the finale performance show with a sentimental country ballad (naturally) to add emotional oomph to a video montage of the show's past season.
In the second of three rounds, Jessica Sanchez performed a soaring rendition of "The Prayer," showcasing all the layers of her soprano voice. For round three, she sang her coronation song, "Change Nothing," a power-pop ballad that fell flat in the judges' eyes. Also: Sanchez, a soul singer at heart, seemed to hate it, too.
"I did not love the song, but what I did love is that you made something more out of the song," said Jackson, while Jennifer Lopez cautioned Sanchez: "When you go to make a record … you have to be able to say to someone, 'this is not me.'"
Phillip Phillips stunned the American Idol studio audience and the judges with his individual coronation number, "Home." "I heard a little Paul Simon in there," declared Steven Tyler.Randy Jackson railed off a number of adjectives such as "perfect," "genius" and "brilliant."
Chaka Khan made a cameo on the May 23 season finale to perform "I've Every Woman" with Jessica Sanchez, Hollie Cavanagh and the other ladies of season 11.
The superhuman, chart-topping force known as Rihanna performed her latest dance-y single "Where Have You Been," making a Gaga-like entrance by stepping out of a futuristic pyramid contraption. "I love you, Idol!," she declared.
Newly crowned Phillip Phillips got emotional as he sang "Home" to close the two-hour finale. He is the fifth male contestant in a row to win American Idol, continuing an all-guy streak at the arguable expense of talented ladies like Jessica Sanchez.