This hasn't been an easy season to predict for American Idol, though I'm pretty sure I did have Phillip Phillips high on my list fairly early in the season, so Season 11's Final Two didn't quite come out of nowhere. While I can't say that I would have predicted Jessica Sanchez as a contender for the Final Two a month or so ago, she's certainly proven her vocal range and control over the last few weeks, and it's really anyone's game tonight.
Last night's final performance episode was kind of a snooze-fest, with decent performances but nothing that jumped out and really got my attention. I'm hoping everyone was merely saving their energy for tonight's big show. Two hours of performances, look-backs, reminders of eliminated contestants we barely got to know, and of course, the big reveal.
The finale was typically star-studded with John Fogerty, Fantasia Barrino, Chaka Khan, Reba and Neil Diamond among the guest performers who took the stage along with the two finalists and the previously eliminated contestants for various musical numbers. I think Neil Diamond wins for sounding the best, though Steven Tyler did pretty great when Aerosmith took the stage toward the end of the episode. And Chaka Khan wins for having the tightest outfit. Rihanna performed solo, as did Jennifer Lopez later on. Both had fun with lasers.
Other filler included a tour of Steven Tyler's dressing room (there were animals involved), a blooper reel that revealed that Jimmy regularly refers to Jennifer Lopez as "Jessica," which is apparently his daughter's name. I still want him to return next season as an actual judge, regardless of whether or not he can get people's names straight.
This year, the show also tweaked the big Ford moment. Rather than the two finalists pretending to be surprised as they're presented with their very own Ford whatever's, Jessica and Phillip presented their own personal mentors with keys to a brand new Ford Escape. Gifting the car to a respected friend was a nice twist and a sweet moment, especially because the two people being given cars seemed genuinely thrilled and surprised.
The finalists sang the phone book, which was a cute segment but about as exciting as you would think. Speaking of cute. That doesn't even begin to describe how adorable Season 5's Ace Young and Season 3's Diana Digarmo were when they got up onto the stage. At first, the skeptic in me thought the whole proposal was staged. Obviously Ace had it planned for the show, but I wondered if maybe he tipped Diana off beforehand. But judging by his nervousness and her reaction, it seemed like a genuine moment for them, and a very happy one. Ryan dimmed the lights, Ace asked. She said yes. And I'd be lying if I didn't "Awww" out loud and applaud them for their adorable happiness.
After all of the performances and amusing segments, we came back to where we started, with two singers vying for the grand prize. Would it be the Dave Matthews-like Phillip Phillips? Or the power-singer Jessica Sanchez? Both have earned their place in the finale, but only one can be declared the winner.
After one last duet between Phillip and Jessica, Simon had the results and the contestants brought out onto the stage for the big reveal. After 132,000,000 votes... Phillip Phillips is the winner! Jessica Sanchez is the runner-up. Both had good runs, with Jessica facing near elimination earlier on in the season and Phillip reportedly struggling with some medical issues. It's a happy night for both of them and the end to a solid season.