Phillip Phillips won “American Idol”‎

From the moment he first stepped in front of the judges and unleashed a folksy take on Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” guitar-playing crooner Phillip Phillips seemed preordained to win “American Idol,” and not just because he’s another white guy with a guitar, the all-too-familiar profile of the previous four “Idol” champions.
“I’m just lucky” – the former pawn shop worker said Wednesday night in his backstage dressing room after his win.
It was more than just luck that helped Phillips easily overcome 16-year-old mini-diva Jessica Sanchez to become the Fox talent competition’s 11th season victor. The combination of his goofy personality, ah-shucks Southern humility, rebelliousness, risk-taking originality and, yes, those good looks kept him at the front of the pack all season long.
While he is indeed a WGWG (the “Idol” fan term for “white guys with guitars”) Phillips differentiated himself with a musical style that was grittier than past winners David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze and Scotty McCreery, as well his competitors with much wider vocal ranges, like gospel singer Joshua Ledet and soaring vocalist Hollie Cavanagh.
Mostly, Phillips was just so darn charming. When given the opportunity, he always excelled at genuinely letting his personality shine through on the show, often as much of a challenge as hitting the right notes. He established a silly bromance with finalist Heejun Han and seemed downright distraught at the unexpected dismissal of alt-rocker Colten Dixon.
Despite Sanchez’s unstoppable voice and a savvy-beyond-her-years approach, she was essentially living on borrowed time after she was supposed to be eliminated but was saved by the judges. She realized that during Top Three week.
“I told Phillip, ‘You’re gonna win this whole thing,’ and he was like, ‘Nah, I’m not’” – recalled Sanchez backstage. “I’m like, ‘Yes, you are.’ I don’t think he totally believed that, and I totally believed it. I just went out in this competition after that moment and just sang. Phillip’s gonna win, anyway. I might as well just sing my heart out.”

Phillip Phillips won "American Idol"
Phillip Phillips.

The lights were dimmed, the votes were counted, and Phillip Phillips became the new “American Idol.”
As expected, Phillips beat out Jessica Sanchez on Wednesday’s May 23 Season 11 “Idol” finale, live at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theatre. Phillips topped Sanchez after a reported 132 million votes were cast — “a new world record,” according to host Ryan Seacrest.
Phillips teared up while performing his winning song “Home,” while confetti rained down on the stage around him. The Leesburg, Georgia, native has been a cool cucumber all season long, but he broke down in the moment, just as he did during his hometown visit last week.
Phillips didn’t finish the song, but strolled off stage and into the arms of his family, who were waiting in the first few rows. As streamers fell and the band played on the stage behind him, Phillips hugged his family members, and later judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler.
Phillips came out of Tuesday’s performance episode the heavy favorite to win it all and was celebrated by the judges for his “Home,” which was tailor made for his laid-back style. On the other hand, Sanchez’s would-be winning song “Change Nothing” was sloughed off by the judges and even Sanchez herself, who acknowledged the song wasn’t really in her wheelhouse, and said she’d aim to put more of herself in her future recordings.

Last year’s winner was Scotty McCreery, preceded by Lee DeWyze, Kris Allen and David Cook.
Sanchez, who is of Filipino and Latino heritage, took a measured view of the outcome, one that she said had solely to do with music.
“I don’t blame it on anything” – she said backstage. “Phillip has his fans, and I have mine. We’re totally two different people. Our genres are completely different.
“He’s more like the indie, alternative rock kinda guy, and I’m more urban R&B pop. … It’s just the number of our fans,” she said, adding that she expected to be the runner-up.
“In the moment, I told him: ‘You’re gonna win this.’ I was smiling at him the whole time. I was ready to just give him a big hug, and that’s what I did when they announced it.”
Sparks (22) was among the guest stars who helped fill out the two-hour finale show, among them Rihanna, Neil Diamond, Reba McEntire, Chaka Khan and John Fogarty. “American Idol” judges Steven Tyler, with his band Aerosmith, and Jennifer Lopez also performed, but it was Sanchez and Jennifer Holliday who stood out with a powerhouse duet on “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.”
Besides music, there was a marriage proposal for the season 11 finale: Former contestants Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo got engaged on stage.
Young (31), a season five finalist, told Seacrest that he and DeGarmo (24) had just moved in together. Then Young got down on one knee and popped the question to her.
“I love you to death. You’re my best friend” – Young said in his proposal, which included a jarring credit for the jeweler who made the engagement ring he was offering (which, given Fox’s heavy soft drink and car sponsor product placement, wasn’t so off-key).
DeGarmo, a runner-up in season three, tearfully accepted, her head bobbing up and down.
But the point of the finale, saved for the final minutes and the highest possible ratings, was anointing the newest Idol and winner of a record contract.

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