'American Idol' Recap: Steven Tyler Crowns Jessica Sanchez the Winner
Steven Tyler has no concept of "too soon."
We're a week away from the season-11 finale, but American Idol's TMI-prone judge has already crowned the winner.
"When you sing, you make people hang on your every note," Tyler gushed following Jessica Sanchez's subdued yet stunning rendition of Mariah Carey's "My All," adding: "I hope you get used to encores. And on another crazy note, I think you'll be the last person standing there."
Not so fast, Tyler, Joshua Ledet and Phillip Phillips also proved worthy contenders for the title, and, at this point, it's anybody's guess who will go home with it next Wednesday.
This Wednesday, the remaining trio of contenders each went through three rounds, performing songs handpicked from the judges and mentor Jimmy Iovine as well as a personal selection.
Without further ado, round one:
Randy Jackson selected Etta James' "I'd Rather Be Blind" for Ledet; per usual, the 20-year-old Louisiana native totally nailed it, emoting with all the lived-in passion of the late soul legend herself. (Idea! How about a duet between Ledet and James' hologram in the finale? Make it happen, Nigel Lythgoe. Now that's too soon.)
Predictably, Ledet won a standing ovation -- his one-millionth, if we're counting.
Next up, Sanchez crooned "My All," and we have Lopez to thank for that one. Sporting a Kate Middletonian purple gown, the 16-year-old wunderkind melted the judges' panel with her birdlike soprano and restraint on stage (none of her signature lounge-style dancing tonight -- sorry Jessica, Gwen Stefani was right).
Then Phillips took the stage with Madcon's "Beggin," a Tyler pick and nice match for the 21-year-old Idol eye candy's cool, impish, slighlty dangerous, back-of-the-classroom vibe. He got into the song, making those easily-impersonated John Mayer facial contortions, resulting in unanimous praise from the judges' panel.
"I'm hoping you write your own songs. You could be a new age Boss. You could be the next Springsteen," declared Tyler, on a roll with doling out the highest of compliments.
(At the point, outraged fans of the Boss turned off the TV, ran outside, screamed "NOOOOOOOO," and ran back inside to watch round two.)
And now for part deux: contestants' choice.
Before Ledet belted "Imagine," a song that holds special meaning for him (take a number, Josh), Idol rolled the footage of his hometown visit to Westlake, La., where he was shown reprising "It's a Man's Man's Man's World" in an arena overlowing with hundreds, maybe thousands, of fans. That's right, an arena. Also! There were fireworks. "People are acting like I'm Barack Obama," mused Ledet whilst riding in a limo.
As for the John Lennon classic, Ledet toned down his high-energy act to pay tribute to the pro-peace anthem, allowing the crowd to absorb the lyrics. The judges, suckers for that song like the rest of the world (smart, Josh), gave three thumbs up.
For her return home to Chula Vista, Calif., Sanchez was carried off by helicopter, landing on the diamond at the San Diego Padres baseball stadium, James Bond-style. (Hey, how come the other two didn't get 'copters? Oh wait, Sanchez is going to win. We forgot.) Alas, she then greeted the masses at the local amphitheater and naval base, winning a key to the city from the mayor and riding through town on the top of a car alongside her younger brothers. "I'm really gonna try to win this for you guys," she said.
Shrewd: Sanchez performed Aerosmith's "I Don't Want to Miss a Thing," earning kudos from Tyler, who's generally tougher on people who sing his material. "You just sang a great song and made it greater," he raved. (Thanks, but we actually prefer Tyler's version. Flashbacks of 1998!)
Phillips' visit to his hometown of Leesburg, Ga., involved a trip to his family's pawn shop, where he got all teary-eyed and various fangirls pressed their faces against the windows. No sign of Stevie Nicks. Or the brunette girlfriend we saw in the audience a few weeks back.