Three seasons ago on "American Idol," it was "the guy-next-door versus the guyliner." This year, apparently there were a few layoffs in the Fox copywriting department, since the best slogan anyone could come up with for this week's Season 11 showdown was the somewhat insulting-to-both-contestants "the musical artist versus the big ol' voice." Whatever. But I suppose it was an appropriate summation of the massive contrast between this year's two "Idol" finalists, humble singer-songwriter Phillip Phillips and girl-wonder powerhouse Jessica Sanchez.
Which finalist are the judges rooting for? [photo: Fox]
Yes, not since Adam Lambert and Kris Allen in Season 8 had there been a final face-off as diverse as this one. Wednesday night's result will really come down to just a matter of personal taste, methinks. But I have a feeling that when it comes to personal taste, many more voters are going to be swayed by Phillip's final song.
[PHOTOS: "Idol" Season 11 Performances]
So on Tuesday, Jessica and Phillip sang three songs each: One selected by "Idol" mastermind Simon Fuller, one reprise of a memorable Season 11 performance, and one "coronation song." And while Phillip seemed to maintain his edge (remember, "Idol" isn't just a singing contest, it's also a popularity contest), Jessica delivered a couple performances that put her squarely in the game. Sadly, though, for her final song, she was severely handicapped by a blah ballad that wasn't nearly as memorable, or praised, as Phillip's, even if that was out of her control.
Only one of the top 2 got dressed up for the big night [photo: Fox]
But may the best man--or girl--win!
Jessica went first, having lost this week's coin toss (bummer for her), and kicked off the show with Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing." It was a somewhat predictable song choice for Jessica, but she did put herself on the "Idol" map with a Whitney cover, so I guess Fuller didn't want to mess with the formula now. Jessica sold the song (a bit of her growly alter ego, Bebe Chez, came out to play), and she sounded flawless, of course. And she looked flawless as well. (Side note: I was amused by how she was all dolled up like she was headed to the Oscars, and aw-shucksy Phillip was wearing rumpled, fresh-off-the-bedroom-floor everyman-wear, like he was headed to work at his pawn shop.)
Phillip was up next, doing Ben E. King's "Stand By Me"--again, kind of a boring choice, but at least one that allowed his usual P-Squared charm to shine. He strummed his guitar, he made his funny muggy faces, he flapped a bit, he stayed on the melody (for the most part--a little deviation is par for the Phillip course), and it was all very Phillip Phillips. He probably didn't win over many new fans with this, but judging by his unstoppable "Idol" run so far, maybe he didn't need to. And P-Squared diehards surely enjoyed it.