American Idol Season 11 Finale Recap: And the Winner Is… [Updated]
If the Phillip Phillips-vs.-Jessica Sanchez showdown of American Idol‘s eleventh season was an apples-vs-oranges kind of affair, then tonight’s season finale — featuring the inarguably terrific Top
13 12* — was a weird and occasionally wonderful smorgasbord. (*Uncle Nigel: “Jermaine Jones was just a figment of your imagination!”)
We had Season 3 champ Fantasia Barrino in a Crystal Gayle wig and, um, unfortunate spangled catsuit with side-leg cutouts (!) grabbing Joshua Ledet and turning the Nokia into a beautiful, howling messerie. We had John Fogerty, Reba McEntire, and Jordin Sparks dueting with Season 11 standouts Phillip Phillips, Skylar Laine, and Hollie Cavanagh. (More on those performances — including letter grades — a little later in this recap.)
Marriage was “spontaneously” proposed (said spontaneity almost certainly practiced and perfected in the office of Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo’s publicists). The phone book was sung. (Randy Jackson: “Literally!”) Too many medleys robbed us of individual moments for Elise Testone, Erika Van Pelt, Colton Dixon, and Skylar (who should’ve gotten two numbers, no?). And Rihanna and J.Lo showed us exactly why it’s Idol alumni — and not many of today’s “regular” chart-toppers/floor-writhers — who are the go-to candidates when it’s time to belt the National Anthem at the start of most televised sporting events.
And then Jennifer Holliday and Jessica Sanchez tore the face off of music as we know it, flipped it, revesed it, performed an exorcism on it, and made it whole again. Or something insane like that. Mama Holliday scared the tarnation out of me, and I loved it.
I could’ve/should’ve blacked out when the performance was finished, but there was still the matter of crowing the American Idol season 11 champ.
Dim the lights, Kieran! Your new American Idol is…Phillip Phillips! Congrats, sir, and be thankful you got the first decent coronation single in Idol history. There really are no boundaries anymore. Maybe not even at alternative/rock radio? (I know, I know, but I’m an optimist at heart.)
But before we start mullipng P2′s future, let’s review the night’s disparate and many performances:
The Top 12 (minus the Top 2), “Runaway Baby” I can’t lie and say I didn’t like this better when Joshua covered it by his lonesome a few weeks back. (Proof that one voice can be more powerful than 10.) That said, who knew Skylar was so adept at group choreography? And who’d have guessed Mr. Ledet would get his SYTYCD on and wind up falling on his butt? (E for effort, though!) Grade: B-
Phillip Phillips & John Fogerty, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” I couldn’t not love how genuinely excited Phillip looked sharing the mic with the CCR frontman for this performance, but why cover something P2 already sang just a few weeks ago? It’s not like Uncle Nigel couldn’t shake out the couches in J.Lo’s dressing room and clear a half-dozen new ditties for the finale, right? That feeling of déjá vu, combined with just a slight lag in energy, left me spending too much time focusing on what was around Fogerty’s neck (a black rubber bandana, maybe?) and not enough on the music. Grade: B
Phillip Phillips & John Fogerty, “Bad Moon Rising” Aha, now that was more like it. This swampy stomper fit Phillip’s vibe like a teaspoon fits a jar of peanut butter during midnight snacking hour. And the Phillips-Fogerty chemistry definitely benefitted from having a warmup number, too. I just wish the dudes had made it a trip (that’s a typo for “trio,” but “trip” works fine, too) by waving up Carrie Underwood, who jammed out and sang along from her seat in the audience. Grade: A-
Random observation: Of course Randy yells awful stuff like “Put him in the dumpster!” when he sees a wee thing like Ryan Seacrest get hoisted in the air by a mob of dudes.
Joshua Ledet and Fantasia Barrino, “Take Me to the Pilot” A hot, honeyed catastrophe of straining sequins, frantic camera work (Idol Director: “They’ve gone and left the stage!”) and ridiculous holleration? Or two of the best Idol contestants of all time breaking free from musical convention and letting the Holy Spirit take over? My sane half says the former, but the part of me that lost my damn mind hollering and clapping says the latter, obviously! (Also: Is this song set on an airplane?) Grade: D+/A+