American Idol Season 11 Performance Finale: A Play-by-Play of Jessica Vs. Phillip!

jessica sanchez phillip phillipsWe’ve survived 38 episodes, more than 150 live performances from the Top 25, and heaping portions of wilted word salad from Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Tyler. And now, we’ve reached the final two episodes of American Idol‘s eleventh season.

Yep, it’s all come down to the dolphins-vs.-egg beaters matchup that finds pint-sized diva Jessica Sanchez and Her Deadly Heels competing against swampy guitarist Phillip Phillips and His Roguish Flash of Chest Hair, and I’ll be live-blogging the whole blessed hour! So keep hitting that refresh button throughout the telecast to get my up-to-the-minute thoughts on how the duo is faring as they each tackle a song picked by Simon Fuller, a Season 11 encore, and their (hopefully radio-friendly?) debut singles!

RELATED | American Idol: 25 Best Performances of All Time

8:00 Amazing pre-audition footage of Jessica and Phillip FTW! The “poetic” ink spillage (waiting for the strains of “Unwritten”)? Not so much FTW.

8:02 What in the what is J.Lo wearing? It’s like an Olympic skating costume is giving birth to Tour de France pants. (All in “tasteful” black, of course.)

8:03 Phillip, forever true to himself/his thudding lack of style derring-do, in a white v-neck t-shirt and rumpled unbuttoned Oxford. Sigh.

8:05: Shocker! The 137th rendition of “I Have Nothing” in 11 seasons of Idol. Plus Swaybots. I am literally about to punch a puppy.

8:06 Not really making this her own, but that’d be like a McDonald’s worker trying to put a special twist on the Big Mac. Kinda impossible. Jessica certainly hit every note with power and finesse — and that gown is Rated D…for Divine!

8:11 I hope this doesn’t turn out to be the Jessica Sanchez Sabotage Hour.

8:12 Phillip is covering “Stand By Me.” Well, at least the lyrics to “Stand By Me.”

8:13 I appreciate risks generally, but not sure about this one specifically. Why take such a pretty refrain and scoop out its center like an overripe melon?

8:14 “Now let’s gossip.” –Ryan Seacrest, asking for judges’ input

8:15 J.Lo uses up 60 seconds of airtime dodging the idea of critique: “How do you compare?” Jessica has amazing vocal prowess, power, control, grit, and beauty. Phillip has soulfulness, originality, and artistry. How much does she get paid to read these lines?

8:16 Randy, mercifully, calls Round 1 for Jessica.

8:19 Back from commercial, J.Lo seconds Randy’s opinion that Jessica won Round 1. Steven Tyler remains eerily silent, in wicked anticipation of Jason Derulo’s “Undefeated.”

8:21 Wait a second. Coca Cola sponsored this whole Jason Derulo songwriting competition, and all they’re springing for is a metal folding chair as his main set piece?

8:23 Where’s Joshua Ledet to sweep this stage with this foolio?

8:24 Maybe if he’d made this a duet with his girlfriend Jordin Sparks, I’d have liked this better? Or maybe if…uh…I have nothing on this one, sorry.

8:26 I’m gonna need Round 2 to be a LOT better. Maybe with Simon Fuller’s picks out of the picture, there’s hope?

8:27 FLIP YEAH! Jessica is doing an encore of her VEGAS SOLO, “The Prayer.”

8:28 Minute One: SUBLIME!

8:29 SING HEFFA! I think that glory note might’ve won her the competition.

8:30 Jessica finessed that like Eric Ripert treats a rainbow trout: With subtlety, artistry, and perfection.

8:34 Phillip’s encore — another wise choice — Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song).” Just him and his acoustic guitar and not a lot of distraction for the opening verse.

8:35 Sexy saxophonist and the band join in! (He’d better let her share the confetti shower if he wins on Wednesday.) Phillip sounds really great on this, I can’t lie. And there’s a looseness and impish energy this time that wasn’t quite there the first time around. Nice.

8:37 For a quick, nauseating second, I thought it was that kindergarden-age girl holding up half of the “We’ve Got Tonight, Why Don’t We Stay?” poster. Thankfully it was just an illusion.

8:38 Randy calls Round 2 a dead heat. Steven says something about hatching eggs and says Jessica has the edge. J.Lo gives it to Phillip, and then Ryan — in a moment of pure poetry — cuts her off after the word “authentic.” (You know she was hoping to giggle and reduce Phillip to a hot chassis with a guitar, but no dice, Gigli star!)

8:41 Live-blogging always makes the backs of my knees sweat. #BloggerOvershare

8:42 Jessica gets assigned another ballad — a song called “Change Nothing.”

8:43 Hrmmm. I might’ve changed the key. The verse seems pitched just a little low for her, no?

8:44 Er, and the chorus is a little…sharp? But on the plus side, this sounds like an actual real song, not a hideous piece of treacle written specificially for an Idol coronation.

8:45 Randy thought the song was “just okay.” J.Lo wouldn’t have picked a straight pop ballad for Jessica’s lead single, either. “Everything has to be you, Jessica!” Jimmy Iovine looks mildly embarrassed. Steven didn’t feel it was the proper song, either. Ummm…couldn’t Uncle Nigel have let her end her set with “The Prayer”?

8:46 Even Jessica agrees in the real world, she’d prefer to record something a little more “urban.”

8:48 Look, I don’t disagree that “Change Nothing” probably isn’t the best first impression Jessica could make at radio — hey, Iovine, it’s not too late to find her something with a little more edge before June comes around — but it also seems a bit disingenous for the judges to hammer her for a composition that I can pretty much guarantee she had no say in covering. Know what I mean?

8:50 I swear, Ryan emphasizes the “Lee” in Leesburg, Georgia, everytime he introduces Phillip’s hometown.

8:51 Speaking of hometowns, Phillip’s original single is called “Home,” and it’s got a driving beat and a melancholy melody that’s a little reminiscent of…hrmmm…help me out here, Idoloonies.

8:52 Enter marching-band drummers. And cue standing ovation from the judges.

8:53 Selected Randy-isms: “Everything about that was perfect!” “True artist’s performance!” “Brilliant! Genius!”

8:54 J.Lo already offering congratulations, and given the choice of material, she may be right. That song was a perfect fit for Phillip, and the staging was spectacular, without ever feeling inauthentic. Not even the perfect little pout on the final “home.”

8:57 Scotty McCreery’s “PLease Remember Me,” live, and serbing as a backdrop to Season 11 highlight reel. Plus Swaybots.

8:59 Why is the highlight reel being minimized? Need more semifinalist footage up close for my aging eyes! I swear it’s like a postage stamp on the envelope of my TV screen!

Winner of the Night: Phillip
Should Win the Season (not counting Joshua): Jessica
Will Win the Season (in an upset): Jessica (call me crazy, but I think her fan base is gonna help carry her over that incongruous final ditty.)

What did you think of the Season 11 performance finale? Hit the comments with your thoughts, and come back Thursday to to read my full episode recap!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. Amanda Susan says:

    Jessica singing The Prayer may be one of her most forgettable performances of the season. BORING!

    • tarc says:

      Agreed, and her timbre went ugly a couple times. She wasn’t ready for that one.

    • Noel says:

      Most of Philip’s performances are forgettable. There are tons of artists like him…I literally rolled my eyes with that standing ovation at the end. Jlo should listen to the radio more.

    • Jeanne says:

      Wow how old are you? That song was pitch perfect and a Celine song. It was beautiful ..what you think is not doesn’t mean others don’t.

      • tarc says:

        I love the song… when it’s done well. It was far from pitch or stylistically perfect.

        • adad says:

          Tone deaf.

          • tarc says:

            Wouldn’t that be the opposite of tone deaf? Der. Besides, there are a whole lot of mentions of the same thing here and all over by various commentors all over the Internet. Most throw round two and three to Phillip.

          • Cris says:

            Tarc, I just don’t know where you are getting your information. Just like your data on votes, I hope these are not the products of some kind of an hallucination of your creative mind.

          • tarc says:

            @Cris – It’s called having ears and a brain. And hey, it’s not like all kinds of people (inclusing pros and reviewers at other blogs) haven’t said the exact same thing completely independently of anything I said. It was pretty obvious.

  2. DebD says:

    I would like to cuddle with Phillip :)

  3. I don’t care what y ‘all say JESSICA’s “prayer ” is the best!!!! N Philip’s “movin out “????? Really???? So flat!!!!

  4. Grace says:

    Phillip reminds me of a gone too soon beautiful genius that also took other people’s melody’s on journeys of his own making. Jeff Buckley never compromised, made his own Lilac Wine and it’s time for that brand of raw talent to be fostered and applauded. The last thing art needs is another female belter unless they can write like Adele. Phillip, thanks for helping me teach my kids how to be a brave artist. They weren’t around to see Buckley develop at Sine and Maxwell’s back like I was lucky enough too.

    • ashley says:

      i love this comparison! Jeff Buckley is everything. and i’m SO jealous you saw him at Sin-e!

      • Grace says:

        I am embarrassed the comparison just clicked tonight when my 11 yr old said it after hearing Stand By Me ( he hadn’t seen any of this season, yet). The Buckley shows at Sine, Knitting Factory, Arlene Grocery – were the salad days (along w/ Madonna at Danceteria and the Beasties making it happen in Rick Rubin’s room on the 7th fl at NYU Weinstein Dorm. Rhianna, Katy Perry, etc… make my kid’s ears bleed as they have been raised with my collection…Glad to meet you Ashley, fun to remember…

        • ashley says:

          Sad I missed Buckley in person, but those live performances rule my iTunes. and so happy to help you remember!

    • vcuvball says:

      Are you kidding me? Phil Phillips is nothing like Jeff Buckley. Nothing. Phil Phillips is just like Dave Matthews. Exactly like him. Nuts.

    • tarc says:

      I’ve had that thought as well, there is a touch of Buckley in P2.

  5. Nic says:


  6. DebD says:

    If only I were 30 years younger :)

  7. McFudge says:

    Cats and dogs living together. Mass hysteria. Steven was the voice of reason. Phillip was merely OK. Jennifer and Randy are lying. They didn’t even LOOK sincere.

  8. Sam says:

    the audience actually booed when steven said jessica…ouch

  9. Mary says:

    I can’t believe but I agree with Steven Jessica took round two. Jlo sorry PP did his performance before idiot. Randy trying to stay neutral. Both were improved from first round. is this only a hour because it is going pretty fast already on the third song.

    • FreeHaley says:

      Did Randy try to go neutral to not annoy voters voting 1000000x for P2 or because he thought it was tied?

    • claire says:

      Erm…it was meant to be a performance both had done before. Hence, The Prayer was Jessica’s top 40 song to get into the top 24. PP won the night.

  10. FreeHaley says:

    Wow talk about damning with FAINT praise, a bad egg can go bad or hatch and this one partially somewhat hatched a little bit (or something like that).

    I think it’s clear for sure that Steven Tyler had been totally bummed when Phillip took it over Joshua last week just as he was last season when Haley got bumped. I gotta say I agree with him and not the Idol script. The dude knows his stuff when he pays attention and goes on his own script and not the show’s.

    • Olivia says:

      Huh? Steven Tyler ADORED Lauren Alaina last season. And he’s given praise and criticism to all the contestants on this show. I think he genuinely likes this top 2, just like he genuinely liked last year’s top 2/

      • Marsaili says:

        I agree, he’s been a huge fan of Phillip and Jessica all season—I think he’s happy for both!

        • FreeHaley says:

          I think he is, but that said, the look on his face made me think he all the same would rather Joshua in the top two, very likely along with Jessica when it came down to the final 3.
          But yeah I think he likes P2 though.

      • FreeHaley says:

        Yeah he liked her a lot, but he liked Haley most. I mean come on, you could just see the look on his face when Haley got eliminated (as when Joshua this year too) while the other judges were all hardly crying up a tear. He did not look thrilled when Haley didn’t make top two last year.
        I’m not saying he musically hates P2 or anything by any means, but I am saying that I think he loved Joshua more for sure.

        • IdolFan11 says:

          umm I’m pretty sure he liked Lauren most, he had her record background vocals on the new aerosmith record.. and not Haley..

          • FreeHaley says:

            well his face didn’t tell that tale, go back and look at his instant reaction to top 3 elims from last season….

          • FreeHaley says:

            Even in his comments I think he was the only one to break production and even toss the last round to Haley too if I recall correctly.

          • tarc says:

            Since he’s still recording his new album, and Haley’s busy with her new single and album, I’m sure she was unavailable, so ‘backing singer’ status isn’t an indicator of favor.

  11. Steph says:

    The problem with the younger generation is that they don’t know what real talent is. They think people like Rihanna are the greatest thing on the planet. It’s sad.

    • RodMod says:

      And I’m sure songs like “Camel Walk” (One of my favorites!) by the Ikettes, “What’d I Say” by Ray Charles (My JAMM!!!) and “He’s So Fine” (Also one of my favorites!) by The Chiffons were incredibly inspiring lyrics and/or took all the gut power to sing.

      No one is Aretha, but Aretha. (“Rock Steady” isn’t the most poetic track, either.) No one is Marvin Gaye, but Marvin.

      But thank God we have singers like Diana Ross, ? (of the Mysterians), Janet (was an actress before singer) Jackson and Paula (Can’t really carry a solid note) Abdul to balance things out.

      There’s only so much SOUL one can take.
      Also, there’s only so much SYNTHESIZERS one can take.

      We get it. Your/His/Their/Our/Hers/Everyone’s generation’s music was better.


  12. Donna says:


  13. deedee says:

    How the heck is this a victory song?

  14. tarc says:

    Jeebus… why on Earth would you saddle Jessica with that drek for a first single. It’s like a goomy-second rate The Climb.

  15. shelbybb says:

    Oh Jessica, I don’t think this third song won anything!??

  16. ashley says:

    Jessica needs to change EVERYTHING about what just happened.

    • tarc says:

      Yup. Song 1 – Tepid. Song 2 – went ugly a few times. Song 3 – the material was so bad, no one could save that drek.

  17. deedee says:

    Ugh, gawd, can we PLEASE get rid of the word “swag”? Keep “swagger” chuck “swag”. Hate it, gah!

  18. McFudge says:

    Ooh, Jessica. That was…..not good.

  19. Lea says:

    I’m clearly in the minority, but I really liked Jessica’s coronation song.

  20. Candi says:

    Oh dear god what just happened?

  21. Steph says:

    I’m really annoyed that they gave her that song. What the hell? she’s been singing R&B pretty much the entire competition and they give her a pop ballad…ridiculous.

    • A says:

      it’s like they just through her under the bus. another WGWG for the win tomorrow i guess

    • Marsaili says:

      She PICKED the sound—they didn’t force on her. She said that she picked it because she wanted to show off her voice. The fact is that Jessica just can’t do pop songs that well—and she needs to learn to do them because that will be her genre and her demographic if she wins.

      • seattlejohn449 says:

        makes you wonder what her choices were (1? 2? 3?) plus how much arm-twisting was involved by the producers/arrangers/Iovine… plus how long did she have to learn 2 new songs plus brush up on a third… once Jessica goes into a real recording session where they can take time to finesse the sound and her vocals and she relaxes into the process and mindset and the emotional core of a song I think she has some great music ahead of her…but PP seems so one-note and limited in his range and stylings he just isn’t screaming recording artist to me (and I listen to alot of folk and americana and country and he just doesn’t do it for me)

        • tarc says:

          Jessica was straight up about picking the song to show off her voice. She wanted something more ‘urban’ but she thought this song would be a better pick.

  22. Jessica wins says:

    Jimmy can not produce Jessica.

  23. FreeHaley says:

    Wow judge’s really getting on Iovine there. I actually don’t mind things getting a bit more straight pop. 100% total urban R&B runs going all over the place like mad can become tiresome. Maybe she doesn’t have go all pure pop, but some now and then won’t hurt IMO.

    • FreeHaley says:

      And I guess I (well also Lea I see) are the only ones who like some pure pop now and then are getting tired of R&B and R&B and more R&B for everything.

  24. Kelly says:

    I think that song may be her taste. She chose pure popera with The Prayer and then this trite piece of pop piffle. Girlfriend is a teenage girl with the musical vocabulary of a teenage girl. I hope that as she gains experience she learns to choose songs that take advantage of both the experiece and the voice.

  25. kerry says:

    hmmm very Mumford and Sons…perhaps the best song of the night.

  26. Lea says:

    Damn.. I think Philip will win this thing.

  27. deedee says:

    phil’s original piece is miles better than Jessica’s. Sounds a lot like a Paul Simon song.

    For me: Round 1 – Phil ; Round 2 – Jessica ; Round 3 – Phil

    Phil is 2 out of 3, but Jessica will win. (prediction)

  28. DebD says:

    geez he’s cute!

  29. Jessica wins says:

    I can’t believe they gave that a standing ovation.

  30. Melissa says:

    simon & garfunkel meets coldplay?

  31. Kristen says:

    That Phillip song sounded just like Mumford and Sons. Looks like Jessica got bussed.

  32. kerry says:

    Hey Randy….didn’t I just say that? :)

  33. laker says:

    Boom! Phillip! Great third song!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

    • deedee says:

      It’s a total radio hit.

      • tarc says:

        Mumford & Soms won several best new artist awards last year in the UK, and Phillip’s song was A LOT like their music.

        • deedee says:

          … which is A LOT like “Graceland”.

          • tarc says:

            It’s a lot more like Billy Bragg. I don’t hear Graceland in it – Simon used a lot of South African rhythms and even guested one of my faves, Ladysmith Black Mabazo. Mumford & Sons draws on American bluegrass, Celtic, and the English folk protest music of the 70’s and 80’s.

          • seattlejohn449 says:

            Billy Bragg is articulate, in tune, a brilliant songwriter, politically astute, a great guitarist and vocalist, funny as hell and iconic…pp? not so much…he’s this year’s fad and will be forgotten all too soon

          • tarc says:

            I was referring to Bragg’s ‘sound’. I’m aware of Billy Bragg – was around when he was most popular, saw him live. Have several of his records – one on vinyl. :P And while I thikn your praise of Bragg is a little (or more) effusive (based on hearing him live early on), you really can’t compare them in most ways. Different country, time, musical style, etc.

          • seattlejohn449 says:

            I just don’t see the connection other than they both play guitar…like you I’ve seen Bragg live (with Wilco at WOMAD and solo at BUMBERSHOOT) and enjoyed his SEXUALITY video on MTV when they used to play videos (sorry, no vinyl, but several cd’s) and frankly I just can’t see PP holding his own with Wilco or being rebellious through his music (unless you count his lack of open-mindedness and being petulant on IDOL as part of the total adventure and experience)…ps..I just saw a great new documentary on Paul Simon making the Graceland record in South Africa with Ladysmith Black Mambazo and all the original musicians at a local film festival and it will be on A&E channel this coming weekend…)

  34. Jules says:

    I got your home right here, Phil Baby!!

    Voting for Phillip!!!

    Love that guy !!!!!

  35. nerd4life says:

    If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of the bus running over Jessica, backing up, and hitting her again. “SPLAT!”

  36. Liz says:

    There is no radio station in the USA that will play PP’s song.

  37. Lynda says:

    Michael – Phillip’s song reminded me of Simon and Garfunkel.

  38. McFudge says:

    That was weird. Phillip Phillips Sousa.

  39. Merrilyn says:

    I’m not specifically a fan of either Jessica or Phillip, but I have to say, Phillip’s single is one I would actually buy. It sounds like a lot of stuff I already have on my iPod. I think he just won.

  40. U kidding me??? How much of that he sang????? It was mostly not his voice???,

  41. KK says:

    Easily the best of the night!! It was very Mumford & Sons which is AWESOME!!! Bringing Mumford to the masses……I approve!!

  42. Mary says:

    PP just won with that song dam it. It is obvious Jessica needs guidance, but I think she is still the best singer and with help she could top the charts. it is going to come down what fans dial their fingers off.

  43. Jessica wins says:

    Jimmy will destroy Jessica’s career if he produces her.

  44. alejandro says:

    Great ripoff of Mumford and Sons.

    • tarc says:

      We don’t know who wrote the song… it literally could be Mumford & Sons. But really, it could also be Punch Brothers, Nickel Creek, The Duhks, etc…

      • macy says:

        Written by Drew Pearson and Greg Holden — this is an article on rickey dot org.

        • tarc says:

          So, Mumford and Arcade Fire were inspirations. Cool. :) Great song… but I like Phillip’s version a lot better than Holden’s.

          • tarc says:

            Oh, and it was cool that Pearson said he’d been working with Lee DeWyze – that is the direction for him.

  45. Steph says:

    It’s really really disappointing that they gave Jessica that last song. She did sing the heck out of it though. Her voice is insane.

  46. Eric says:

    Phillip’s song sounded like a mix of Ray LaMontagne and Pete Yorn.

  47. ashley says:

    seriously “Home” was actually AMAZING. i am stunned.

  48. Renda says:

    I hate to say I actually loved Phillip’s coronation song, but probably because it was less Dave Matthews-ish. If he makes a record like that, I’ll actually buy it. However, I still want Jessica to win based on talent and The Prayer.

  49. Jessica wins says:

    I think this will make Jessica’s fans vote more, including me.
    Good night.

  50. Phan says:

    Phil’s single reminded me of a mixture of “It Ain’t Me Babe” by Bob Dylan and Good Old War’s “My Own Sinking Ship.”