American Idol: What New Songs and Encores Would You Pick for Jessica and Phillip?

phillip phillips jessica sanchezIt’s hard to believe there are only two episodes left in American Idol‘s eleventh season. And while it’s equally impossible (for me, for you) to envision a finale not involving Joshua Ledet, the show must go on. (Hey, Skylar Laine sang it, so it must be true.)

Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe Tweeted last week that the Season 11 Top 2 — Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips — would be tackling three songs apiece: 1) Their favorite song of the series; 2) A song chosen by Simon Fuller; and 3) Their individual new single.

Part of me remains optimistic that for the first time ever, Idol producers (or at least Jimmy Iovine) won’t saddle the Top 2 with treacle-y nonsense along the lines of “No Boundaries” or “Do I Make You Proud” for their first trips to radio, but that probably falls under the “Fool me 11 times, shame on me and everyone with whom I’ve ever associated” territory.

Instead, let’s focus on the Simon Fuller selection and the “Idol encore” pick (since I’m assuming Uncle Nigel meant Jessica and Phillip can choose to repeat something they’ve covered during their Idol runs, not their favorite song performed by any contestant in the series’ 11-season history, even if the latter option is more interesting).

Simon Fuller Pick
Jessica Sanchez: The Isley Brothers’ “It’s Your Thing” would certainly put her old-soul growl to work, and prove she can move in the process. (One caveat: no 7-inch heels allowed!) I also wouldn’t mind hearing Jessica tackle ‘Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry,” an unexpected, emotional choice that would still allow the 16-year-old’s massive instrument to soar (especially on the final refrain). And while I’ve been pushing for it all season, why not make one more plea for Jessica to tackle “Pearls,” a lesser-known gem from the Sade catalog that would become an instant Idol classic for Bebe Chez.

Phillip Phillips: It’s time for Phillip to prove himself by tackling something out of left field and putting his swampy guitar stamp on it. If he gave Keith Sweat’s “Make You Sweat” the same treatment her gave “Thriller” and “Nice and Slow” in the pre-voting rounds, he might even get his naysayers to speed-dial. The Killers’ “Somebody Told Me” would give Phillip a chance to rock a little harder — and prove himself radio-ready. Still, as I advocated earlier in the season, George Michael’s “Freedom ’90” might be the perfect marriage of music, lyrics, and audacity Phillip needs to snatch the Season 11 crown.

Season 11 Encore
Jessica Sanchez: If Jessica isn’t limited to songs she’s tackled during the voting rounds, then I vote for her Vegas-week solo (“The Prayer”) or better yet, her Vegas-week group number (Buddy Holly’s “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore”). If she’s forced to repeat something from Top 25 week or later, though, I guess I’d go with either “Like a Prayer” (Top 9 week trio with Skylar and Hollie) or “You Are So Beautiful” (provided that her Fuller pick and debut single aren’t both ballads as well). Nope, I didn’t go with “I Will Always Love You” or “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going”: Those Season 11 moments were too big the first time around, and won’t give her any new momentum in an encore situation.

Phillip Phillips: I’m really hoping Phillip isn’t limited to repeating his voting-round performances, which means that the aforementioned “Thriller” and “Nice and Slow” would be on the table, as would his Vegas group ditty, “I Only Have Eyes for You.” If that’s not the case, though, then I’d push Phillip to break out “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” from Billy Joel week or perhaps “Still Rainin.”

What are your picks for the Top 2 final performance night? Hit the comments and share your opinions!