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HOME > American Idol > American Idol 11

'American Idol' judges split on whether Phillip Phillips or Jessica Sanchez should win


By Elizabeth Kwiatkowski, 05/23/2012 

American Idol's finale performance show was a too-close-to-call toss-up between Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez, according to the show's judges.

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During last night's broadcast, Sanchez and Phillips were each required to sing three songs in a last-chance attempt to impress the judges and home viewers. Round 1 was American Idol creator Simon Fuller's choice, Round 2 allowed the contestants to choose their favorite song of the season and Round 3 featured the two finalists each performing their potential winning song produced solely for them.

According to Idol judges Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson, Sanchez won the first round after she took the stage and sang Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing." Phillips performed "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King.

"For me, this is a tough one because it's like a battle of the opposites. How do you compare? With Jessica, you have amazing vocal prowess, this power, this control, this beauty. With [Phillip], you have our modern-day crooner. He has soulfulness, originality, artistry. So at the end of the day, America has a tough job. It's who is making you feel something -- who is really, really making you pick up at the phone and vote," Lopez explained.

"Do you think anyone won Round 1?" Seacrest asked the judging panel.

"I would say Round 1 probably went to Jessica," Jackson said.

The second round left the judges split over which finalist outdid the other. Sanchez's performance of Celine Dion's "The Prayer" impressed Tyler, while Lopez favored Phillips' rendition of Billy Joel's "Movin' Out." 

"At the end of Round 2, where do you think we are? How are they doing?" Seacrest asked the judges.

"Well you know, when it comes to Phillip Phillips, I would say you don't always have to be a good egg -- hatch or go bad -- and tonight, he's hatched some. But I would have to say that Jessica took it again," Tyler said.

"I think that round was a dead heat. I'd call them both even Round 2," Jackson added.

"Jessica blew it away so hard in the first round, and I have to say I have to go with Phillip on that round, because it was a real -- I've seen Jessica do that before -- and I just feel like that was 'authentic Phillip' right there. That's why people love him," Lopez explained.

Round 3 clearly went to Phillips in the judges' eyes, as his performance of "Home" fit his personality and vocal stylings perfectly while Sanchez's potential winning song of "Change Nothing" was a bit of a disappointment.

"Listen, let me just be straight up here, I didn't love the song. But what I did love is that you made something more out of the song... You came in here and you had that Beyonce kind of swag. You got urban in you, so if you do just a straight pop song without having any of your flavor in it, it's often a little weird for me when you do it. You brought the song to life, but I thought the song was just okay," Jackson told Sanchez.

"I thought you sang the song really well. Again, it was a pop ballad. If I was thinking about what your first single was going to be, I don't think I'd do that because you have so much soul -- so much inside of you. You have such a blues-quality feel in your voice. That's what surprises everyone when they see this little 16-year-old girl up there... So I think we missed that in this song for you," Lopez explained.

"When you go to make your record -- and you will make a record, you'll make many records -- you have to be able to say to someone, 'This is not me,' or, 'This is me but I can put a twist on it.' You can change songs. Know that those are all your options as an artist to do that. Everything has to be you, Jessica."

"Jessica, I know how good you can sing and so can millions of people in America and all over the world. I just didn't feel like that song was the proper song for you to sing with the voice and the places you've taken the world before this. Yeah baby," Tyler said.

Following Sanchez's last performance, Phillips closed out the show and got raving reviews from an excited and supportive judging panel.

"Dude, I love the song, I love you, I love the production, I love the marching band. Everything about that was perfect! I loved it! That's your best performance of the night. That's amazing -- a true artist performance... I love it dude, I love it. Brilliant! Genius!" Jackson told Phillips.

"I think what was so moving about that was that it was so different. I couldn't think of any other singer or band that you sounded like right in that moment. It's just Phillip. It's Phillip Phillips. That was a Phillip Phillips song and there's nothing on the radio that sounds like that. Congratulations!" Lopez said.

"By virtue of your vulnerability and style, you have made the world your home my friend. I heard a little Paul Simon in there and other ungod-like creatures on this planet. You were perfect tonight and I think you are the man," Tyler added.

American Idol's eleventh-season champion will be crowned during tonight's final two-hour results show.

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