Phillip Phillips, a 21-year-old pawn shop worker from Leesburg, GA, was declared Idol's eleventh-season winner during Wednesday night's live finale broadcast on Fox. He is the fifth-straight male finalist to take home American Idol's title.
Phillips defeated Jessica Sanchez, a 16-year-old from San Diego, CA, after he received the larger portion of the "132 million" home viewer votes cast immediately following Tuesday night's live performance broadcast that saw Phillips and Sanchez each sing three songs.
"I just want to say it's been such an honor being up on this stage playing with everybody and the [Idol band] -- we wouldn't have sounded as good without them -- blessings go out to them. And all the fans out there, just thank ya'll for voting for us. All the fans' support and everything, it's been crazy," Phillips said beforeAmerican Idol host Ryan Seacrest announced his victory.
"The whole crew of American Idol, they've done everything for us and made this show happen. And all the fans, thank you so much for voting. We wouldn't be in this position without you guys, so thank you," Sanchez said just before she was named the runner-up.
During Tuesday night's performance broadcast, Phillips and Sanchez 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 finalists to choose their favorite song of the season and Round 3 featured the Top 2 each performing their potential winning song written and produced solely for them.
Although Idol judges Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson firmly believed Sanchez outdid Phillips during Round 1, they thought the second round was a complete toss-up as to which finalist may be more likely to win the competition. Sanchez's performance of Celine Dion's "The Prayer" impressed Tyler, while Lopez favored Phillips' rendition of Billy Joel's "Movin' Out."
"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.
Although Phillips' initial song of "Stand By Me" by Ben E. King didn't outshine Sanchez's "I Have Nothing" by Whitney Houston during the first round, the "modern-day crooner" closed out the show with a stellar final performance that left the judges stunned.
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"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.
All of Idol's Top 12 eleventh-season finalists participated in Wednesday night's finale, as they all opened the show as a group. Afterward, the Top 6 female finalists performed a medley with singer Chaka Khan, while the Top 6 male finalists performed a variety of classics with Neil Diamond and then a tribute to Bee Gees member Robin Gibb, who recently passed away.
The filler-filled broadcast also included the eleventh season's third-place finisher Joshua Ledet performing Elton John's "Take Me To the Pilot" featuring Fantasia Barrino, fourth-place finisher Hollie Cavanagh singing "You'll Never Walk Alone" in a duet with Jordin Sparks, and fifth-place finisher Skylar Laine performing "Turn On the Radio" alongside country star Reba McEntire.
In addition, the show featured Phillips singing "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" and "Bad Moon Rising" in a duet with Creedence Clearwater Revival's John Fogerty. Sanchez performed "I Will Always Love You" and followed it with an inarguably amazing duet with Jennifer Holiday in which they sang "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" together. Sanchez and Phillips also harmonized a slow ballad before the winner was revealed.
Tonight's broadcast also highlighted several more famous artists. Lopez sang "Goin' In" and "Follow the Leader," singer Rihanna performed "Where Have You Been," and then Aerosmith took the Idol stage and performed a couple of their hits.
American Idol's finale episode featured numerous video montages including a tribute to the judges and their silly behind-the-scenes moments from the season; Idol's typical "unsung heroes" collection, which reminded fans of the entertaining but unsuccessful eleventh-season auditioneers; a strange look inside Tyler's "dressing room;" and a spoof of the Top 10 "singing the phonebook" -- literally -- which was one of Jackson's key phrases throughout the season.
Viewers also saw a video montage in which Phillips and Sanchez asked their own personal music mentors from home to attend the finale. During the live broadcast, the two finalists each handed their mentors the keys to a brand new Ford Escape vehicle, after which Phillips and Sanchez were also surprised with two 2013 Ford vehicles of their choice.
In addition, former American Idol contestants Ace Young and Diana Degarmo got engaged onstage in front of America. A nervous Young popped the question after he gave a heartfelt speech, and then a tearful DeGarmo gladly accepted.
American Idol's final eleventh-season episode concluded with Phillips singing "Home," his new single.
According to Seacrest, the finale's vote total of 132 million home viewer votes set a new all-time Idol record and a new world record. About The Author:Elizabeth Kwiatkowski
Elizabeth Kwiatkowski is Associate Editor of Reality TV World and has been covering the reality TV genre for more than a decade.