When it comes to predicting "American Idol" winners early, I have a mixed track record.
I underestimated both Kris Allen and Lee DeWyze dramatically, but I also knew after last season's Top 24 performances that Scotty McCreery was going to be unbeatable.
This season, back in January, I fought with clunky Park City wireless to recap the "Idol" premiere the night before the start of the Sundance Film Festival. You can check out my recap here and you can scan all the way to the bottom to see my reaction to Phillip Phillips. I didn't make any similarly hyperbolic statements in any subsequent audition recaps, so I had a hunch. But I also didn't want to believe that "Idol" would prove to be that excruciatingly predictable, so when it came time to lock in my winner for HitFix's "Idol" Fantasy Game, I settled on Jessica Sanchez the week the game began.
No matter who wins on tonight's (May 23) "American Idol" Season 11 finale, it won't be an underdog. Don't fool yourself into thinking otherwise. Phil-Phil has the familiar "Idol"-winning profile. Jessica has the familiar diva vocals. Either result will make total sense.
But naturally, it's gonna take us 127 minutes (according to FOX) to get there.
Click through for the full, exhaustive live-blog. And join the conversation as we approach our results.
8:00 p.m. ET. Do we feel like Jessica and Phillip have had a single conversation this entire season? In my mind, she's constantly off somewhere being tutored, while he's constantly off somewhere having his kidneys flushed. And I can't imagine what they'd have talked about anyway. Chaucer?
8:02 p.m. The white suits are back! And so is DeAndre Brackensick! Jermaine Jones? Not-so-back. We're just pretending that didn't happen.
8:03 p.m. Good ol' Jeremy Rosado. And Hee Jun Han. And whatshername who got the haircut and was immediately voted out!
8:04 p.m. Ummm... Was that Joshua Ledet falling down trying to the Motown Splits? That's why we save the dancing for the professiona dancers. And what a lot of professional dancers we have. You'd think this was "So You Think You Can Dance." It's not. But that's back tomorrow night.
8:05 p.m. Shannon Magrane is tall.
8:06 p.m. Scotty McCreery is clapping politely.
8:07 p.m. Jennifer Lopez's legs are so shiny they can be spotted from outer space. And trust me, the aliens are looking, because they love J-Lo and hope that she doesn't leave "Idol" to advance her "movie career" or her "music career."
8:07 p.m. Dean Cain is on "The Choice." That's why he's in the studio audience.
8:07 p.m. We had 132 million votes come in last night. That's a new record. For something.
8:08 p.m. Jessica got "a little bit" of sleep last nigh. Phil-Phil got nearly 10 hours of sleep. These two kids know how to bring the drama, don't they?
8:10 p.m. Unlike Jason Derulo, I can be kept down by gravity.
8:11 p.m. Oooh. "Dark Knight Rises" trailer. Hollywood knows where to put its money tonight.
8:12 p.m. Phillip Phillips gets to share the stage with John Fogerty. We assume FOX owns John Fogerty because The Finder helped him find his guitar. Does this mean we're going to be denied a Phil-Phil/Dave Matthews duet? Because... BOO. Phil-Phil has done good duet work this season. His "Somebody I Used To Know" with Elise Testone was a highlight. This, however, is not the best blending of voices. It's like they couldn't decide who was supposed to go "high" and who was supposed to go "low," so they both went high.
8:15 p.m. We're lucky enough to get two songs from this pairing, as Phil-Phil and Fogerty transition from "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" to "Bathroom on the Right." [Anybody who corrects my mishearing of "Bad Moon on the Rise" gets hit.] I may not be loving this so much, but Carrie Underwood is and that's what matters.
8:17 p.m. Ugh. Our first "hilarious" montage of the night features both awful auditions and the judges screwing up and getting bleeped, "Idol"-logo-style. "Bird is the Word," y'all. This looks like such fun. Why would J-Lo even consider leaving? I mean... Steven Tyler farting on a fighter plane!
8:20 p.m. Joshua Ledet is singing George Huff's Elton John's "Take Me To The Pilot." Oh, Joshua! You were my Idol this season. And he's joined by... FANTASIA! It's Mantasia and Fantasia together. But we're all just going to spend the next few minutes being really, really distracted by Fantasia's body suit. It's shiny. It's tight. There appear to be large cut-outs on the side. And it's just plain weird. You know what's sad about this? That Simon Cowell isn't around to make terrified faces. It seems that the performance is cut off before its conclusion. FOX has to sell product, y'all.
8:28 p.m. Jimmy has a hard time remembering Jennifer Lopez's name. Because it sounds like "Jessica." And that's funny. Darnit, Jimmy. J-Lo pretends to be amused. She wants to kill him. Apparently Jimmy has a daughter named Jessica. "Next year," J-Lo tells Jimmy. Wait. That's a legally binding contract, J-Lo. You'll be back. Yay!
8:31 p.m. Group performance by the "Idol" women. Shannon Magrane is very tall. The costumers are not being kind to Skylar Laine.
8:32 p.m. Erika Van Pelt! That's the one whose name I forgot. Sorry, Erika.
8:33 p.m. Doesn't Chaka Khan sing "Every Woman" with the female finalists every single year? She's in our second unfortunate full body-suit of the night. But Jane Lynch is very pleased. Very pleased.
8:40 p.m. Ford Presents a Tribute to Ford Commercials. I like that Ford includes Phil-Phil in their tribute, even though he's been standing up their commercials all season. Jessica and Phil-Phil pay tribute to their musical mentors and Ford gave those mentors tickets to the finale. But not cars? Whew. Yes. Cars. See? Mentoring young musicians pays off! In cars! But wait. There's more... Cars for Jessica and Phil-Phil as well.
8:43 p.m. You get a car! And you get a car! Everybody gets a car!
8:43 p.m. Rihanna time! She arrives in a box covered in mystical symbols. Inside the box, she's being contained by a pyramid of green lasers. Enough of the schtick. We wanna see what Rihanna's wearing. Whatever it is, it's all about exposing her legs and her cleavage. I'd describe the outfit as a complete success. "I love you 'Idol,'" Rihanna concludes, out of breath. One may never say that she short-changed the audience on hip-shaking.
8:52 p.m. Skylar Laine gets her solo. She's joined, predictably, by new ABC sitcom star Reba McEntire. This is the best of our Finalist-and-Star duets by a wide margin. They are, indeed, very alike in voice and mannerisms. If Skylar cameoed on Reba's "Malibu Country" as a long-lost cousin or something, that would make completely sense.
8:55 p.m. Ugh. Filmed bit focusing on Steven Tyler's dressing room. He has a room full of Bunnies and... A SLOTH! Where's Kristen Bell when you need her? He also has a ceramic monkey. And a sister. And an organ. And a skunk. And an inflated zebra. Why is this happening? Whew. He also has a monkey, saving the bit.
8:57 p.m. Jessica Sanchez sings "I Will Always Love You." Because that's what she does.
9:00 p.m. Is it just me or are there fewer commercials tonight than you might expect?
9:00 p.m. Oh, HELL YEAH! The "Idol" men take the stage and launch into "America." That can only mean one thing...
9:02 p.m. Sigh. I thought I was going to get immediate Neil Diamond gratification. Instead I have to listen to Jeremy Rosado and DeAndre Brackensick do bad, bad, bad things to his songbook. Come on...
9:03 p.m. Whew. Enter Neil Diamond. "Sweet Caroline," baby. Just like in the 8th inning at Fenway.
9:05 p.m. We're not venturing very far from the "Idol" coffers of familiar guest performers are we? That speaks ill either for the show itself, or just for the ambition of the finale talent bookers. Have we had a star tonight who hasn't done "Idol" before?
9:11 p.m. Obligatory mockery of Randy's predictable recycled sayings. Yes. People can sing the phone book. Ha. So now the "Idol" Finalists are literally singing the phone book. This is not unfunny. Except that DeAndre Brackensick. they shot this while Phil-Phil and Jessica were doing something more important. OK. Credit where credit is due, that was a good little bit.
9:14 p.m. Jennifer Lopez time! She's performing two songs for our enjoyment entertainment. Instant reaction: J-Lo is going a little casual tonight. I assume that's because she's going to tear off her shirt and her baggy pants, right? Eventually? While J-Lo's a pretty limited singer, she still gives full effort as a dancer. But seriously... Those pants are coming off, aren't they?
9:17 p.m. There went the top! Hello J-Lo!
9:18 p.m. The sequined baggy pants are a little silly, but J-Lo's definitely workin' 'em.
9:19 p.m. The sweatpants remained in place for the entire number.
9:24 p.m. Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo? Ummm... Is that a thing?
9:25 p.m. Holy Crapballs! Is Ace Young proposing to Diana DeGarmo? And is it a cross-promotion with Dave Webb Jewelry?
9:26 p.m. Yes. The product plug was tacky. But she said "YES." I'm not sure if I believe that really just happened. But... Weird. "I'm so speechless right now," Diana says, praising the ring. Thanks, Dave Webb Jewelry.
9:28 p.m. Showcase time for Hollie Cavanagh. We're all still perplexed by the Young-DeGarmo proposal. It's really hard to process. Anyway, here comes Jordin Sparks. Just like in the commercials that played during seemingly every commercial break this season.
9:35 p.m. Awww. "Idol" is going to pay tribute to Robin Gibb, a former "American Idol" finale performer himself. Does anybody remember the last time we had a Phillip Phillips sighting?
9:37 p.m. Yup. "Idol" is just baiting me to make fun of DeAndre Brackensick and Jeremy Rosado again. But I'm not going to bite. Will the "Idol" women honor Donna Summer?
9:39 p.m. Oooh. Jessica Sanchez and Jennifer BLEEPING Holliday. I hope that "Idol" viewers are able to properly recognize that what Jennifer Holliday is doing is how you DO IT. I mean... Jessica Sanchez is a darned talented little kid. But Jennifer Holliday's all, "Child's play is over." Plus, she does it while making awesomely funny faces.
9:42 p.m. Jennifer Holliday's funny faces and utterly sublime voice absolutely brought out the best in Jessica. Jennifer Lopez bouncing up and down in glee is a lot of fun, too.
9:47 p.m. Hey look. Aerosmith! You were just holding out on us with that dismally dull first hour, weren't you, "Idol"?
9:51 p.m. On to "Walk This Way."
9:53 p.m. J-Lo's happy for Aerosmith. She was happier about Jennifer Holliday.
9:57 p.m. Awkward Jessica/Phil-Phil duet! Remember Phil-Phil? He's in the running to be the next American Idol.
10:00 p.m. Really? Results? Well OK.
10:00 p.m. We have an envelope.
10:01 p.m. Phil-Phil mumbles something about how this has been an honor. Jessica agrees. They both thank the fans and the crew.
10:01 p.m. Your winner... PHILLIP PHILLIPS.
10:02 p.m. Jessica Sanchez is immediately and genuinely happy for Phil-Phil. Good for her.
10:03 p.m. Ryan hands Phil-Phil his guitar. Sure, it steals freely from Mumford & Sons, but "Home" is probably my favorite "Idol" coronation song ever.
10:04 p.m. AWWW. Phil is performing in tears. He was never exactly robotic, but he's had some terrific moments of real and unforced emotion in recent weeks. This is just another. Wow. He can't finish his performance and he goes out into the audience and hugs his parents. Sniffle.
10:06 p.m. This is a good moment, as Phil goes around hugging everybody in sight. Tomorrow perhaps we can discuss if there's any point to a minority or female singer ever auditioning for "Idol" again.
What'd you think of the finale? And what'd you think of the results?
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