Phillip Phillips takes 'Idol' crown
Posted May 23, 2012
Guitar-strumming Phillip Phillips is the new American Idol. He earned the crown Wednesday and made it five wins in a row for the guys.
Phillips, 21, considered a strong favorite on online betting sites, impressed Idol judges and fans with his self-assured artistic choices to defeat 16-year-old balladeer Jessica Sanchez in the 11th edition of the Fox singing competition.
The Leesburg, Ga., singer, who has been likened to everyone from Dave Matthews to Paul Simon, earned a standing ovation from the show's judges for a final song, Home, during Tuesday's performance finale, an auspicious way to lead into viewer voting. (A record 132 million votes were cast.) Phillips triumphed despite being plagued by kidney problems during the competition.
He said after the show that he plans to have surgery, but expects to be on the Idol summer tour. "I didn't think any of this would ever happen," he said of his victory. "It's overwhelming and unbelievable."
What got him the win? "I have no idea," he said. "I'm just another guy who loves to play music."
Sanchez said she'd told him at the final-three results show that he was going to win. "He was like, 'No, I'm not,' and I'm like, 'I'll bet you so much money that you are.' "
For her part, she says her final song didn't fully reflect her style. "Now that I can be myself, and not in the American Idol bubble anymore, I want to show everybody who I really am. I'm definitely not a straight pop singer," she said.
The winner was named at the end of Idol's annual two-hour extravaganza, headlined by a performance by Rihanna and featuring the Season 11 finalists singing with Fantasia, Reba McEntire, Jennifer Holliday, Jordin Sparks, John Fogerty and Neil Diamond— as well as an on-screen marriage proposal between Idol alums Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo.
Phillips led what many considered to be one of Idol's more talented and competitive fields, which also included soulful Joshua Ledet and country firecracker Skylar Laine. But the victory caps a season when Idol suffered significant ratings losses and endured criticism its judges were too soft in critiques of singers.
Tuesday's final performance episode was the lowest-rated ever. Nonetheless, Idol is still a ratings power. Through last week, the Wednesday edition ranked as the season's top entertainment show.
Jennifer Lopez, who joined the judging panel with Steven Tyler for Idol's resurgent 10th season, has expressed some uncertainty about whether she'll return next year. Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe said last week there will be some changes, but that is common. "Every year we look at American Idol and do little tweaks and mess it around a little bit. I'm sure we'll be doing that again."
Latest in Entertainment