Are we ready for the biggest upset in “American Idol” history?
Yeah, not gonna happen.
Phillip Phillips sealed his destiny as the fifth-straight WGWG (“White Guy With Guitar,” as the blogosphere says) with his coronation song “Home,” a mainstream-ready approximation of indie-folk. “Home” is more Edward Sharpe and Mumford and Sons than Dave Matthews Band, but there's still some Matthews in there, too. (It was actually co-written by Drew Pearson and British singer-songwriter Greg Holden.)
Phillips certainly made the song his own, making it likable and oh-so-slightly edgy, as he has done all season long. It's what he legitimately does better than Jessica Sanchez, who, at 16, is still learning who she is as a person, nevermind who she is as an artist.
She certainly gave Phillips a run for his money. Despite all her drawbacks in terms of the “Idol” electorate – her gender, her hometown, her ethnicity – she kept it close. Sanchez won the first two rounds easily. Her powerhouse take on Whitney Houston's “I Have Nothing” blew out Phillips' warm, sweet “Stand by Me.” Her song was more challenging and the open arrangement offers no cover for mistakes. Luckily for her, she didn't make any.
Sanchez's reprise of “The Prayer” was even better, showing how well she can personalize songs that she is familiar with, though Phillips' reworking of Billy Joel's “Movin' Out” was also pretty good, a nice sign of his artistry.
Where things went wrong for Sanchez was the coronation song. It wasn't that she didn't sing “Change Nothing” well, but it was such an awful fit for her that she never really stood a chance. (The song, co-written by singer-songwriter Jaden Michaels, was, oddly, not bland enough for a coronation song and, lyrically, meant for someone older.)
Why on earth would someone recommend that Sanchez sing something that bordered on country pop? Conspiracy theorists may cry, “Sabotage!” but Jennifer Lopez was right in telling her, “You have to be able to say to someone, 'This is not me.'” Nevertheless, even with a great song, Sanchez would have still faced an uphill battle.
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This is supposed to be a singing competition and Sanchez was clearly the best singer this season. The fact that she can't win says more about the show's struggle – ratings are down about 25 percent this year and Entertainment Weekly says Web traffic on its “Idol” stories was down 50 percent this year – than it does about her.
In the long run, both Phillips and Sanchez will be fine. But will “Idol”?
Jessica Sanchez, “The Prayer”
Phillip Phillips, “Home”
Jessica Sanchez, “I Have Nothing”
Phillip Phillips, “Movin' Out”
Phillip Phillips, “Stand by Me”
Jessica Sanchez, “Change Nothing”
WILL WIN: Phillip
SHOULD WIN: Jessica
ACTUALLY WON: Phillip