Is America about to crown its fifth consecutive male Idol? Diva-in-training Jessica Sanchez and Dave Matthews doppelganger Phillip Phillips performed Tuesday night on American Idol's final showdown, and one will be named the competition's 11th champion on Wednesday night. They embody two categories of Idol victors: Sanchez is reminiscent of the teen females with huge voices — Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks — who used to dominate the show, while Phillips is one of the sexually non-threatening, guitar-toting white boys — Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, Scotty McCreery — who have reigned in recent years. Both singers performed three songs Tuesday night, including a new track that will become their first single if they win. (Watch Sanchez's "Change Nothing" and Phillips' "Home" below.) Phillips' final performance of "Home" earned the night's only standing ovation from the judges. Is he the next American Idol?
Phillip Phillips deserves to win: After last night, Phillip sealed his fate as Idol's fifth consecutive male winner, says TV Fanatic. He delivered original arrangements of both "Stand by Me" and Billy Joel's "Movin' Out," proving that he knows "who he is and what kind of records he wants to make." His "Home" had a catchy, relevant Mumford and Sons quality, and should be an instant radio hit, while Sanchez struggled with a bland power-pop ballad of a final song. Phillip just "has a level of artistry and confidence that Jessica seems to lack." And those piercing blue eyes…
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But Jessica Sanchez needs to win: Phillip's victory seems inevitable, says James Montgomery at MTV. He's yet another "handsome dude with a guitar," the sort of singer the show's female teen voters predictably embrace. But most of the recent male winners have bombed professionally, mustering only feeble album sales. Sanchez, on the other hand, is Idol's "best hope of recapturing that old magic, of creating an actual of-the-moment pop superstar." At 16, she's young and current. She's brimming with the "sheer diva-tude that has driven the likes of RiRi and Bey to superstardom." Plus, she boasts incomparable pipes. Should Sanchez win — and she deserves to — Idol may finally produce a relevant champ again.
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It's too close to call: Jessica produced the night's best performance, an impeccable cover of Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing," says Carl Williott at Idolator. But her final rendition of "Change Nothing" was positively milquetoast, and her sassy personality was absent all night. Phillip's takes on "Movin' Out" and "Stand by Me" were solid, but familiar. He knocked "Home" out of the park, however. He's shown "more evolution," and is peaking at the right time, but Jessica's had the most "honest-to-God 'moments' this year" — if not last night. "This could go either way."
"American Idol: Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips face off one last time"
Jessica Sanchez — "Change Nothing"
Phillip Phillips — "Home"