'American Idol' Recap: The Home Stretch - Rolling Stone
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‘American Idol’ Recap: The Home Stretch

Phil-Phil crowned the winner after endless pageantry, guest appearances

phillip phillips american idol

Phillip Phillips performs a victory song after winning 'American Idol.'

Michael Becker/FOX

Tonight, tonight, tonight, season eleven of American Idol comes to an end. While we all think we know what will happen and who will walk away with the title, crown, and NEW CAR!, we don’t truly know, because this show is the love child of America and Idol-atry and it’s anyone’s game, although maybe the non-threatening white guy has a slight advantage. This is America, after all.

The finale is two hours long, which means a show filled to capacity with pageantry, glamour, celebrity guest appearances, reminders to Go Buy Tickets Now for Idol Live, product placements, songs by the Top 12 finalists, and then, in the last seven minutes of the show, we will find out the winner. No, really, the show is scheduled to go to 10:07. So put on your glittery catsuit, sit back, relax, and for God’s sake, drink something.

We kick off the finale with the Top 12 (minus Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez) dressed in all white like we’ve died and gone to a very cabaret version of heaven, where someone has made a terrible mistake by putting giantess Shannon Magrane next to the wee Hollie Cavanagh, making it all feel a bit Twin Peaks-y. While Skylar Laine reminds us that she has more stage presence when she’s clomping around than everything last night combined, it’s Joshua Ledet who gets the extra credit for trying, and failing, to do splits on stage. At the end of the song we cut to an extremely random crowd shot of people looking confused and, for once, it’s not the judges. It’s live TV, people, now fire the cameraman.

Ryan Seacrest looks dapper in a tuxedo when he comes on stage. To fluff the crowd he asks them to scream the name of the one they love and all you hear is a dull roar of “Phillllllippppp.” Ryan explains that a record-breaking 132 million votes were registered last night. Yes, that’s more than the number of votes in the last presidential election. Are you proud of yourself, America? Whatever, James Madison would totally vote for Phillip Phillips. And if we could text in our presidential votes free for AT&T customers, you know our voter participation numbers would almost rival Idol‘s. It’s what the founding fathers had in mind.

Photos: ‘American Idol’ Season 11

After his recent appearance on The Finder, we knew Fox already had John Fogerty’s number, so it’s not a real surprise when he shows up to sing and strum a guitar alongside Phil-Phil. I guess Dave Matthews was busy doing whatever it is that Dave Matthews does. They start with “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” and since it’s California, the answer is no. John Fogerty is wearing a black bandana around his neck that looks so intentional you wonder if you undid it, his head would fall off. Then, because John’s come all this way and we have two hours to kill, they also perform “Bad Moon Rising.” There’s a bathroom on the right, y’all.

Following these modern tunes that all the kids are listening to these days, we take a forgettable trip down Memory Lane to the Idol auditions, which is only remarkable for the montage of contestants mauling Ryan Seacrest, which, frankly, I would watch for the entire two hours. More, please!

Joshua returns this week as the retired pro who has grown older and wiser from the experience. Actually it’s all just an excuse to get Fantasia and Joshua into a scream-off to the tune of Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot.” While the two divas screech at each other from opposites sides of the auditorium, it is Fantasia’s Lycra-sparkling jumpsuit complete with huge hip-to-ankle cut-outs that steal the show. That girl’s pants want it, America! Her pants are in it to win it! The judges are up and dancing because what else do they have to do? Don’t want to get bedsores, now do they?

After that cautionary tale and helpful reminder to wear real pants on television or a dress but nothing in between, we are treated to an interlude where it becomes evident that Jimmy Iovine has no idea what Jennifer Lopez’s first name is. This just makes me love him more.

Erika Van Pelt and Elise Testone show the lesser ladies how it’s done, but even they are upstaged by the introduction of none other than current chart topper Chaka Khan. But even Chaka (Miss Khan?) is upstaged by her own skintight brown sparkly catsuit. Damn, Chaka is the honey badger and she just don’t care. I guess skintight sparkly catsuits will be all the rage among the Hot Topic crowd this summer. Random celebrity endorsement du jour: Glee‘s Jane Lynch is in the audience singing along.

For the final Ford commercial of the season, Ford gives Jessica and Phillip and their music mentors brand new cars! It’s all very You get a car! And you get a car! Wait, is this an Oprah product placement? When Jessica’s mentor looks overwhelmed at Ford’s generosity, Ryan shrieks at Jessica, “Hug him! Hug him! Hug him!” and I would like a GIF of that please and thank you.

The stage fills with smoke and shirtless men fake drumming to a (fake) tribal beat while other shirtless men push out a giant Rihanna-filled box. She begins reenacting scenes from Battleship. Who doesn’t like a flop to be recreated on live TV? Don’t answer, because I am just kidding. She performs her latest hit and everyone goes home happy. FYI Hot Topic, Rihanna is not wearing a sparkly catsuit. 

Skylar Laine gets to sing “Turn on the Radio” with her own personal Idol (trademark American Idol), Reba McEntire. It’s a fitting match, because Skylar is clearly Reba’s heir apparent. Also her hair apparent.

To kill more time Steven Tyler takes us on a tour of his love den, which features a sloth. (OMG someone tell Kristen Bell!) Then the phrase “Now I’m going to show you my organ” is uttered and I run away screaming before I find out whether he’s talking about an instrument or a body part.

Continuing the trend of ultra-modern performances by Seventies icons, Colton Dixon and Heejun Han start singing the Neil Diamond classic “Coming to America” along with Jeremy Rosado, Deandre Brackensick (oh spellcheck, how quickly you forget!) and Joshua. They segue into “Cracklin’ Rosie” as they are joined by Neil Diamond himself, wearing a sparkly catsuit! Fine, it’s a sparkly jacket. They all sing a round of “Sweet Caroline.” Phillip is not on stage. He must be excused from all non-essential singing. I wonder if he has a dialysis machine backstage and EMTs standing by. I hope he wins just so he can justify whatever he is doing to himself, healthwise.

Most flagrant time killer of the night? When they dress the Top 12 as a gospel choir to sing the phone booth. Literally.

J.Lo has been MIA from the judges’ table because she needed time to get dressed in a bedazzled Teletubbie outfit topped with a Yankees hat. Yeah, Flygirls 4 Eva. In case you aren’t convinced she is dressed as a ‘Tubbie, she sings the lyrics, “Tonight we go orangutan/ bananas.” Which is clearly ‘Tubbie inspired. Then she rips off her shirt and hat, gets in touch with her inner Latina and gets Spanish-inflected. The stage show in one word is: WTF. But at least her pants look cozy.

Remember Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo? Yeah, me neither. This does not stop them from coming on stage so Ace can propose to Diana with a shout-out to the jeweler (word up David Webb Jewelry marketers!) who provided the ring. She says yes, but it would have been way more fun if she’d said no. Then the most romantic product-placed proposal ever is followed by a performance of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Jordin Sparks and Hollie Cavanagh. Not contrived at all, not even a little. Ugh, is this what happens to old Idols? They just marry each other and start reproducing? Oh, the horror.

Then we get the Top Five men singing Bee Gees covers in honor of Robin Gibb, noted songwriter but more important, former Idol performer. Apparently, singing in unison is hard. Sheesh, guys, as if Robin Gibb didn’t suffer enough. Try harder!

You know who tries hard? Jennifer Holliday. She and Jessica growl out “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” which when sung as a duet sounds like one howls “I’m Not Going!” and the other chimes in, “Yeah, me neither!” Ms. Holliday has both charisma and a very expressive mouth. Jessica manages to stand her ground despite the fact it looks like Ms. Holliday just might eat her.

Finally, Ryan gleefully introduces Aerosmith. They perform a new song, but obviously the Idol audience really wants to hear “Walk This Way.” Or, you know, just get on with naming the damn Idol winner already. Joe Perry’s hair wins! Good night.

Ugh, fine. J.San and Phil-Phil sing “Up Where We Belong” while the judges sit very still in the background. After that not very rousing rendition (seriously, those two have so little chemistry that it’s hard to imagine them even having a conversation), Ryan gets everyone on stage to announce the winner.

The winner of season 11 American Idol is Phillip Phillips. Duh. The Top 12 rush the stage as the audience waves “You’re Beauti-Phil” signs. Scotty McCreery hands Phillip the official Non-Threatening White Guy trophy (there’s a trophy?), which Ryan immediately replaces with a guitar, asking Phil to sing his single “Home.” For the celebrity take on the unfolding events, Jane Lynch looks touched.

Phillip has been holding it together really well until he gets one verse into the song and loses it. He starts crying and can’t finish the song. He has confetti in his face and tears in his eyes and gives up to go hug his mom. Awwwwwwww. That was a ridiculously adorable ending to a ridiculously ridiculous finale. That’s all, folks!

We will be talking to both Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez today. Be sure to check back for their heartfelt and sincere responses later.

Last episode: Change Nothing

In This Article: American Idol


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