American Idol 11 Finale: The Night Before The Hype

For the record, I think web slideshows are evil.  That’s why it really annoys me that I have to recommend you flip through this one from The Daily Beast if you’re an Idol fan.  You might also want to read Lee DeWyze’s cautionary tale of his Season 9 “victory” (linked from the slideshow).

In other news, this is the one and only Idol episode I get to blog live (thanks to a twisted work schedule)… given that I usually blog live-from-DVR, you probably won’t notice the difference.

Anyway, it’s time to continue a very busy week at L.A. Live, after two hockey games and four basketball games at Staples Center in 72 (or so) hours and that bike race Sunday morning. The Idol focus shifts to the Nokia Theatre at L.A.Live from Television City, meaning several thousand more shrieking Idolbots and no hope of constructive criticism… and… it’s showtime…

THIS! … is American Idol!

The montage is framed as dueling diary entries for our finalists – WGWG (and VFTW’s hope-to-disrupt) Phillip Phillips and Pinoy Princess Jessica Sanchez (with the personal endorsement of the President of the Philippines).

You can tell we’re at L.A. Live, as Seacrest is rockin’ the handheld mic… and trying to be heard over 7,000 Idolbots.

Phillip, as always, is dressed for the occasion – well, it looks like the T-shirt is clean.

There are three rounds tonight – with Phillip having won the coin toss and electing to get Pimped – starting with Simon Fuller’s song choices…

Jessica Sanchez – “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston
Playing to her wheelhouse, Fuller gives Jessica a chance to showcase her belting vocals on a Whitney song.  Catnip to her fanbase… and as she has all season, she does a technically-nice job while showing no human emotions at all.  This will be somewhat off-putting when she goes out into the real world…

Good news… the judges are speaking only at the end of each round.

Bad news… since I’m watching live, I CAN’T FAST-FORWARD THE BREAKS!  What am I going to do?

Phillip Phillips – “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King
Oh, dear, are those bus tracks on Phillip’s back?  I mean, seriously?  Jessica gets a song almost tailor-made for her and P2 gets an R&B classic?  What, they couldn’t clear DMB?  Of course, P2 throws out the sheet music and does his own thing (which, theoretically, is what the judges always want) and does a credible (if familiar sounding) version.

This is the time in our show where the judges spew hot air.  Randy, following the script, said Jessica won round 1. 

Break… with the crowd-sourced Product-Placed Jason DeRulo single coming next…

And, as promised, DeRulo debuts “Undefeated” (with a couple of crowd shots featuring his girlfriend – and the 6th Idol – Jordin Sparks)…

Interesting song, makes for a feel-good pop anthem, which he’ll probably do well with if it is released as a single.

Break… on the way to Finale Round 2, the contestants’ favorite songs of the season…

We come back to a tour plug.  I suspect it’ll need the plugging.

Jessica – “The Prayer” by Céline Dion and Andrea Bocelli
This was her semifinal song.  I guess she’s staking her place – she’s going to be a pop belter/balladeer post-Idol.  It just seems so… manufactured.  Again, solid technically but rather robotic.

Break… it’ll be interesting to see how P2 defines himself…

Phillip – “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)” by Billy Joel
So Phillip sees himself as a rocker.  Gee, there’s a surprise… I’m really surprised he didn’t go for one more stylisically-similar to what he sings, but hey… it is (supposedly) his choice.   He did ditch the white T-shirt for… a black T-shirt?  Hard to tell behind the guitar.

Steven goes with the script and says Jessica “won” round two.  Randy reacts to the boos and calls it a dead heat.  Jennifer reacts to more boos and says Phillip won.  I’d be more interested if I thought for a minute they had any feelings that weren’t fed into their earpieces by Nigel Lythgoe.

Break… as we prepare for the horror that is “Coronation Single Round”.  Fortunately, I don’t think Kara Dioguardi is anywhere in the vicinity, so the songs can’t possibly be as horrible as “No Boundaries”…

Jessica – “Changed Nothing”
She’s sitting on a piano… and the pianist’s sheet music is on an iPad.  I never thought of that… her coronation song sounds like it could’ve been written for Whitney or Mariah or Céline… except, frankly, she’s as pitchy and as sharp as she’s been all season while trying to evoke some kind of emotion.  I do find it problematical asking a 16-year-old to understand and convey longing and loss… and her struggle with it comes through in what is really one of her worst performances of the season.   Did she stumble at the last hurdle?

Randy actually got it right – the song isn’t all that great.  But he gave her more credit than she deserved.   The other judges followed his lead.

Break… the last song of the competition phase of Idol Season 11 is next…

Phillip – “Home”
Hmm… kind of a Paul Simon-eque vibe to it… with a bit of DMB, of course… but definitely a song better suited to him than Jessica’s was to her (although I suspect that wasn’t Idol’s plan).  This is a single I think I want to hear at full-length.   It’s a better way to wrap this season than the season deserved.  If this vote was close at all, the Coronation Singles may just give the title to the Fifth Annual WGWG.

Randy went miles over the top… enthusiasm deserved, in this case.  And I’m-a scared… I wrote the Paul Simon reference within the first 10 seconds of the song… Steven heard it too.  I swear, I’m not drug-addled.

We close with mutual admiration from the finalists and, as has become traditional, a live performance of the sing-off song (Scotty McCreery’s “Please Remember Me”) over a montage of highlights (such as they were) of the season.  And, as has also become traditional, they can’t decide if they want to show the singer or the montage, and screw up both.

That’s it.  Idol XI has lurched to a conclusion.  Tomorrow, I’ll be recording the two-hour-eight-minute finale – but keep in mind, if all you want is the results, you can tune in for just the final 8 minutes… or check out every entertainment website imaginable at around 10:09pm Eastern tomorrow.

I’ll be at work during the show, so I’ll take a few potshots and wrap up this disappointing season (oops – foreshadowing) Thursday morning.  See you then.


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