It’s finally that time of year, where tomorrow night America gets to vote ‘til they can’t feel their thumbs anymore for either Jessica Sanchez or Phillip Phillips to be the season 11 winner of American Idol. But before we get our say, the show’s executive producer Nigel Lythgoe shared his insight on the Final Two during a media call last Friday.
It’s not a huge surprise to see either singer competing during the final week of the competition. Sanchez has been an odds-on early favorite and Phillips never once found himself to be in the Bottom Three throughout the season. Combine that with the fact that they’ve been the judges’ darlings this season, and you get a broad idea about how the Final Two came to be. That and they both have delivered solid performances that people spend the next day talking about.
As far as how the duo match up, as of right now, I feel like they’re on a pretty level playing field. In a season that has been comprised of moments, Sanchez hit her stride earlier on in the live shows with her performances of “I Will Always Love You” and “Sweet Dreams.” She stumbled last week due to lackluster song choices, which included Mariah Carey’s “My All” (Jennifer Lopez’s song pick) and a song that’s performed on Idol since season two, Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing” as her personal selection.
Phillips was another early favorite in the competition after his unique rendition of “Thriller” during his audition in front of the judges and his performance of Usher’s “Nice and Slow” during his “Sing For You Life” moment in Las Vegas. During the live shows, his performances have been pretty hit or miss, but he’s been carving out moments at the most crucial of times, like during Top 4 week with his emotionally gripping performance of Damian Rice’s “Volcano” and last week’s performances of Four Seasons/Madcon’s “Beggin’” (Randy Jackson’s song pick) and Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight,” which was selected for him by the show’s in-house mentor Jimmy Iovine.
When it comes to Tuesday night’s performances, Idol’s executive producer Nigel Lythgoe believes that song choice is going to be key for both of the contestants to succeed.
“I think, unlike the semi-final, Jessica needs to have a song that’s going to have a magic moment in it when she hits that note,” he explained. “She has this magnetic voice when she’s vulnerable, like she was on “I Will Always Love You.” Where, in fact, the orchestra drops out a little and just lets that voice go, it’s just, wow, it’s one of those. She’s got that quality.”
“Phillip Phillips. I think Phil loves those sort of mid-tempo numbers that have got a nice sort of groove to it. It’s a bit like the old, in my day, John Sebastian/Lovin Spoonful type of thing,” he continued. “I don’t think that’s necessarily right for him on a competition show, especially on that Nokia stage. You’ve got to go out there and got to do something that grabs that audience and literally makes them stand up, pick up the telephone at home and vote for him. That’s probably going to have to be something that puts a smile on your face, gets you to go, ‘Oh, I remember that.’ He needs to find a song that people know.”
If you watched the Top 3 perform last week, then you know that the results really could have gone any way. Due to Sanchez having an off night, many assumed (including myself) that the Final Two would be Phillips and Joshua Ledet. But the executive producer said it simply came down to one thing, “He didn’t get enough votes.” However, Lythgoe feels confident about Ledet’s future.
“Joshua, to be in a stadium with him is going to be incredible. This guy just exudes personality,” he said. “He’s too big almost for a television show. Put him on a stage and let him go, because he’s tremendous. And that’s why I like him, he’s just such a wonderful performer.”
He continued, “Voice-wise, Jessica’s up there with him. And personality and obviously the way he attracts ladies, Phillip’s there. I’m thrilled for them all. I’ve said it before and I mean it, these are the best three that I’ve ever seen on American Idol on one show, apart from the divas years ago that didn’t even make it to the top three.”
As far as tomorrow night’s performances go, it’s anyone’s guess what the contestants are going to be singing. Lythgoe did say that the contestants will be singing three songs each. The singers have an opportunity to reprise their favorite song that they’ve performed on the show from any point of the competition, the show’s creator Simon Fuller will be selecting a song for each of them, and like last season, each of the contestants will be performing their own individual single.
“At this moment in time, they’re just wonderful people and have got their feet firmly planted on the floor. And they’re very focused on winning,” Lythgoe said of Sanchez and Phillips. “They want to win.”
Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips perform their final three songs for your votes tomorrow night, May 22, during night one of the two-night American Idol finale at 8 p.m. on FOX.
Photo credit: Michael Becker/FOX