Your new American Idol is… Phillip Phillips! In typical American Idol fashion, we didn’t discover the season’s winner until the finale’s final moments, but the audience had already chosen their victor long before to the announcement.
Cheers for Phillip might have erupted constantly throughout the episode, but, while Ryan read the results, there was a still hush in the crowd. Of course, it was replaced with a deafening roar following the mention of our winner’s name. In case Phillip didn’t already know how much he was loved, the audience made sure to tell him by screaming their affection when he lost his words during his final performance.
When Phillip arrived backstage, he still seemed in shock about his victory. "It’s crazy,” he said. “I'm still a little numb from the whole situation. It's just so unreal. Did I think I was going to win? Heck no. It's so unreal. It hasn't sunk in yet. It's such a blessing to have. I'm kinda ready to try and comprehend it all.”
He continued: “After I won, I wasn't thinking about anything. I wasn't thinking about the song, I wasn't wanting to sing or anything. I just started thinking about the journey and how far all of us have come and how far we made it. It's so overwhelming.”
In the final moments of the broadcast, the TV audience saw Phillip greet his family and the judges. But those were only the first people to reach the American Idol at the Nokia Theater. After the cameras stopped rolling, he received hugs from executive producer Nigel Lythgoe, the stage crew, and a slew of unfamiliar well-wishers. But, naturally, it was his family that seemed most excited for him, even as they waited with me and the other journalists for Phillip to arrive in the pressroom.
Back inside the Nokia Theater, Jessica Sanchez didn’t go unnoticed, despite her runner-up status. The crowd cheered loudly when Cory Almeida, the warm-up comic, asked everyone to give her another round of applause following Phillip’s performance. In fact, a woman sitting in front me wondered aloud, “How could she be so good and only 16?” Everyone knows there are big things to come for Miss Sanchez.
Jessica admitted backstage that she is ready to leave the “Idol bubble” behind and find her way as an artist. "I'm kind of relieved that this whole thing is over … I think that Phillip really deserved to win. I'm so happy for him. He's worked harder than any of us. He's had to keep up with his health issues with his kidneys, and I think he's been through it a lot more than us mentally and physically. I don't have any regrets at all. I made top two so that's crazy,” she said. “I'm happy, I'm content. Now that this whole thing is over and now that I have time to really throw myself into my music, it's going to be all 100 percent me, so I'm excited.”
Earlier in the night, both Phillip and Jessica had the opportunity to sing with their own Idols. When Phillip took the stage to sing with John Fogerty, the crowd screamed hearing the Idol finalist’s first word. The performers had Randy Jackson, as usual, nodding his head along to the music, but it only took Phillip’s smile to get the teenage girls in the crowd squealing. Unlike last night, this audience was more than willing to give them a standing ovation moments after the song started.
One of the most memorable moments of the night came via Jessica’s duet with Jennifer Holliday. Maybe she should have chosen a song like “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going” for her first — this performance showed the crowd what to expect from a Jessica Sanchez concert. The room was electrified. I have never seen the judges more excited by a performance. J. Lo started the song with her hands in the air and, by the end, she couldn’t stay seating, giving Jessica yet another standing ovation.
In addition to a number of performances by the Idol Top 12, the audience was most excited to see Rihanna and Aerosmith take the stage. In fact, the crowd didn’t even wait for Rihanna to appear before getting on their feet. And in case you forgot, Steven Tyler proved that he is more than an Idol judge by taking the stage with his band, Aerosmith. As expected, the audience — and likely viewers at home — was dancing and singing right along with them. Surprisingly, no one in the Nokia Theater had lost their voices quite yet, despite their dedication to screaming.
The night was jam-packed with performances, but nothing came as more of shock than Ace Young asking his girlfriend Diana DeGarmo to marry him during the finale. After Ryan’s fake-out a few weeks ago, the crowd seemed thrilled that this proposal was for real. You could hear “awws” through the theater as the couple kissed again when the cameras were no longer on them. Ryan even whispered congrats to them before he left the stage.
But let’s not forget about our Idol winner, Phillip. He will undoubtedly be starting a major press tour, finally getting a much-needed surgery, and joining his fellow Idols on the road. But, before any of this can happen, he knows there may be a few more tears: "I hate crying, but I'll probably cry some more. It feels good sometimes.”
[Image Credit: FOX]
American Idol Recap: The Winner Is…
American Idol: Dream Duets For the Finale
Phillip Phillips Backstage at Idol: 'I Was Scared to Death'
For weeks, I’ve been insisting that Phillip Phillips is the ladies’ choice for the next American Idol. But, last night, during the penultimate episode of the reality series, the contestant proved that he could be the nation’s choice for the next American Idol.
Before cameras rolled inside Nokia Theater, it seemed that the competition could be at a stalemate — screams for both Phillip and Jessica Sanchez filled the room in equal measure. Would the audience choose the next Dave Matthews or Beyoncé? It was difficult to tell… until Round 3 of the competition.
In fact, round 1 made me question everything I thought I knew about American Idol fans. Unlike in past weeks at the much-smaller CBS Television City, the Idols were going to have to work hard in front of a crowd of 7,000 in order to get a standing ovation. When Jessica sang Simon Fuller’s choice, “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston, it took the audience until the end of the performance to get on their feet and cheer for her.
Phillip had no easier time attracting standing ovation-worthy enthusiasm from the crowd during his first performance of Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.” He did, however, elicit screams when he checked his mic during the commercial break, and had the whole crowd singing along with his cover. Still, no one stood up until the tail end of his performance. And this was after Cory Almeida, the warm-up comic, told everyone it was okay to go nuts during the first commercial break.
Backstage, Phillip admitted that he was suffering from stage fright before his first performance in the larger theater. "I was scared to death," Phillip said. "But I went out there and finally loosened up throughout 'Stand By Me' and the rest of the show. It was so fun."
The audience remained restrained until Round 2, during which Jessica and Phillip sang their favorite songs from the season. From the moment Jessica sang the first note of “The Prayer,” the audience finally latched onto the contestant, screaming “San Diego Loves You, Jessica!” and whistling for every single one of her high notes. Even Jennifer Lopez was clapping her hands in the air as the crowd rose to their feet.
Phillip looked more relaxed as he strummed his guitar before his second performance of Billy Joel’s “Movin’ Out.” He won over the judges immediately as J. Lo swayed back and forth in her chair and Randy Jackson, as usual, nodded his head along to the music. But while Jessica excited the crowd with “The Prayer,” “Movin’ Out” scored the loudest cheers of the night thus far. Following the performance, Phillip looked satisfied and made sure to greet his band members as he walked off stage.
Looking back at Idol history, the first single round can make or break a contestant — it’s the moment the Top 2 can show voters that they’re more than just cover artists, or falter enough to prove that they’re unable to soar outside the Idol stage.
Jessica selected the ballad, “Change Nothing,” attempting to wow the crowd once again with her powerhouse vocals. The audience, however, seemed to have trouble connecting with the underwhelming song, but she did elicit a few cheers when belting out its high notes. Even though the judges noted that they didn’t love her selection, they all looked mesmerized looking at Jessica atop the piano. After the performance and judges’ critique, she turned back to Ryan Seacrest who offered her a supportive arm around her back as they left the stage.
Phillip may have made his smartest choice in the competition by choosing his single, “Home.” The song was reminiscent of Mumford & Sons and Dave Matthews — yet, he still managed to make it his own. This was also the first performance of the night that made audience members like yours truly feel like we were attending a real concert at Nokia Theater — even some overzealous teenage girls sang along to the chorus of the unknown song by the end of the performance. He left the stage to near-deafening cheers as a group of grown women behind me screamed, “2-4-6-8 who do we appreciate? Phillip!” There was no question; the studio audience had chosen their winner.
Regardless of who takes the crown tonight, Jessica admitted backstage she and Phillip already feel like winners. "I feel like we're just trying to have fun right now. It's the finale, Top 2, win or lose, we both won,” Jessica told reporters. "Of course we all wanted to win, but no one makes it this far, for a 16-year-old and someone like Phillip. He's goofy and funny and an amazing artist and person overall!"
Did you like Phillip’s single as much as the studio audience? Are you ready for the next American Idol to be named? Come back tomorrow for the backstage scoop from the Season 11 finale!
[Image Credit: FOX]
American Idol Recap: Opposites Attract
American Idol Recap: Blame the Judges!
American Idol Recap: Pick and Miss
And then there were two! Only a week shy of the American Idol finale, the audience at CBS Television City was privy to must-see TV when Ryan Seacrest announced that soul singer Joshua Ledet would not be returning to the competition. That’s right, fan girl favorite, Phillip Phillips, and the one the judges saved, Jessica Sanchez, are your Top 2. Stunned?
The audience and Idol staff certainly was. From my seat inside the theater, I can tell you this was the most emotional elimination of the season, bar none. From grown women sobbing in the row behind me to stage manager, Debbie Williams, wiping away her own tears, it’s a wonder that Joshua could even make it through, much less nail, his final performance of “It’s A Man’s World.” With his swan sang, Joshua not only received one last standing ovation from the judges but also seemed to leave an indelible impression on everyone in the room.
After the cameras stopped rolling, Phillip grabbed the mike and proclaimed, “If that’s not singing, I don’t know what is.” And the audience couldn’t have agreed more as they cheered loudly throughout the performance. While receiving hugs from Jessica, Phillip, and the judges, Joshua finally succumbed to the emotion of the night. He was crying as executive producer Nigel Lythgoe patted his back and told him, “Chin up, chin up!”
Backstage, a collected Joshua told me that his tears weren’t about his Idol demise. "I don't think I was upset about [my elimination] because I was super happy for Jessica and Phillip," he said. "I was definitely not upset. I felt relieved. A lot of the pressure was off of me and I feel really good. I'm not going to say I was surprised because Jessica and Phillip are amazing and have huge fan bases and they deserve it. I don't think I would have cried, but when people come up to you and try to comfort you and are hugging you then the tears start coming."
While the audience seemed shocked by Joshua’s elimination, they were equally thrilled to see Phillip and Jessica as the Top 2. As soon as Jessica was sent to safety — and, thus, the finals — the audience erupted in cheers and quickly rose to their feet. And to no one’s surprise, the judge that saved her, J. Lo, excitedly clapped. While Phillip also received a standing ovation, no one was more excited than the teenage girls surrounding me in the theater.
The fandom for Phillip and Jessica (and even Joshua) was clear from the beginning of the night. The audience cheered in agreement when Jimmy Iovine said Jessica belonged at the Grammys. (Randy Jackson and J. Lo also seemed tickled by the comment.) Even Jessica’s fellow contestants were fans as she received a few high fives and hugs from Phillip throughout the night and constantly counted on Joshua for more hugs and hand grabs.
For the second night in row, it was Phillip that sent the audience into hysterics. From screaming, “We Love You, Phillip!” to taking personal offense to his performance critiques (could you hear all the boos on TV?), his teen supporters clearly felt the contestant could do no wrong. In fact, during one commercial, Phillip joined Cory Almeida, the warm-up comic, in throwing out prizes and I spotted two girls literally fighting over a light stick just because he touched it.
It’s unusual for the eliminated contestant to get one of the loudest cheers of the night, but that is exactly what happened when Joshua took the stage to hear his feedback from last night’s performances. As the package played back, Joshua and the judges looked genuinely surprised when Jimmy admitted that he wouldn’t have given him a standing ovation, but the audience screamed like they were hearing Joshua’s songs live.
And let’s not forget the live performances, starting with the Top 3 singing The Beatles hit, “Got To Get You Into My Life.” The trio didn’t even have to sing to get the crowd’s approval — the theater gave them a standing ovation from the first note. But Idol fans are a nostalgic bunch, so there was no greater joy than seeing Season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert return to the show to sing his new song, “Never Close Our Eyes.” During his psychedelic performance, Joshua was swaying to the music as Jennifer and Randy nodded their heads to the song.
While Lisa Marie Presley’s performance of “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” looked impressive, the crowd was less than thrilled. After all, it was pre-taped. The audience went from loud cheers to virtual silence as the playback started. Live or not, the judges still loved it and the crowd did at least politely clap at the end.
It’s likely CBS Television City will be far more enthusiastic next week, when Jessica and Phillip face off in the finals. (Time for me to by earplugs!) Were you shocked that Joshua didn’t make it to the finale? Come back next week for one more week of behind-the-scenes idol intel!
[Image Credit: FOX]
American Idol Recap: Blame the Judges
American Idol Recap: Pick and Miss
American Idol: Season 12 Will Boast 'Creative Tweaking'
In a post-Harry Potter Avatar and Lord of the Rings world the descriptors "sci-fi" and "fantasy" conjure up particular imagery and ideas. The Hunger Games abolishes those expectations rooting its alternate universe in a familiar reality filled with human characters tangible environments and terrifying consequences. Computer graphics are a rarity in writer/director Gary Ross' slow-burn thriller wisely setting aside effects and big action to focus on star Jennifer Lawrence's character's emotional struggle as she embarks on the unthinkable: a 24-person death match on display for the entire nation's viewing pleasure. The final product is a gut-wrenching mature young adult fiction adaptation diffused by occasional meandering but with enough unexpected choices to keep audiences on their toes.
Panem a reconfigured post-apocalyptic America is sectioned off into 12 unique districts and ruled under an iron thumb by the oppressive leaders of The Capitol. To keep the districts producing their specific resources and prevent them from rebelling The Capitol created The Hunger Games an annual competition pitting two 18-or-under "tributes" from each district in a battle to the death. During the ritual tribute "Reaping " teenage Katniss (Lawrence) watches as her 12-year-old sister Primrose is chosen for battle—and quickly jumps to her aid becoming the first District 12 citizen to volunteer for the games. Joined by Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) a meek baker's son and the second tribute Effie the resident designer and Haymitch a former Hunger Games winner-turned-alcoholic-turned-mentor Katniss rides off to The Capitol to train and compete in the 74th Annual Hunger Games.
The greatest triumph of The Hunger Games is Ross' rich realization of the book's many worlds: District 12 is painted as a reminiscent Southern mining town haunting and vibrant; The Capitol is a utopian metropolis obsessed with design and flair; and The Hunger Games battleground is a sprawling forest peppered with Truman Show-esque additions that remind you it's all being controlled by overseers. The small-scale production value adds to the character-first approach and even when the story segues to larger arenas like a tickertape parade in The Capitol's grand Avenue of Tributes hall it's all about Katniss.
For fans the script hits every beat a nearly note-for-note interpretation of author Suzanne Collins' original novel—but those unfamiliar shouldn't worry about missing anything. Ross knows his way around a sharp screenplay (he's the writer of Big Pleasantville and Seabiscuit) and he's comfortable dropping us right into the action. His characters are equally as colorful as Panem Harrelson sticking out as the former tribute enlivened by the chance to coach winners. He's funny he's discreet he's shaded—a quality all the cast members share. As a director Ross employs a distinct often-grating perspective. His shaky cam style emphasizes the reality of the story but in fight scenarios—and even simple establishing shots of District 12's goings-on—the details are lost in motion blur.
But the dread of the scenario is enough to make Hunger Games an engrossing blockbuster. The lead-up to the actual competition is an uncomfortable and biting satire of reality television sports and everything that commands an audience in modern society. Katniss' brooding friend Gale tells her before she departs "What if nobody watched?" speculating that carnage might end if people could turn away. Unfortunately they can't—forcing Katniss and Peeta to become "stars" of the Hunger Games. The duo are pushed to gussy themselves up put on a show and play up their romance for better ratings. Lawrence channels her reserved Academy Award-nominated Winter's Bone character to inhabit Katniss' frustration with the system. She's great at hunting but she doesn't want to kill. She's compassionate and considerate but has no interest in bowing down to the system. She's a leader but she knows full well she's playing The Capitol's game. Even with 23 other contestants vying for the top spot—like American Idol with machetes complete with Ryan Seacrest stand-in Caesar Flickerman (the dazzling Stanley Tucci)—Katniss' greatest hurdle is internal. A brave move for a movie aimed at a young audience.
By the time the actual Games roll around (the movie clocks in at two and a half hours) there's a need to amp up the pace that never comes and The Hunger Games loses footing. Katniss' goal is to avoid the action hiding in trees and caves waiting patiently for the other tributes to off themselves—but the tactic isn't all that thrilling for those watching. Luckily Lawrence Hutcherson and the ensemble of young actors still deliver when they cross paths and particular beats pack all the punch an all-out deathwatch should. PG-13 be damned the film doesn't skimp on the bloodshed even when it comes to killing off children. The Hunger Games bites off a lot for the first film of a franchise and does so bravely and boldly. It may not make it to the end alive but it doesn't go down without a fight.