Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Jessica vs. Phil: When a Season Sputters and Dies

Even Ryan Seacrest can't save the awkwardness of Jessica & Phillip in a fake embrace.
These finales have been killing me the past 3 seasons. You start the season off with a freaking menagerie of compelling, albeit moderately to totally crazy, contestants, and then America chops our weekly circus show down to the human equivalent of tapioca pudding. Room temperature tapioca pudding. When you combine the eccentric voting habits of Americans across the country, you end up with mush. There's no other option. 

And no, I'm not calling Phil and Jessica mush for real. I totally accept that they're fully functioning human beings with real personalities. It isn't their fault that they are the median default for America's combined tastes, two unoffensive young thing who look nice on camera and can sing pretty most of the time. So don't take this personally, Phil and Jessica. I still love you. (Well, maybe not  you, Jessica. I tepidly appreciate you, for the most part.) I just can't help but think about how awesome the finale would be if Joshua and Skylar were the final two. Josh would sing something awesome dressed in a dapper suit and utilize the gospel choir to the max. Skylar would probably ride out onstage on an ATV, compare firearms with Phil's dad, and twitch through some spunky country songs. And the masses, Dawgs, they would be entertained!

Alas, I cannot stay in the fantasy world of my ideal finale. We must remain firmly entrenched in reality. Like it or not, Opie and iCarly Extra #16 are the last contestants remaining in The Idol Games. Let's just be grateful that they won't have to fight to the death.

Maybe Jessica could strangle Phil with the train of her dress, but he'd be totally helpless in the ill-fitting wrinkly shirt.
So who won the night? Let's figure it out in Idol Death-match Season 11! (But let's remember that no matter who won the night, Phil Phillips will still totally win this thing. No contest.) This ... is American Idol!!!

Your Contenders

Jessica Sanchez
Age - 16
Home State - California
Best Performance to Date - "Dance With My Father"
Judge Pimpage Rating - 9 out of 10
Style of Choice - Stilettos and Anything Beyonce Would Wear
Likelihood of Becoming a Superstar - Moderately Dim
Has Talked to a Boy Before Auditioning for Idol - Probably Not 
Ego Rating - 10 out of 10

Phillip Phillips Jr.
Age - 21
Home State - Georgia
Best Performance to Date - Damien Rice's "Volcano"
Judge Pimpage Rating - 7 out of 10
Style of Choice - Dirty scraps of clothing off of his bedroom floor, things a mechanic would wear to work
Likelihood of Becoming a Superstar - Moderately Dim
Public Speaking Skills - No skill whatsoever
Ego Rating - 10 out of 10

Jessica and Phillip may be as different as night and day, but they have one very important thing in common. Ego. Lots and lots of ego. These two kids definitely think they're #1, and nobody can tell them anything different. 

The Performances

Round 1 - Simon Fuller's (Who? LOL) Choice

Jessica - "I Have Nothing"
No surprises here. Jessica was assigned a Whitney Houston song, and she sang it competently while dressed in a pretty gown. Fuller should have known better than to assign Jessica one of Idol's most overdone songs - Jordin Sparks seriously would NOT STOP singing it in Season 6 - in the finale. Also, there's really no topping Whitney Houston's original version, so it didn't leave a lot of room for Jessica to differentiate herself as an artist. I'll give her credit for masterfully handling the epic key change at the end of the song, though. Even if she's dull as dishwater, the girl has a great set of pipes. 

Phil - "Stand By Me"
Simon Fuller doesn't know that modern music is a thing, does he? The Idol producers are so sad, these amoral gremlins trapped in 1995. Phil handled the song choice in stride. He refused to get too excited and molded the melody to his own personal style, which is basically a fancy way to say that he turned certain words into grunts and "AIIIIEEEEs" and "UGHs." I liked this performance, though. It was low-key and cool, and Phil sounded good. 

The judges handed Round 1 to Jessica, but I have to disagree. "I Have Nothing" was pretty, but Jessica didn't do anything particularly interesting with it. Phil managed to transform an old classic into the type of song you could imagine him recording. With that in mind ...

Winner - Phil

Round 2 - Contestant's Choice

Jessica - "The Prayer"
I'm such a sucker for this song, even if it's from over a decade ago, and Jessica sang the living hell out of it. I remember her rocking it on the Cirque du Soleil stage back in Vegas, but it was a real pleasure to hear the song in its entirety. Jessica took her time with the song, quietly singing the first verse and then transitioning to the final chorus with some BIG notes, Dawgs. Huge notes. Even I was impressed, and there have been times when I struggled to stay awake while Jessica performed. This was a gorgeous vocal performance.

Phil - "Movin' Out"
With the return of his favorite hot blonde sax player, Phil slid right into his comfort zone with this one. The combination of Phil and the band sounded good, but I was a little underwhelmed with this performance. "Movin' Out" wasn't particularly memorable the first time he did it, and the second time was no exception. 

The judges were split on this round. Uncle Steven sputtered idea fragments like, "tonight he hatched some. But I would have to say that Jessica took it again." Hatched some what, Uncle Steven? Eggs? Are you calling Phil Phillips a goose? Randy called the round a draw. J. Lo gave the edge to Phil because she'd heard Jessica sing "The Prayer" before, which made no sense because Phil performed "Movin' Out" even more recently. How do I get past the hair extensions to the thoughts in J. Lo's head? For vocal prowess alone, I'm going with ...

Winner - Jessica

Round 3 - Coronation Songs That 19 Entertainment Found in the Trash Bin After Real Artists Rejected Them

Jessica - "Change Nothing"
Oh, Jessica, JESSICA, why did you find it necessary to scrape the bottom of that trash bin for a song? What a shame this performance was, a real stinker all around. "Change Nothing" didn't even have any corny inspirational lyrics that we all love to hate in these finale songs. The lyrics were trite, the melody uninspired, and the key forced Jessica to sing far too low in the beginning of the song. At this point, Jessica definitely proved her youth. After the judges panned the song, Jessica admitted that it was a bad choice, that she chose the flaming lyrical pile of poo because she wanted to show off her voice. And that was totally the wrong answer. It proved that Jessica was playing to win the show rather than to establish herself as an artist. Sure, everybody wants to win, but artists with more maturity aren't willing to compromise their style and integrity to play at becoming America's Next Forgotten Idol. Or if they are, at least they don't admit it. What a disaster. 

Phil - "Home"
Good for Phil! He discovered the least offensive finale song to date - it even talked about HOME, you guys - and arranged it into a catchy, rousing little anthem. Sure, "Home" definitely came from the scrap pile of some struggling song writer trying to imitate the awesomeness of Mumford & Sons. But credit must be given to Phil for working that song into a game-winning success. While the song wasn't vocally challenging, Phil sounded great and, most importantly, authentic while performing it. The background singers and assorted band members were a great plus, and then "cool" got a new definition when a drum line stormed the stage, injecting a catchy beat into the song and creating a real ... wait for it ... Idol Moment(TM). This earned the only standing ovation from the judges last night, and underwhelmed as I was with this finale, I have to admit that Phil deserved it. He turned crap into pure gold and remained true to himself to the bitter end. It's easy to love a guy who goes on American Idol, of all shows, and never even makes a move to give a damn. Phil knew he was too cool for Idol, and America LOVED him for it. 

Winner - Phil

Oh. Hi, Jason Derulo.
I'm sorry, Idol (and Jason), but no one cared about this performance or the song-writing competition that put it on our TVs. Tell Jordin Sparks we said hi, Jason. 

Way back when they announced the semifinal picks, I made this prediction: Phil has two things going for him: 1) His ultimate destiny with Heejun Han and 2) the fact that he’s probably going to win this thing. I called Scotty McCreery early last year, and I’m calling Phil now. He’s cute, kind, and sometimes sings well. Idol’s core voting bloc won’t be able to resist him. I knew it then, and I know it now. Phil Phillips Jr. is your new American Idol. The prediction site agrees with me

Tune in tonight for what's sure to be an overly long, incredibly gimmicky results show. I hope Joshua and Skylar get to perform! Who do you think will win this whole game of shenanigans? Is anyone a fan of Jessica Sanchez? If you are, I suppose I should apologize. 

Bwahahaha! Okay, I kid. I KID! I'm so sorry. Kind of.
Update After Finishing Recap: So Phil's "original song," actually already exists. Watch original artist and co-writer Greg Holden sing the living daylights out of it here. WTF, Idol? I understand that Holden was probably paid out the gazoo for Interscope's use of the song, and it's nice that Holden might get some attention from the exposure. But really. Original songs are supposed to be flipping original. What. The. Hell. Idol's murky morality never ceases to amaze me.

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