23 May 2012

Phillip Phillips: Season 11 American Idol

Well there you have it! Season 11 of American Idol has officially ended. Phillip Phillips has defeated the great brown hope that is Jessica Sanchez to win the much-coveted title of American Idol. So we all look forward to the next season and the next Filipino-American singer to rally behind.

American Idol itself has released the statistics: a record 132.3 million votes came in during a 4-hour voting period immediately after the final performance show. Now, we have all seen those how-to jpegs on Facebook encouraging all Pinoys wherever in the world they might be to vote for the darling of the moment.

So naturally, one wonders how many millions of those votes were actually cast from the wrong side of the Pacific; or elsewhere in the world that the Filipino Diaspora might have taken our people. Technically, voting was for those in the United States only. But well, anything that makes the Filipino happy, I’m quite fine with it.

I mean, anything that distracts us from impeachment court ‘walkouts’ and protests against rock stars who walk the streets in bikini is indeed very much welcome.

Indeed, the amount of time that the networks devoted to Jessica Sanchez – and her suddenly in-the-news relatives in Bataan – in last night’s news editions was surreal. Even Kuya Kim concluded his weather report with a piece on her. How over-the-top was that?

At any rate, while the Pinoy in me rooted for Jessica Sanchez from the time she auditioned on board an aircraft carrier in San Diego, the neutral in me is honest enough to say that either Jessica or Phillip Phillips could have won on the basis of last night’s performances.

Either will make a totally deserving American Idol; which rather tends to be the case, anyway, when you get to the Top 2 of the season. Besides, each has already built up a solid fan base and will in most likelihood have long and successful recording careers.

Personally, I rather liked last year’s sing-off between Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina just that wee bit more; and primarily because of the songs performed on the night.

I just felt that the songs selected for both contestants to sing last night lacked just that bit of a cutting edge to make the final night more electrifying. That said, I also know that the songs were selected in keeping with the genres that the two singers represent.

On the basis of singing ability, there was never any question about who is the better singer. On the other hand, as has been pointed out time and again by both pundits and aficionados, Phillips probably has the edge in charisma and innovativeness.

For Round One, Sanchez’s rendition of the original Whitney Houston hit ‘I Have Nothing’ had a delicious not-of-this-world quality to it. The song, selected by Simon Fuller, as performed by Sanchez was haunting and reached out all the way to the soul.

However, I rather think Phillips’ version of ‘I’ll Be’ by Ben E. King was equally haunting; and I somewhat disagree with Randy Jackson that Sanchez shaded that round. The song was barely recognizable from the original; but sung with so much emotion that it sent chills down the spine.

For Round Two, I thought Sanchez was again magnificent with ‘The Prayer,’ the song that sent her through to the Top 24. The control was just phenomenal! The difficulty factor here was in that she had to sing both the female and the male parts – Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli sang the original – but she pulled it off flawlessly!

Again I disagree with the judges because I think she won this round. Phillips once again innovated with Billy Joel’s ‘Movin’ Out;’ but I also felt it was a tad on the bore side. Besides, it was never as though the song was one of Joel’s more recognizable ones.

For the final round, both singers performed songs that each would record upon winning the competition. Jessica tried to make the most of what was ultimately a lame song: ‘Change Nothing.’ I agree with the judges in that it probably was not the right song for her. It sounded so lame that it could have sat on a wheelchair.

However, I disagree once again with the judges for gushing all over Phillips for what they thought was a hot performance of ‘Home.’ I thought it was equally lame, both the song and the performance; and could not quite come to terms with all the praise being lavished upon him.

But maybe that was just the Pinoy in me being biased… And I am honest enough to admit it…

Perhaps, what pleases me the most about this season is that both the finalists were among my original Top 5 picks. Last season, I picked Pia Toscano to win; and that ultimately proved to be a kiss of death.

Well, somebody’s gotta win; and somebody’s gotta lose…

I am a bit disappointed; but only just. Sanchez actually levelled up over Jasmine Trias – of pure Filipino parentage – by finishing second. Truth be told, if the former did not have Filipino blood, I would have made myself perfectly neutral because she and Phillips are as good in their own different ways.

Congratulations then to Phillip Phillips! But congratulations as well to Jessica Sanchez, who may not even know that for a few days at least, she was one unifying icon in a nation divided over so many current issues.

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