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'American Idol' season finale recap: I Know You're Weary

By Annie Barrett, EW.com
May 24, 2012 -- Updated 1348 GMT (2148 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Phillip Phillips from Leesburg, Georgia is your season 11 "American Idol" winner
  • Never before has "Idol" received so many votes
  • By far the most riveting performance: Jessica Sanchez's duet on "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going"

Editor's note: Please be aware that this article contains spoilers.

(EW.com) -- After a two-hour finale chock full o' lasers, sparkly catsuits, and fresh faces from the '70s, it was time for a very special seven-minute results show that brutally overlapped with the season finale of ABC's "Revenge."

Victoria Grayson vs. J. Lo in a jewel-toned gown-off: Who wins?

Phillip Phillips! The 21-year-old singer-songwriter-sufferer from Leesburg, Georgia is your season 11 "American Idol" winner. Try not to freak out. It's really okay. This is a televised popularity contest and the "White Guy With Guitar" happened to get more votes than Jessica Sanchez. It doesn't mean "American Idol" is racist. It doesn't mean that Phillip won solely due to his extremely alluring chest hair. These finalists were wildly different. Each had strengths and weaknesses, and both deserved to win.

This season, more than ever, it seemed like so many viewers deluded themselves into assuming that the support of one of these kids implied hatred of the other. Are you kidding me? It's a reality show! They'll both get to make records! They've both gotta have it, Ryan! Ugh, sorry, it's just a bizarre sentiment that's run rampant across the internet for the past few weeks AND I AM TELLING YOU I find it utterly ridiculous.

If "American Idol" fans can't find a way to be happy for an aw-shucks guy who was so overcome with emotion that he couldn't even finish his coronation song, even for a split second, I don't know why they put themselves through the torture of even watching this mess. No one's ever going to figure out a way to get inside America's collective ear and tweak it so that their favorite is the favorite. People like who they like. That's what's great about music. There's more than enough to go around.

Never before has "Idol" received so many votes! I unexpectedly shuddered when a tall British stranger entered the frame à la The Giant from "Twin Peaks." What was this, the Oscars? I imagined that this creature, "Edward Bodington," had slithered out of a giant telescope in order to tell us that "Telescope has counted and certified a world-record 132 million votes." OMG -- nobody cares. Read the verdict, Ryan!

Phillip and Jessica's "Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong" duet, in which the judges played Statues behind the kids and didn't dare look over their shoulders, was the most muted performance of the show. The finalists had very little chemistry beyond a shared sense of politeness and brevity in speech. This was fine -- the rest of the show was packed with enough highs and lows that the finale ended up starring the Top 12 instead of the Top 2.

By far the most riveting performance: Jessica Sanchez's duet on "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" with original Broadway "Dreamgirl" Jennifer Holliday -- a masterclass for our tiny teen in how to act like there's something, anything, going on underneath a huge vocal. In Jennifer's case, this meant making liberal use of her mouth. Words won't do her facial expressions justice, so I've created this.

The fear of being devoured for dinner shot Jessica up into an entirely new stratosphere of performance value. I've never seen her look this alive. She won the competition right here, Ryan! Hopefully Jessica's fans can take solace in her triumph during this ultimate "Idol" moment. Meanwhile, Phillip couldn't even croak out a second verse. That bastard!

Speaking of complete lunacy, Joshua Ledet and an unbeweavable Fantasia Barrino shared the stage -- or, more accurately, ditched it -- on a blistering scream-off loosely based on the song "Take Me to the Pilot." Wait, were they flying? They certainly seemed high enough. I wonder if, when people consider Fantasia from now on, they will remember her not as the season 3 winner dazzling audiences from her perch on the floor, but as the literal embodiment of "The Shining" in a sleek long wig and shimmery catsuit with LEG CUTOUTS. Would this have looked more or less ridiculous as a dress? We almost found out as her pants ripped at the end. Cut them off! (Fox did.)

Skylar Laine and Reba McEntire's "Turn on the Radio" duet was the most genuine feel-good moment of the finale for me. For you? It wasn't the best-sounding performance of the night, but I'm not sure that was their fault. Just seeing Skylar hold her own so fearlessly with her idol would have made me choke up if it were that kind of song. Reba clearly had a blast and engaged with Skylar as an equal. She was definitely NOT about to eat her. Really cool to see.

Hollie Cavanagh and Jordina Spahhhks sounded and looked gorgeous belting out "You'll Never Walk Alone" in the midst of a deadly smoke monster cloud. The song is a Liverpool football favorite, but as Hollie and Jordin's duet was placed directly following Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo's marriage proposal/off-off-off-off-off-Broadway stage production, it had the unfortunate effect of playing out as an anthem for this couple's love. The proposal started out semi-cute (minus Ace's hair and Diana's general plasticity) but then Ace had to make it creepy and ruin everything by plugging his jeweler.

"Here, I'll hold the box," said Ryan Seacrest, whose makeup was running. Ryan had a big night, Ryan!

The best parts of Phillip Phillips and John Fogerty's songs together were the random cuts to Carrie Underwood LOVING IT in the audience. Is it crazy to suggest that Carrie should be the one to replace J. Lo next season? I know she's busy -- I know it's late, I know you're weary, I know your plans don't include me -- but a girl can dream. There'd be a whole different dynamic to the panel, and I almost think a former contestant might inspire Randy and Steven to step it up more than any old star would. Plus, imagine the hair and fashion!

Fogerty kept looking over at Phillip as if he was very amused. Perhaps Phillip had confided in him that he'd just woken up.

We heard a lot from the "Top 12 guys" (really just five guys, no Phillip). The return of Neil Diamond prompted my realization that Jeremy Rosado has a significant "mic hand-ography" problem I hadn't noticed before. He's still the sweetest, though. The Neil medley and the guys' tribute to the late Robin Gibb were mostly snoozy, but Joshua saved the Bee Gees medley with a standout performance on "To Love Somebody." Of course, he'd established his MVP status of the non-finalist Top 12 early in the show with a bold but doomed splits move during the group's cover of "Runaway Baby." When it comes to dancing on "Idol," it's the thought that counts. Unless you're Rihanna or J. Lo, in which case it is the reason you're performing onstage. Again.

No Elise duet? Boooooo.

It's Aerosmith!

And they said they'd never get back together. I'm glad to see that former "American Idol" pooh-pooh-er Joe Perry has settled into a peaceful place with his Cruella de Vil hairstyle. In their advanced age, the band has become a beautiful, just beautiful patchwork quilt of animal prints and crazy faces. Steven Tyler, that legendary child, never disappoints on a full-length microphone. Maybe he should start scream-singing all of his critiques next season. Put it in his contract, so he can ignore it.

"Now I'd like to show you my organ." --Steven Tyler, proprietor of the 'Love Shack' dressing trailer. Ewwww.

Two more highlights for me: First, J. Lo's attempt to pass off her vicious contempt toward Jimmy Iovine -- who still doesn't know her first name and has no intention of ever figuring it out -- with an eye roll and a giggle. Four eye rolls. Second: The Top 10 (minus the Top 2)'s performance of "Singing the Phone Book," an A.I. original recording, was amazing.

The horrified glances could just as easily be directed at Colton Dixon's hair.

Who wrote this?! Really listen to the lyrics if you get the chance. They are literally (Randy's fave word) running through the fake yellow pages. The parts about face lifts and "it's only liposuction" were delicious, but my personal highlight was "Ooh, that's one spicy bratwurst" out of nowhere. The choral robes added a solemn sense of gravity to this heap of ridiculata. Of course, Joshua had to oversing his part. "Every tahm!" complained Skylar.

And finally, Ev-ery-bo-dy gets a CAR! Wouldn't want to leave that out. #Ford

As EW.com's esteemed appraiser-in-chief, I've never been happier.

Thanks for reading these recaps all season. I've had almost as much fun writing them as J. Lo's dropped-crotch shimmery pajamas (available exclusively at Kohl's?) had during her wild romp onstage.

Discuss the finale below! Did the right person win? Who wore a sparkly catsuit better -- Fantasia or Chaka Khan? And dude...where's my sloth?

See the full story at EW.com.

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