Phillip Phillips, a bluesy Georgia guitar
man, was crowned the new "American Idol" on Wednesday after defeating
teenager Jessica Sanchez in record viewer voting. He was the fifth male
"Idol" winner in a row.
Phillips, 21, a pawn shop
worker from Leesburg, Ga., looked stunned when host Ryan Seacrest
announced his name, then wordlessly accepted a hug from Sanchez and
congratulations from his fellow finalists.
He dissolved into tears as he sang "Home," the song that may be his first single.
Phillips retained his humble, self-effacing demeanor to the end, and beyond.
"I have no idea why I won,
man," he said in his backstage dressing room. "I guess some people liked
the music that I was doing. I'm just lucky. ... I was just doing my
thing each week."
He received the winning
share of the record-high 132 million votes cast after Tuesday's final
showdown with high school student Sanchez, 16, of Chula Vista, Calif.
The vote count was not announced, typical for the contest.
His victory extended the
"American Idol" winning streak for men to five consecutive seasons. The
last female to win, and the last non-white, was Jordin Sparks in 2007.
Phillips has more in common
with the last four winners than gender. Like them, he is a young
Caucasian guitar player, also known to "Idol" watchers as WGWGs - white
guys with guitars.
Last year's winner was Scotty McCreery, preceded by Lee DeWyze, Kris Allen and David Cook.
Sanchez, who is of Filipino
and Latino heritage, took a measured view of the outcome, one that she
said had solely to do with music.
"I don't blame it on
anything," she said backstage. "Phillip has his fans, and I have mine.
We're totally two different people. Our genres are completely different.
"He's more like the indie,
alternative rock kinda guy, and I'm more urban R&B pop. ... It's
just the number of our fans," she said, adding that she expected to be
"In the moment, I told him,
'You're gonna win this.' I was smiling at him the whole time. I was
ready to just give him a big hug, and that's what I did when they
Sparks, 22, was among the
guest stars who helped fill out the two-hour finale show, among them
Rihanna, Neil Diamond, Reba McEntire, Chaka Khan and John Fogarty.
"American Idol" judges Steven Tyler, with his band Aerosmith, and
Jennifer Lopez also performed, but it was Sanchez and Jennifer Holliday
who stood out with a powerhouse duet on "And I'm Telling You I'm Not
Besides music, there was a
marriage proposal for the season 11 finale: Former contestants Ace Young
and Diana DeGarmo got engaged on stage.
Young, 31, a season five
finalist, told Seacrest that he and DeGarmo, 24, had just moved in
together. Then Young got down on one knee and popped the question to
"I love you to death.
You're my best friend," Young said in his proposal, which included a
jarring credit for the jeweler who made the engagement ring he was
offering (which, given Fox's heavy soft drink and car sponsor product
placement, wasn't so off-key).
DeGarmo, a runner-up in season three, tearfully accepted, her head bobbing up and down.
But the point of the
finale, saved for the final minutes and the highest possible ratings,
was anointing the newest Idol and winner of a record contract.
During the three-song
showdown Tuesday between Phillips and Sanchez, the show's judges praised
his performance across the board. Sanchez was faulted for a lackluster
rendition of her third song, "Change Nothing."
Although some critics
dismissed Phillips as a Dave Matthews clone, viewers embraced him for
his humility, his on-camera mugging and his memorable acoustic covers of
songs like Usher's "U Got It Bad." In weekly tallies, Phillips never
fell among the low vote-getters.
On Tuesday, he earned
consistently high marks from the show's judges, while Sanchez faltered
on "Change Nothing," the song that could serve as her first release.
The teenager agreed with
panelists Randy Jackson, Lopez and Tyler, saying she should have gone
more "urban" with her song choice.
Phillips had better luck
with the slow-tempo, acoustic tune "Home," which the judges said
recalled artists like Fleet Foxes, Paul Simon and Mumford and Sons. At
one point during Phillips' final performance, the pawn shop worker was
accompanied by a marching band.
It was a hit with the
panel. Jackson, beaming, exclaimed: "I love the song. I love you. I love
the production. I love the marching band. Everything about that was
Last year's contest between
McCreery and runner-up Lauren Alaina drew more than 122 million votes,
the record that was broken Wednesday.
AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang contributed to this report.
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