It's 'Battle of the Opposites' for 'American Idol'

by Raphael Chestang 6:40 PM PDT, May 22, 2012
Photo: FOX

American Idol finalists Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez dueled in three close rounds for part one of the show's season finale on Tuesday, leaving America with the unenviable job of deciding between the two.

Jessica, 16, kicked off the night singing Whitney Houston's I Have Nothing in front of the 7,000 die hard Idol fans that packed into the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.

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Phillip, 21, followed his teenage opponent's soulful performance with a rendition of Stand By Me that failed to win over a majority of the judges. Both Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez estimated that Round 1 went to Jessica, although J.Lo admitted that the two performers are polar opposites in style, making it difficult to compare them to one another.

Round 2 ended in a tie, as far as the judges were concerned. Phillip gave ode to Billy Joel, belting out Movin' Out, while Jessica crooned The Prayer.

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The judges were baffled by Jessica's song choice for the third and final round, which ultimately went to Phillip. Jessica chose the pop ballad Change Nothing, which seemed inappropriate for her, as her niche has been more powerful urban songs that showcase her strong voice. Phillip, on the other hand, garnered a standing ovation from the judges for his version of Home, which Randy lauded as "the best performance of the night."

Special guest performers included Jason Derulo, who sang publically for the first time since breaking his neck in a dancing injury. The 22-year-old singer performed his new song Undefeated, which was partially fan-written, as lyrical submissions were accepted as a part of a promotion with Idol and Coke.

Scotty McCreery, last season's winner, returned to the show for the closing number.

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The American Idol season finale concludes tomorrow at 8/7c on FOX.