'American Idol' finale: Who won - Phillip Phillips or Jessica Sanchez? (Spoiler)
Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips sang their hearts out before one of them was announced the winner of the 11th season of "American Idol" on Wednesday, May 23.
Warning - spoiler alert!
After a nationwide vote, Phillip Phillips was announced as the new champion of the FOX singing contest series. Host Ryan Seacrest said about 132 million votes were counted for the two finalists.
Phillips, a 21-year-old Georgia rocker who has been compared to Dave Matthews, is the fifth male contestant in a row to win "American Idol" since Jordin Sparks captured the title in 2006.
Wednesday's finale featured performances from Sparks, who had attended the pre-finale on Tuesday, co-judge Jennifer Lopez, co-judge Steven Tyler's band Aerosmith, and from Rihanna, who sang her song "Where Have You Been." The show also contained tributes to recently deceased singer Robin Gibb, a member of the 1970s disco trio The Bee Gees.
Phillips sang and performed on guitar "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" and "Bad Moon Rising" with singer John Fogerty. The male finalists performed with Neil Diamond.
Second runner-up Joshua Ledet performed with his "idol," Fantasia Barrino, winner of season 3, who wore a cutout catsuit and extra long hair extensions during the number. The female contestants performed with Chaka Khan, who wore a sparkly brown catsuit as she sang with the girls her hit "I'm Every Woman," a Whitney Houston cover featured on "The Bodyguard" soundtrack. "Glee" star Jane Lynch was seen in the audience, singing along.
Sanchez became a frontrunner earlier this season with a performance of "I Will Always Love You," Houston's breakout hit from "The Bodyguard. She sang an encore of it on Tuesday and also performed with Jennifer Holiday the power ballad "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" from "Dreamgirls," the movie that won "American Idol" alum Jennifer Hudson an Oscar.
Sanchez and Phillips sang "Up Where We Belong," made famous by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, before the results were revealed.
After Phillips was announced as the winner, he took the stage to perform an encore of "Home," the track he was made to sing on Tuesday's pre-finale, which was touted as a potential first single. He is now set to release it. Phillips wiped away tears during his performance and hugged his family after he finished singing the song, as a marching band trailed behind him.
The show also featured a proposal - Ace Young, who appeared on seasons 5 of "American Idol," got down on one knee on stage and asked his girlfriend, season 3 runner-up Diana DeGarmo, to marry him. She said yes. The two fell in love several years ago while starring in a revival of the Broadway musical "Hair." This is the first time two "American Idol" alums have gotten engaged.
"I'm so speechless right now," she said. "Wow, babe, you picked a good one. All right!"
Ratings have dropped since acerbic judge Simon Cowell left the series in 2010 to launch "The X Factor" on FOX. This season, "American Idol" lost nearly a quarter of its audience, especially in the 18 to 49 demographic, according to The New York Times. It quoted Kevin Reilly, FOX's president of entertainment, as saying there would be some "creative reinvigoration" of the franchise for next year.