Former judge Simon Cowell would have called it an orgy of self-indulgence, the "American Idol" Season 11 finale. And he would have been correct. Not only were there Hollywood celebrities in attendance, but there were former "Idol" finalists everywhere. They were on stage singing, in the audience watching, and one even got up on stage to ask another to marry him. Even the judges were involved as Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler -- with Aerosmith -- both performed. And to top it off, they also crowned the Season 11 winner.
The night was an amazing parade of music legends and current superstars. Phillip Phillips, one of the two remaining finalists that was awaiting to hear his fate at show's end, performed with John Fogerty, the legendary lead singer and songwriter for Creedence Clearwater Revival (and writer of the theme song for the Fox hit series "The Finder"). The Top 12 Guys (sand Phillips) performed a medley of Neil Diamond songs before the living legend joined them for "Sweet Caroline." They would also do a medley tribute to the late Robin Gibb and the Bee Gees.
The Top 12 Girls sang a medley of Chaka Kahn songs before the famed R&B artist joined them for "I'm Every Woman." Kahn did everything but sing lyrics, but she seemed to have a great time. Skylar Laine performed "Turn On The Radio" with the incomparable Reba McEntire. Jessica Sanchez, the second half of the duo vying for the "American Idol" title, matched legendary Dreamgirl Jennifer Holiday note for note on "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going."
Rihanna performed her latest single, "Where Have You Been." She was the only artist to perform that was not in some way associated with the show.
The rest of "Idol" was an "American Idol" back-slap-fest, beginning with the first number of the night, the Top 12 finalists (without Phillips and Sanchez) performed Bruno Mars' "Runaway Baby." Joshua Ledet provided some inadvertent slapstick when he lost his balance during a James Brown-esque dance move. But he more than made up for it with his duet with Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino (his personal "Idol" idol), a gospel-infused version of Elton John's "Take Me To The Pilot."
Jessica Sanchez reprised her flawless rendition of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" with another flawless performance.
Hollie Cavanaugh performed with Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks, nailing a beautifully harmonized "You'll Never Walk Alone."
Judges Lopez and Tyler delighted the crowd as well, coming out from behind the judges panel. Lopez performed "Follow the Leader," a Wisin and Yandel tune on which she is featured. Host Ryan Seacrest prefaced Tyler's performance by saying, "This is something I've wanted to say for two years: This is Aerosmith!" The Boston bad boys played a new composition, "Legendary Child," and guitarist Joe Perry noted it right into the classic "Walk This Way." Incidentally, "Legendary Child" was released as the lead single from Aerosmith's upcoming new album, Music From Another Dimension, just a little over two hours after it was performed.
Stars in the audience included Harry Hamlin and Lisa Rinna, Jane Lynch, and Dean Cain. Also watching the Idols were Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery and Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood. Among the attendees was also Ace Young (Season 5) and Diana DeGarmo (Season 3 runner-up), who Seacrest noted were dating. What looked like an impromptu call to join him on the stage turned into Young asking DeGarmo to marry him. Of course, she agreed.
For the final number of the night, Phillips and Sanchez performed "Love Lift Us Up," the Theme Song from "An Officer and a Gentleman" made famous by Jennifer Warren and Joe Cocker.
And then it was time to name the Season 11 winner. Seacrest called the two to center stage. The envelope holding the certified vote tally from the previous evening (after the finale performance show ended at 9:00 p.m. EST) was brought on stage. Seacrest told the never seen Kieran to dim the lights. After noting that a 132 million votes (a world record), he told the world the winner of "American Idol" for Season 11 was...
Phillips' win made him the first Georgia native to take the title. He was also the fifth straight guy to win. As winner of "American Idol," Phillips not only took the title, he also won a recording contract, a brand new Ford vehicle, and a million dollars in prize money.
Strapping on his guitar, the only contestant to never place in the bottom the entire season sang the show off the air with his coronation song, "Home." As the credits rolled, the 21-year-old singer broke down. With tears in his eyes, he continued playing guitar for a few more seconds but finally gave up, descending into the audience to the welcoming arms of his family.
(photo credit: Julio Aprea, Creative Commons)