When "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest announced on last week's Top 3 results show that the first person going through to the Season 11 finale was Jessica Sanchez, those that were hoping for an all-guy face-off were disappointed. When it was announced that Phillip Phillips would be on stage vying for America's votes as well, those hoping to see a contest of the two most vocally talented were undoubtedly disappointed as well. But the match-up between Sanchez and Phillips offers up its own set of unique dynamics not to be ignored, one where Phillips' creativity, musical talent, and presence is set against Sanchez' pure vocal talent. But does either have an edge?
According to the professional oddsmakers, Phillips has the edge with 4/13 odds. And he's had the edge since the Top 6. In fact, when Season 11 kicked off, Bovada saw Phillips with the best odds to win it all with 7/2 odds. Over the intervening weeks, he's held the top position eight times. Of the remaining four weeks where he didn't have the best odds to emerge the winner, Jessica Sanchez controlled the top spot three times. Strangely enough, one of those weeks, the Top 7, she led and was eliminated, only to be granted the "American Idol" judges one and only Save of the season. (Interestingly, Colton Dixon, the only other "Idol" finalist to lead the oddsmakers board, led for just one week -- during the Top 7 redux, the same week he was eliminated.) Sanchez heads into the finale with 5/2 odds of winning the title.
Andrew Payne at Starpulse sees Phillips winning in "a walk." Payne has kept Phillips at the top spot on his power rankings list the entire season.
Katherine St. Asaph at Popdust offers an extensive analysis of what could make either Phillips or Sanchez the victor. Turns out, after crunching some numbers and looking at trends (like the WGWG -- White Guy With Guitar -- effect that has seen guys as winners for four consecutive seasons and the fact that nearly all the "American Idol" winners have come from the South and the Midwest/Heartland area of the country -- with the exception of Arizona native Jordin Sparks), St. Asaph sees Phillips, who fits the WGWG and southern boy criteria, in a close race.
And if the contest does prove to be a close race, could it be that the favorite hobgoblin of the judges -- song choice -- might play a significant factor in who ultimately wins? It would seem doubtful that there would be so many undecided voters that such a thing as subjective taste and fairness to the contestants would alter the voting significantly. By this time of the season, favorites have primarily been chosen, and the winner will be decided by the finalist with the biggest and most dedicated fan base. Given Jessica Sanchez' numbers on social media websites (Twitter: over 411,000 followers; Facebook: over 247,000 likes) and her over 5 million views on YouTube, she just might come out on top. (Phillips' numbers: Twitter: over 320,000 followers; Facebook: over 196,000 likes; YouTube: over 1 million views.)
But if it does come down to song choice -- not to mention how well the songs are performed -- Sanchez could also have the edge, just on her vocal talent alone. But as long as Phillips can perform like he did in the Top 3, where he finally performed a song, Bob Seger's "We've Got Tonight," where he didn't rearrange the music or the lyric melody or do any of his unique vocal stylings, and can continue to captivate viewers, Sanchez might exit the finale as the third straight female runner-up.
The "American Idol" performance show for the two-part Season 11 finale will be broadcast live from Los Angeles at 8:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 22. Sanchez and Phillips will perform three songs: a favorite performance song from the season chosen by the artist, a song chosen by "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller, and the Winner's Song chosen by mentor Jimmy Iovine. Then Ryan Seacrest will announce the voting lines open at show's end and the winner will be chosen within the next couple hours. The voting results will air live in the two-hour season finale results show on Wednesday evening.
(photo credit: Angela George, Creative Commons)