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OPINION: Why Jessica Sanchez lost to WGWG


Phillip Phillips is the new American Idol. What a non-surprise to cap a season chock-full of surprises.

Did runner-up Jessica Sanchez even stand a chance? She probably did. The show received a record 132 million votes. It’s possible that the Fil-Am vote helped push the total by almost 10 million from last year’s 122.4 million tally.

But once again the WGWG (white guy with guitar) juggernaut proved too much for any other voting block to overcome.

Phillip’s victory is further proof that female voters partial to male heartthrobs have overrun the show. Judging by the past five winners (David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee Dewyze, Scotty McCreery, and Phillip), “Idol” voters prefer their champs to be of the bashful, self-effacing gentleman type with an obvious artistic streak.

They are easy on the eyes, ears and heart and, perhaps more tellingly, don’t offer anything even remotely challenging and hard to digest, musically or otherwise.

That explains why early frontrunner Colton Dixon fell out of favor with the “Idol” kingmakers after rocking out too hard to a Lady Gaga song. And why flamboyant rocker Adam Lambert, who was favored to be the last man standing on Season 8, surprisingly finished behind boy-next-door middle-of-the-road musician Allen.

Call it the mystique (or curse, for those on the other side of the fence on this issue) of the “fantasy artist-boyfriend” that sent female voters to voting delirium each week.

This isn’t to say that Phillip, or any of his predecessors for that matter, is undeserving of the title on his own merits.

He had a virtually spotless run on the show, only once landing in the Bottom 2 (on Top 4 week). And he pulled further away from the pack in the last two weeks with one splendid performance after another.

Consequently, the judges also leveled up the feedback that they gave to Phillip, moving from mere praises to raves.

Jessica received the opposite treatment. Prior to her shock elimination on Top 6 week she received mostly hallelujahs from the judges. Post-Judges’ Save, the raves grew softer.

She certainly received the most critiques, rather deserved, from the judges on Top 3 week. It was a minor shock that she triumphed over Joshua Ledet. Her face registered as much when Ryan Seacrest called out her name as the first of the Top 2 finalists.

Phillip and Jessica seemed to have gone into the final showdown head-to-head, but with Phillip enjoying a slight edge based on momentum.

The common wisdom, though, was that Jessica, the vocal powerhouse, would obliterate Phillip’s lead when it came down to the wire. After all, “American Idol” is still widely regarded as a singing competition rather than a popularity contest.

And for the first and second rounds of competition during the final performance show, where Jessica unleashed the one-two power punch of “I Have Nothing” and “The Prayer” to Phillip’s comparatively low-key “Stand By Me” and “Moving Out”, it seemed that the 16-year old belter had managed to catch up with the 21-year old folkie, at the very least.

But then Round 3 came and with it the so-called “coronation songs” that both contestants had no hand in choosing, much like in Round 1. Jessica received flak from the judges after her performance of “Change Nothing”, a somewhat generic-sounding power pop ballad about a failed romance.

The critique was directed entirely at the song, though, and had nothing to do with her performance per se.

And then Phillip hit the stage with “Home”. After the first verse it was very clear that this was a far superior song, a warm, big-hearted, instantly memorable, easily embraceable inspirational tune about being there for someone.

That Phillip armed the track and his performance with his downhome charm only made the entire number more winning, resulting in what Randy Jackson calls a “moment moment moment”.

The judges gave it their final standing ovation for the season and lavished it with mad raves. That pretty much sealed Phillip’s victory.