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LOS ANGELES: Phillip Phillips won “American Idol” on Wednesday, becoming the fifth male singer in a row to take the title and a guaranteed recording contract.
The 21 year-old guitar player from Georgia, who brought an indie vibe to the top-rated TV contest, beat ballad singer Jessica Sanchez, 16, of California in the public vote.
“American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest said a world record 132 million votes were cast by phone, text and online for the two finalists. The winner was announced at the end of a two-hour finale on Wednesday featuring performances by Rihanna, Neil Diamond, Reba McEntire as well as “Idol” judge Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler’s band Aerosmith.
Phillips looked stunned as Seacrest announced his name, and could not finish his performance of his new single “Home” as he fought back tears. His goofball humor and individual style earned him a large, young female fan base on “Idol,” and he had never appeared in the bottom three in public votes during earlier stage of the Fox TV show. The “Idol” judges also raved over his singing at Tuesday night’s performance show finale of what will now be his first single - a folk-rock ballad called “Home.”
Phillips, who worked in his father’s pawn shop before auditioning for “Idol” also won sympathy for a recurrent kidney problem that has plagued his health during the season. Sanchez was praised in the contest for her big voice but sometimes faulted for lacking emotion. She was saved by the judges from elimination in April after placing in the bottom in the public vote, and the show’s judges disliked her third song in Tuesday night’s performance finale.
“American Idol” remains the most-watched show on U.S. television but public appetite for the contest and its winners is slipping after 11 years on the air and a slew of rival, months-long talent shows. -- Reuters