Meet the new Idol, same as the old Idol.
American Idol may have had a few shockers during its 11th season, but, when it really counted, the show's voters fell back on ingrained habits.
Phillip Phillips, the 21-year-old pawn-shop worker from Leesburg, Ga., is the Season 11 champ, riding a devil-may-care attitude and a penchant for reworking songs to suit his voice to a position recently held by the likes of Scotty McCreery, Lee DeWyze, Kris Allen and David Cook.
Jessica Sanchez may have been a better pure "singer" than Phillip but she never had a chance, especially not after getting saddled with three ballads during the performance finale.
Phillip, on the other hand, started off strong -- impressing the judges and fans early in the season with his offbeat take on Michael Jackson's Thriller -- then flagged a bit in the middle of the season, but finished strong. His last three weeks -- with performances of Damien Rice's Volcano, Bob Seger's We've Got Tonight and Drew Pearson and Greg Holden's Home -- were his best.
Now, the question becomes "How will this crop of Idols do in the real-world marketplace?" Acts like Mumford & Sons and the Avett Brothers have shown there's a market for Phillips' brand of music, but those acts built their followings through grass-roots efforts, breaking through only after years of hard work off of most people's radars. That audience may be suspect of an Idol winner. Phillip, who'll likely want to record his own songs, will have to be a massive talent in that area to win them over -- and being a great songwriter will be much harder than anything he has done to date.
Jessica, on the other hand, will have the benefit of top-notch songwriters and producers who'll want to work with that voice. That's probably a good thing, but some of those people -- even Jimmy Iovine -- have shown a dangerous tendency to get blinded by the maturity of the 16-year-old's voice and give her music beyond her years. If whoever oversees her record has the wisdom to avoid that pitfall, Jessica has the potential to follow in the footsteps of past Idol runners-up like Adam Lambert and Crystal Bowersox, who have outsold the winners of their seasons.
But for starters, Phillip will have the edge: Home has to rank as one of the best Idol coronation songs ever.