‘American Idol’: Phillip Phillips And Jessica Sanchez To Face Off In Finale, Adam Lambert Performs

Well, at last we have a match-up for next week’s American Idol finale — and it wasn’t quite what we expected. All three of the contestants remaining as of Wednesday night (May 16) delivered shakier-than-usual performances, and even though we viewed Joshua Ledet as the night’s winner, America felt differently. After 90 million (!) votes, Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips were catapulted to the title bout. Of course, before we learned the identities of our two finalists, we had to sit through about 15 minutes worth of in-show commercials. Thank God for that Adam Lambert performance to break it up.

To start the night off, the trio performed The Beatles‘ “Got To Get You Into My Life” but it was sort of in a cheesy, brass-heavy lounge lizard arrangement. Luckily, the singers managed to shine, each showing a confidence in their ability to deliver on any song, no matter how curious the interpretation.

As for Jimmy Iovine’s critiques, they were mostly in line with ours (*pats self on back*). However, he had Phil’s Bob Seger cover at the top of his list. During each segment, Jimmy offered some high praise, perhaps a sign that stardom may yet lie ahead for more than one Idol finalist. He said Joshua was an exciting showman who’s good enough to sound great on a song that doesn’t even fit his style. He said Jessica was worthy of singing at the Grammys (though we’re not sure if that’s a compliment, considering who’s graced that stage in recent years). And in rating Phil, Jimmy lauded his originality and willingness to take risks.

For the first guest artist performance, newly resurfaced pop singer Lisa Marie Presley turned out the season’s most blatant display of lip-synching with her new song “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.” The song was… fine. But it seemed she’s trying pretty hard to capitalize on Lana Del Rey‘s moody chanteuse vibes. And also on Lana’s swaying awkwardly vibes.

Later in the show, Ryan Seacrest asked actress/singer Rita Wilson and music multi-hyphenate Carole Bayer Sager — who were in attendance — their thoughts on the death of Donna Summer. “Her music really did define a decade,” Rita told him. “You couldn’t live in the ’70s and not sing along to every single one of her songs.”

Carole added: “Donna was a friend. I think she had one of the greatest voices of all decades. I think she was amazing.”

Next, Adam Lambert got on stage to perform “Never Close Our Eyes” in all its glammy neon, dance-pop glory. It was energetic and surprisingly tame, keeping the focus on his powerful howl. And, man, those high notes are still something else.

Then, it was the moment we’ve all been waiting (and waiting… and waiting) for. Seacrest excitedly asked that they dim the lights, and announced that Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips would be moving on to the finale. So it’s the end of Joshua Ledet’s run. He said farewell by singing “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World”, the song that gave us chills last week. In a sweet gesture, this time he brought his mom on stage.

Whatever your thoughts, I think we can agree the two most marketable singers advanced. Josh is a special talent, but not in the Idol “tweens telling their parents to hand over the credit card so they can download his new album” kind of way. Jessica and Phillip are more bankable in that respect. And when 90 million votes come to the same conclusion, it’s hard to disagree.

We’ll miss Josh, but we couldn’t ask for a better finale match-up, considering the clash of styles: the dudely heartthrob vs. the fierce future diva. Idol history sides with Phillip, but Jessica’s had some jaw-dropping moments that could buck the trend. Can’t wait to see how it shakes out.

Next week: A champion is finally, FINALLY crowned!

Who will you be pulling for in the finale? Sound off in the comments, or on Twitter and Facebook.