Published May 18, 2012
Over 90 million fans voted, and Phillip Phillips, the former pawn shop worker from Leesburg, Georgia and Jessica Sanchez, the home-schooled high school student from Chula Vista, California, are the final two contestants on “American Idol.”
After an exuberant performance of Mary J. Blige’s “No More Drama” on Wednesday night, many fans and Internet pundits predicted that Joshua Ledet, the 20-year-old college student from Westlake, Louisiana, would compete against Phillips in the finale.
Fan favorite Phillips impressed the judges and mentor Jimmy Iovine Wednesday night by delivering one of his strongest performance of the season by singing an impassioned version Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight.”
Instead, host Ryan Seacrest stunned the studio audience–and clearly surprised Sanchez–by announcing, “The first person to compete in the season 11 finale is... Jessica Sanchez!”
A shocked Sanchez stood with her mouth wide open as Ledet and Phillips congratulated her. Looking dazed with disbelief, Sanchez cried, “Oh my god,” as Seacrest turned to a nervous Ledet and Phillips.
“Gentlemen, the person going head to head against Jessica is... Phillip Phillips.”
Ledet accepted the news graciously. As Ledet explained during his farewell video, “Before ‘Idol,’ I never experienced something this big. Coming this far, I’m definitely proud of myself.”
As Ledet’s family–and rumored girlfriend Hollie Cavanagh–clapped and wiped away tears, Ledet took the stage to sing his signature song, "It's a Man's Man's Man's World."
Without missing a beat, Ledet continued to sing as he walked over and gave a hug each one of the the judges. Eventually, Ledet made his way over to his family, where he took his mother’s hand and led her to the center of the “American Idol” stage to take his final bow.
Also taking the “American Idol” stage Thursday night was Lisa Marie Presley, who performed "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" from her third studio album, "Storm & Grace.”
Meanwhile, Season 8 runner-up Adam Lambert returned to his old “American Idol” stomping grounds to perform "Never Close Out Eyes” from his sophomore effort, “Trespassing.”
Before Seacrest’s announcement of the two finalists, Sanchez, Phillips and Ledet all huddled together on the “American Idol” stage as judge Randy Jackson told them, “You guys are three of the best that we’ve ever had...You all got big careers in front of you.”
“I love you guys so much because you have the courage to have a dream,” said judge Steven Tyler–paraphrasing a quote from “South Pacific.” “If you don’t have a dream, then there’s no way for you to make one come true.”
Despite being unsure of his fate, Ledet expressed unwavering support for both Phillips and Sanchez.
"If I end up not making it, I'm voting for both of 'em," he told Seacrest.
Up next: Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez go head-to-head to compete for the title of “American Idol.”