Phillip Phillips Is the New 'American Idol'

PHOTO: Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez seen on the on American Idols finale night, May 22 2012.Michael Becker/FOX
Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez are seen on the on "American Idol" finale night, May 22, 2012.

Phillip Phillips is the new "American Idol."

After a record 132 million votes cast, Phillips was crowned season 11's winner during Wednesday's finale.

After the announcement, Phillips performed his winner's song, "Home," as the show came to a close.

Before the results were revealed, Phillips and the eventual runner-up, Jessica Sanchez, sang the duet, "Up Where We Belong."

USA Today writer and critic Brian Mansfield, who predicted "the road to the finale goes through Phillip Phillips; Phillip is the guy to beat," said Sanchez had a real shot at the crown but in the end "blinked."

"I think she picked a song that she knew was wrong for her because she thought it sounded like an 'American Idol' song," Mansfield said. "It's the problem of being raised on 'American Idol.'"

Mansfield was referring to the last of Sanchez' three selections on Tuesday, the so-called coronation song released by the "Idol" winner. The final two contestants choose their songs from a small selection of original songs.

In all, Sanchez ended up singing three ballads, starting with Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing," a selection chosen by "Idol" executive producer Simon Fuller. She followed with the song that earned her a spot in the top 24, Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli's "The Prayer," and ended with the original song, a pop power ballad called "Change Nothing."

Starting with Houston's song, the biggest of the three, meant that each successive ballad was less interesting, Mansfield said.

Phillips, on the other hand, built from an acoustic version of Ben E. King's "Stand by Me" to his moody version of "Movin' Out" from the season's Billy Joel week to his potential winning song, "Home," which he performed complete with a marching drum troupe.

The song, which also included Phillips' intricate finger picking on the guitar and felt like something Mumford & Sons might record, earned him a standing ovation. Randy Jackson declared it the best performance of the night.

"Your last performance has got to be your biggest effort," Mansfield said. "Jessica sat on a piano and Phillip brought out a drum troupe."

In many ways, the two remaining singers were opposites.

Sanchez, who had to be saved from elimination by the judges, was one of the season's best singers and often drew comparisons to her idol Beyonce, and Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey, whose songs she belted out seemingly without effort.

Phillips, who was the only contestant to avoid the bottom three, bucked the judges' and coach Jimmy Iovine's advice to wear his favored jeans and T-shirts and sing off-melody while establishing himself as musician, artist and singer-songwriter who goes his own way.

But Mansfield said Phillips isn't so unlike the last four "Idol" winners -- all white males -- who stuck to their strong suit and never wavered throughout the competition. Sanchez, on the other hand, harkened back to Idols from the shows early years when it was "the land of the big voices, with Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson," Mansfield said.

In the end, the finale of season 11 came down to a competition between current "Idol" and old "Idol.

Auditions for season 12 kick off June 7 in Los Angeles.