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Phillips fits winners' mold

Phillip Phillips

Phillip Phillips

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- "American Idol" viewers could be in for a serious case of deja vu if Phillip Phillips wins on the Fox talent contest's 11th season finale next week.

While the soulful strummer from Leesburg has certainly proved he can be a risk-taking showman by transforming songs like Usher's "U Got It Bad" into searing acoustic covers, a victory for the 21-year-old would prove something that everyone has suspected for a while: "Idol" voters prefer humble Caucasian heartthrobs over, well, anyone else.

Since he first caught the judges' -- and America's -- attention with growly renditions of Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson hits at his audition, Phillips has seamlessly moved up the ranks, never appearing as one of the show's low-vote getters. That can't be said of his two final challengers -- sassy 16-year-old Jessica Sanchez and booming 20-year-old Joshua Ledet.

And folks just seem to like Phillips, who has comfortably filled this season's reluctant heartthrob role. He's been silly, constantly flashing funny faces at the camera. He's been rebellious: When Tommy Hilfiger advised him not to wear grey on stage, he donned two shades of it. He's been sexy, even melting Ryan Seacrest's girlfriend Julianne Hough.

Then there's the humility: Asked if he's confident of claiming "Idol" glory, Phillips said backstage last week, "Oh, gosh, no, I'm never confident. ... I'm so nervous when I get up there on stage. Josh and Jessica ... they're so much better at singing than I am."

It's also impossible to ignore the fact that the bluesy Phillips bears a striking resemblance to the past four champions.

While the musical styles of David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, Scotty McCreery and Phillips are varied, they're each young Caucasian male guitar players, or as they've become known by many "Idol" devotees: WGWGs -- white guys with guitars. There hasn't been a female or non-white winner since Jordin Sparks bested Blake Lewis in 2007.

Lyndsey Parker, who writes Yahoo's "Reality Rocks" blog, blames the lack of diversity on block text voting among younger viewers and the introduction of contestants playing their own instruments four years ago in season seven.

Parker believes a bigger focus on instrument-playing singers, who tend to be more male than female, helped past winners like Allen and Cook ascend to the "Idol" throne with similarly masterful rearrangements of song choices, while text voting allowed obsessive fans -- namely, eager young women -- to tap, tap, tap their favorites to the top of the pack.

"I think people are wondering if girls or, frankly, people of color should just go audition for 'The Voice' and 'The X Factor' instead because 'Idol' has become a closed door if you're not a Caucasian guy who plays folky rock or country music," said Parker. "I know some people will be outraged if Phillip wins. That's unfair to him, but that's the reality."

Phillips' besting Sanchez, who has Filipino and Latino heritage, or Ledet, an African-American gospel singer, could prove problematic for "Idol," a contest that has always prided itself on the fact that any singer in America -- be it the girl next door, teen mom down the street or even a prematurely grey-haired Southern gentleman -- could capture the "Idol" title.

"I think if Phillip Phillips wins season 11, then as 'Idol' fans, we kind of have to collectively shrug our shoulders and say, 'It's clear as day. You don't have to be the best singer. You just have to be a cute white straight guy that appeals to a lot of the voting demographic,'" said Michael Slezak, a senior editor at TVLine.com who writes about "Idol."

Parker and Slezak agreed that Phillips has been outperformed by other finalists for several rounds. His low point came two weeks ago when he failed to reach the high notes on The Zombies' "Time of the Season" and ditched the melody on The Box Tops' "The Letter." However, viewers wouldn't gather that from the judges, who always pour praise on Phillips.

"I appreciate that die, sink or swim, you will still be yourself. I love it," judge Jennifer Lopez beamed to Phillips three weeks ago after he performed the Dave Matthews tune "The Stone." ''It was a pretty song, but I feel it was too artsy, not right for this point in the competition. I need you to do songs that are going to get you on that last show, so you can win."

While he lacks the balladeering prowess of Sanchez and Ledet, and critics have called him a clone of Dave Matthews, Phillips' silly personality and musical certainty have seemingly made up for any vocal deficiencies he has in the eyes of voters. Matthews himself joked to New York magazine that perhaps he can retire and Phillips "can take over my band."

Slezak is less optimistic. He thinks if Phillips wins, he'll be a redux of DeWyze, the least successful "Idol" in the show's history. (DeWyze's post-"Idol" album, "Live It Up," sold just 39,000 copies when it debuted.) Besides a fondness for gritty vocals, they both share blue-collar backgrounds. DeWyze worked in a paint store. Phillips helped out in his family's pawn shop.

"'Idol' could desperately use another winner on the charts," said Slezak. "What makes it a must-watch show is the contestants you're voting for today end up playing on the radio and selling out concerts tomorrow. 'Idol' doesn't need another winner who sells 40,000 copies and gets dropped by their label. What's the point in watching if that's the end result?"

Comments

FryarTuk 2 years, 2 months ago

Is Derrik Lang complaining because Phillips is a straight, white, male? Maybe he should be looking for his "Idol" in the personals column or gaycom.

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Shinedownfan 2 years, 2 months ago

Season 1 - Kelly Clarkson, amazing voice, hear her on the radio. 2 - Ruben Studdard, never heard anything by him. 3 - Fantasia Barrino, never heard anything by her. 4 - Carrie Underwood, country singer/crossover, heard her on radio and commercials, 5 - Taylor Hicks, never heard anything by him. 6 - Jordin Sparks, amazing voice, hear her on the radio & one of my ringtones. 7 - David Cook, never heard anything by him. 8 - Kris Allen, nothing... 9 - Lee DeWyze, nothing... and 10 - Scotty McCreery, never heard anything by him either. By these odds maybe it's best to be runner-up.

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philcody 2 years, 2 months ago

Shinedown, while it's true that DeWyze had a dismal debut, some of the others have been quite successful. You just may not listen to their music. David Cook and Scotty McCreery both had debut albums that went platinum, selling over 1,000,000 copies each, with McCreery's reaching #1 on the charts. Kris Allen has had mediocre album sales, but is about to release his second album.

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max3 2 years, 2 months ago

David Cook doesn't have a record label. He's been dropped recently.

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Shinedownfan 2 years, 2 months ago

Oh yeah... And I think david cook had a song when david archuletta (sp) did... But I cant remember them.

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TheBoss 2 years, 2 months ago

You can't use those government supplied cell phones to text a vote. Just saying.....

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carter1971 2 years, 2 months ago

Mark my words Finale will have Jessica and Joshua and Joshua will win it all. Jessica will not win because judges save her and America did not like that. Phillip will not win because it is time for a change and American idol will lose rating. I watch all 11 seasons I know how it works. GO JOSHUA LEDET!!!!

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admmwf 2 years, 2 months ago

well i have to disagree with you on that one Joshua is not marketable in the pop music scene, maybe a gosspel or christian music but I believe if he one it would be another one we never hear anything from. I'm not saying he can't sing because he can just not the right one to win this competition.

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billybob 2 years, 2 months ago

The producers can fix this issue. Only allow 1 vote per phone number. That will give you a more accurate picture of who really has more appeal to the audience. The show is a ridiculous success though. Look at who it has produced: Clarkson: huge star with mulitple hits, Underwood: the same thing, Jennifer Hudson: an Oscar and a Grammy, Daughtry: legit rock band with several hits, Fantasia: R&B success and a Broadway career, Jordin Sparks: moderately successful pop career. Others have also done moderately well.

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VSU 2 years, 2 months ago

It's hard to justify allowing just one vote per phone # as each family member should have a right to vote and they may have just the one phone.

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Shinedownfan 2 years, 2 months ago

These days each family member has a phone... and in my case, we still have a home phone too.

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VSU 2 years, 2 months ago

Well that is why I said "May have one phone number", but I actually thought about that last week (Refering to what Billybob said) it doesn't seem fair for people to vote extra using the same phone number. In reality, the votes are not really accurate.

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Shinedownfan 2 years, 2 months ago

VSU, did you go to VSU? If so, did you like it? My daughter got accepted to Mercer, but they no longer have a dental program. Online it said to get 4 year degree at VSU then go to Med College of Ga in Augusta to get dental degree. I need some info. I don't know what to do and it's getting late!

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tywebb 2 years, 2 months ago

i did, 15 years ago. i commuted, so i never got the feel of the social life there. BUT I felt like i got a really good education in the Education department. The professors there seemed more interested in the student than at UGA where I also went.

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tywebb 2 years, 2 months ago

looks like the producers and judges tried to fix it last night. they didn't like PP's second song, but praised joshua on everything he did. half the time he's screaming and you can't understand him. here's my take, in case you wanted to hear it: i like PP's music best and MIGHT buy one of his albums.....i liked joshuas rendition of man's..world last week......IF I ever cast a vote on AI, it would be for jessica. i just think she's the best singer. PP is a great "artist", but i don't think he'd be an idol like clarkson or underwood have become. my 2 cents....if anyone cared....and i know you do!

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jglass 2 years, 2 months ago

We will just wait and see who "America" chooses. Sometimes it is not best to win!!! Look at Daughtry! Any of the top ones could get a contract, it is just up to how hard they want to work!!!

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agirl_25 2 years, 2 months ago

The one thing I like about Phillip and always will is the fact that he has stayed true to himself and that means a lot. This was made especially evident when he refused to bow down to the ridiculous ideas of Tommy Hilfiger and his suggestion that he dress the way he wanted him to dress!!!! I died laughing when he suggested the audience would even CARE how he looked in his jeans and tees when they were more concerned about his singing. And by gosh he proved them right and kept his darker colors on and that was the last of Hilfiger..thank goodness. This is the first time I have ever watched the show and the only reason is because of the Leesburg connection. Don't know much about any past winners but someone did point out one time that there was an itty bitty country singer who looked like a boy and had a big man voice who had won once. I need to find that one. I do believe Phillip is a clone of Dave Matthews tho..haha..I had seen Dave at Miller's Bar in Charlottesville way back in his early days and Phillip reminds me so much of him. GO PHILLIP!!

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jrandre30 2 years, 2 months ago

ARE YA'LL REALLY TRYING TO MAKE THIS A RACIAL THING .... SO SAD... SO VERY SAD .... THE END - GO PHILLIP PHILLIPS

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sarah052008 2 years, 2 months ago

Now why in the world would the Albany Herald post a story like this against Phillip? All kinds of people came to the Albany area just this last weekend to see Phillip and I have a feeling it brought in a good bit of money for Albany businesses.

Who cares about race and gender. America is voting for who they like to hear. Joshua, Jessica, and Phillip have amazing voices. Phillip has my vote, not because he is from my hometown, but because I like his sound. It is the type of music that I enjoy. I feel that Joshua sounds too gospel-y for American Idol. Jessica has a lot of potential for being only 16 years old. I feel that she needs to wait a year or two, so she can get her education and let her voice mature a little more, then come back.

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admmwf 2 years, 2 months ago

Amen that's exactly what I have been saying they all have amazing talent but Joshua is to gospely and Jessica is to young. I can't believe Albany Herald would print such a predjudice article and not support our hometown boy..That is just sad..Go Phillip I love his sound he is a true artist because he can take songs and make them his own and hen sounds like Dave Matthews whom I love love love..

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max3 2 years, 2 months ago

Ok. This article has nothing to do with race. It's the fact that a guy who plays the guitar has been winning idol since 2008. AND none of them have been successful. Their so called "fans" of them during the show ends up not supporting after they win. Phillip is better off not winning. That contract is garbage. Especially for a singer-songwriter like him. He'll be forced to conform to what is on the radio and his album will be generic rock pop/autotuned. Just like Lee Dewyze. Cook and Dewyze have been dropped by their major labels because of poor album sales. What's best for Phillip is him finding an indie label to give him more creative control/freedom to do what he wants.

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Tim88 2 years, 2 months ago

So what if the judges and america like phillip. Everyone should vote for other people then if someone else "needs" to win. It's up to America, and they choose Phillip then so be it. I liked Phillips renditions of the zombies' song and of box tops. Everybody keep going , there are a lot more important things to write about, come on Derrik, than this. Write about the presidency or something. If you got assigned this article, complain. This should not have been an assignment. Bust America's chops about obesity or real racism, not being from behind the "idol" drape. Come out and give of new and old facts about something we really need to hear.

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Spike 2 years, 2 months ago

Poor choice of a front page AP article. You do have to wonder of all the AP/Reuters articles that the Herald could choose why on earth would they pick one that focuses on the local kid who is succeeding based on his color. It's as if they picked it based on the Headline rather than the content of the article. IF they did read it AND picked it based on the content AND then decided to place it on the FRONT PAGE I'd like to cancel my subscription. Can someone from the staff please enlighten me? Was it poor choice, ignorance, deliberate or all of the above? No matter what the answer I think the Herald missed the mark on this one.

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 2 months ago

The National Media is just continuing their push to get Obama re-elected by stirring up and dividing (just as His Royal Majesty is doing) with articles like this.

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thricetheice 2 years, 2 months ago

It doesn't matter how well you sing if the song sucks. Phillip plays good music, and most importantly he's a great guy. You all should know that since he is local and very approachable. Also, you can name ONE artist that Phillip sounds like. I can name 7,000,000,000,000,000 artists that the other eleven finalists sounded like, not including each other. Have a good day racists.

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Layla 2 years, 2 months ago

I think that out of the other's with his God given spirit and ability and his creativity he is actually most likely to succeed. He's already written some 100 songs and has the ability to be a one man band if necessary. You have to have a passion and desire for the music in order to be successful. Phillip definitely has that going for him. Don't get me wrong Joshua is awesome and inspiring. How many gospel artist reach the top of the charts? As far as Jessica goes, she's got talent, she's just not ready. She doesn't have the drive and passion, yet anyways! Just my opinion. Albany Herald, POOR choice for a cover page this close in the race. I think we should do nothing but support our newest local star! GO PHILLIP PHILLIPS!

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yvonne 2 years, 2 months ago

Why does everything going on in this world have be centered on race? And, since it seems to be that way why don't you just go ahead and spit what you really want to say out & in the open? Why beat around the bush? Regardless of skin color it's the voice that counts. I'm a caucasian female and I love Joshua. Have I been voting for Phillip just because he and I are both caucasian? No. Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion, but let's base our opinions on something other than someone's skin color!

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whtny 2 years, 2 months ago

This is the most ridiculous article I have ever read! It is sad that EVERYTHING is going back to race these days! If any of the contestants win it is because they are wonderful singers! All of these votes have come from everyone that watches the show and I'm pretty sure there are more than just white/Caucasian people watching it and voting. It's time for people to take two steps back and STOP basing every LITTLE thing on race. I feel sure that in this generation we were ALL raised to look past the color of someone's skin! Let's get real people! This is getting out of hand!

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Sister_Ruby 2 years, 2 months ago

I said two days ago that PP would win it all, NOT because he's white, but because the R&B/Soul vote will be split between Joshua and Jessica. Jessica will leave tonight I think. And I think there will be far more votes for Philip next week from the 12-30 female crowd (most of the audience) than from those who listen to R&B. You heard it here first.

Philip may not receive national recognition from there on out because he's appealing to the indy/acoustic/singer-songwriter crowd where there is a very small audience, the music is best at smaller venues, and that's really what PP wants to do. And we all know that his self-direction demonstrates his strong character.

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agirl_25 2 years, 2 months ago

Good lord........I voted for Phillip because I don't care for screaming gospel type music...simple as that.....so there...I never cared for James Brown...(so shoot me) and not because I am white and he was black, but because I simply didn't care for that type of music....(so shoot me).....also...I don't like R &B (so shoot me) and I don't like Soul (so shoot me)....does that make me a racist? PS..I also don't like NASCAR (so shoot me) and I don't like some country singers (so shoot me)...give it a rest........OK?

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Clyde 2 years, 2 months ago

It's 2012 and you'd think that we're all past the racial thing but it is alive and well. Don't blame the Albany Herald for this article. They chose articles that they feel we would like to read and that we can associate with and they are right by picking this one. It's very sad and I wish so very badly that we all could be over racism but this is Albany Ga. I don't think we will ever be able to see each other beyond our skin color. Even these talented kids can't escape it. It's a sad thing.

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TrixibelleBento 2 years, 2 months ago

So the race card rears its ugly head AGAIN. It seems we are seeing more of this since BO got elected. I thought we were supposed to all get along now?! The thought that AI is now racist because we aren't voting correctly? Uh, yeah, okay. I don't like the heavy gospel style of singing, so I'm not going to support Joshua. I don't care for Jessica either simply because she's too young and doesn't have "it" yet. She needs more time. I don't vote for this kind of stuff anyway since I'm in my 40s and have better things to do with my time. PP isn't really my style either, but I'm interested simply because he's from here and it would be nice to see something good happen to a hardworking humble guy. I hope he wins, but maybe the Blacks and Filipinos will vote in force! Yawn...

That Parker chick is a moron too...life can't always be diverse. Or is she of the generation that believes that life is always fair?

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TrixibelleBento 2 years, 2 months ago

Uh-oh, are the riots going to begin? Lol

Seriously Phillip, good for you. I'm happy that you've made it to the finale. Keep on doing what you're doing and let Jessica spin off into Mariah-ville.

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