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‘American Idol’: Phillip Phillips better than Jessica Sanchez

Updated: July 2, 2012 10:03AM

Phillip Phillips can’t touch Jessica Sanchez’s singing ability, but he proved once again on Tuesday that he can touch something more important: the audience.

The 21-year-old pawn shop worker from Georgia widened what was likely an already sizeable gap between him and Jessica when the two “American Idol” hopefuls squared off in season 11’s last performance show. Viewer votes will determine who’s crowned the winner on Wednesday.

Jessica delivered her usual soaring vocals to Whitney Houston’s power ballad “I Have Nothing” and the tune that earned her a spot in the top 24, “The Prayer.” But the teen from Chula Vista, Calif., stumbled in the final performance of the evening — not in her singing, but in her song selection. She played it too safe with a straight pop ballad, “Change Nothing.” All three judges called her on it.

“You have so much soul; you have so much blues quality to your voice,” a disappointed Jennifer Lopez said. “We missed that in the song.”

Jessica confessed that she wanted to do something “more urban,” but she was “trying to pick a winner song — something that shows my voice.” She vowed that if she makes a record, “it’s going to be a lot more me.”

Putting a lot of “me” into a song is Phillip’s forte, and he did it with gusto Tuesday. He’s simply more fun to watch than Jessica.

Each of his performances was better than the last, culminating with the song “Home,” which probably sealed his fate as the next “Idol” champ. His soulful vocals were made all the more powerful by an accompanying marching band. When it ended, the judges were on their feet.

“That was a Phillip Phillips song, and there’s nothing on the radio that sounds like that,” Lopez said.

“Everything about that was perfect,” Randy Jackson added. “True artist performance.”

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