updated 05/22/2012 AT 9:00 PM ET
•originally published 05/22/2012 AT 9:30 PM ET
In one corner, you have Jessica Sanchez, whom host Ryan Seacrest called a “16-year-old powerhouse.” In the other, you have Phillip Phillips, a crooning pawnshop worker from Leesburg, Ga. Both faced off Tuesday by performing three songs each: show creator Simon Fuller chose round one, Phillips and Sanchez selected their favorite song from the season for round two, and in the final round, both picked the song that will become the winning single as the next American Idol.
How’d they do? Here’s a round-by-round recap:
For the first fight, Fuller chose tunes that fit each of the singer’s style. Sanchez, who dominated earlier in the season when she took on Whitney Houston’s hit “I Will Always Love You,” was given the late singer’s “I Have Nothing.” Phillips, meanwhile, was given a song that fit his laid-back, singer-songwriter style: Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.” Both delivered solid, if understated, performances. And while Steven Tyler remained silent, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson agreed that Sanchez came out on top.
Sanchez reprised the tune that got her into the top 24: “The Prayer.” Like her first rendition, Sanchez showed off her pyrotechnic pipes. Phillips, meanwhile, revived “Movin’ Out” from Billy Joel week. The judges were split this time around: Tyler favored Sanchez while Lopez favored Phillips. Jackson, however, thought it was a draw: “I’d call them both even,” he said.
This was the most crucial round. Sanchez delivered a piano ballad titled “Change Nothing,” which fit her powerful vocals during the chorus. But the judges all agreed it didn’t properly showcase her soulful singing style. “It was just okay,” said Jackson. Lopez said it lacked her R&B flavor. “You have so much soul,” she explained. But Phillips fared better with a galloping acoustic tune titled “Home,” which was made more dynamic thanks to a marching band. The judges even rewarded Phillips with a standing ovation.
“I love the song, I love you, I love the production, I love the marching band … that was amazing,” said Jackson.
Lopez was more insightful and said that viewers were finally given a glimpse into what Phillips would be as an American Idol – a telling critique. “That was a Phillip Phillips song!” she said.
Phillips and Sanchez will find out who is the next Idol Wednesday night (8 p.m. ET) on Fox. But in the meantime, who do you think should win? Tell us in the comments below.