Phil's second song, his favorite of the season, is "Movin' Out" from Billy Joel week. He's dressed like he's breaking into the Bellagio vault, starting out solo-acoustic while the band slowly comes in over the course of the first verse. And yep, there's the blonde sax player, perched on the piano with a soprano saxophone this time like the breakout star she is so clearly becoming. Phillip builds all the way up to his big, red-faced finish, and Ryan comes out to give the voting numbers. After dismissing him, Ryan lets Steven speak for the first time on tonight's show. Steven says that you don't always have to be a good egg: "Hatch or go bad." Whatever that means. He'd give that round to Jessica, Randy thinks it was a dead heat, and Jennifer favors Phillip for this round. Judging by the audience reaction, so do they. For the first time this season, I think I'm suddenly ready to call a winner.
After the ads, Steven yields his seat to Ryan, who introduces Jessica's last song. It's called "Change Nothing," which seems to be a general motto for American Idol in more ways than one. The song itself proves to be a standard ballad and fairly unchallenging -- at least for the listener. For the singer, however, there are plenty of big, high notes in every chorus, so it's the perfect Jessica song. At the end of the song she sky-dives off the piano where she was sitting, and this time the judges get to give some feedback. Randy says he didn't love the song, but he loved what Jessica did with it. But then he compares her to Beyonce, so I'm not sure what he heard. Jennifer says she wouldn't make Jessica's first single a pop ballad like that, and that she should have come out with something more surprising. Like either of the final two have surprises left in them after all these months. Steven agrees that it wasn't the right song for her. "Thank you," she says, and then tells Ryan that she agrees with what the judges said, but wanted to pick a winning song. Then she promises that if she makes a record it'll be more her. Good thing she didn't do that in the last song of the last night of competition, then. Shorter Jessica: "Thought I'd better sell out."
And of course she's played right into Phillip's authentic, keeping-it-real hands. His song for tonight, "Home," actually sounds more like Paul Simon than Dave Matthews, which I did not expect. I also like it, which I expected even less. It's got fingerpicked acoustic guitars, duh, and actual harmonies, and a high school band drumline and a coda that's actually nothing but melody, which Phillip actually sings. And that's the ballgame right there, even before the judges stand up and Randy literally whoops. Randy loved everything about it and then calls it Phillip's "best performance of the night." And then he says it was "brilliant" and "genius." He was actually more effusive at the beginning and the end there. Jennifer says it was totally different from anything else, I guess because she doesn't know about Paul Simon. Steven did catch that aforementioned vibe, "and I think you are the man." Ryan comes out and tells Phillip that they're done with the competition; the rest is up to us. Cool, can we have a fifteen-minute coronation show tomorrow night then?