Georgia got its first "American Idol" winner Wednesday night, when Leesburg singer Phillip Phillips beat Jessica Sanchez for the season 11 title.
After learning he'd won, Phillip performed his first single, "Home." Midway through the song, he got emotional and stopped singing. In the song's final moments, with the background music still playing, he walked off stage and embraced his family in the audience.
Did the right singer win? I think so.
Some critics will list plenty of reasons why a Phillip Phillips victory is the worst thing that could happen to "Idol." He's too similar to previous winners. He specializes in a genre that's hard to market. He has some seemingly serious health issues that could slow him down.
Yeah, I've thought about that, too.
Yet here's the thing: When I watched Phillip perform in Leesburg a few weeks ago, it was clear that he's someone who loves music -- rather than merely loving the idea of being a musician.
That trait alone might not be enough to sustain his recording career. But it's enough for me to temporarily believe that a guy from a small town in Georgia who refused to change his look for Tommy Hilfiger can exceed his own dreams.
A record-breaking 132 million votes were cast this week, according to host Ryan Seacrest. Here's a recap of Wednesday's finale. Among the highlights: Fantasia wore a strange outfit, "Idol" alums Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo got engaged and Jennifer Holliday performed a memorable duet with Jessica Sanchez.
8 p.m. The show kicks off with a performance of "Runaway Baby," courtesy of this season's top 12 singers. Well, make that the top 12 sans Phillip and Jessica.
8:06 - Lisa Rinna is in the audience. Random.
8:07 - Host Ryan Seacrest says 132 million votes were cast this week on "Idol."
8:12 - Phillip Phillips takes the stage with John Fogerty to perform "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" As much as I want to love this, it sounds a little rough. The song just wasn't designed for this setup. But hey, I'm still a Fogerty fan.
8:15 - And...it's time for Phillips and Fogerty, part two. They sing "Bad Moon Rising." This one sounds better than their first effort. I wonder how many "Idol" viewers know these songs. Thoughts?
8:20 - Joshua Ledet sings Elton John's "Take Me to the Pilot." Fantasia Barrino joins him on stage and she looks...interesting. There is tight, outer space-inspired material involved. And she has really long hair. Wow. Holy gospel singing. I'm not sure if that performance went as planned, since it was cut off by commercials.
8:31 - The female singers from the top 12 perform "Ain't Nobody," "Through the Fire" and "I'm Every Woman." Big surprise: Chaka Khan joins them for "I'm Every Woman." Some parts are good, some parts are "meh." I'm looking at you, Shannon Magrane.
8:35 - Jane Lynch is in the audience!
8:37 - Quick soapbox: Is it just me, or is "Idol" seeming REALLY dated tonight? I mean, I love the guest stars but it's hard to ignore the fact that none of them exactly scream contemporary relevance.
8:40 - Time to hand out some cars! Ford gives cars to Jessica and Phillip, plus each singer's musical inspiration. Phillip chooses his brother-in-law, while Jessica chooses a family friend.
8:43 - Finally, a current act. Rihanna performs "Where Have You Been." She brings her "A" game as usual. Well done.
8:51 - Skylar Laine sings "Turn On the Radio" and Reba McEntire joins her for the performance. It's pretty entertaining. They make a good pair...though it seems like Skylar wants to rock out more than this song allows.
8:57 - Jessica Sanchez repeats her performance of "I Will Always Love You."
9:00 - The guys from the top 12 perform a Neil Diamond tribute: "America," "Cracklin' Rosie," "I'm a Believer" and...Neil joins them for "Sweet Caroline." Oh yeah. I'm rocking out. No sign of Phillip on stage for this one. Probably for the best.
9:12 - OK, I kind of enjoy watching the kids try to sing the phone book in a pre-taped segment.
9:13 - Jennifer Lopez performs "Goin' In" and "Follow the Leader." I have to hand it to J. Lo...she delivers some pretty high-energy performances. My only criticism is her wardrobe. She attracts many references to Hammer pants, both at my viewing party and in the social media world.
9:26 - Ace Young proposes to Diana DeGarmo on stage! They're both "Idol" alums. She says "yes."
9:27 - Hollie Cavanagh and Jordin Sparks sing "You'll Never Walk Alone." Very good performance.
9:35 - The guys from the top 12 perform a Bee Gees medley in honor of Robin Gibb. Again...no sign of Phillip on stage.
9:39 - Jessica Sanchez and Jennifer Holliday sing "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." WOW. AMAZING. AMAZING. AMAZING. Did I mention this was amazing? This isn't even my genre of choice...but I'm pretty impressed. However, it's something that you either love or hate. The performance likely was a bit too OTT for some "Idol" viewers.
9:48 - Aerosmith is in the house! They perform their new song, then "Walk This Way." Move along. I only want to hear "Dude Looks Like a Lady."
9:58 - Jessica and Phillip sing "Up Where We Belong."
10:00 - Wow, something is actually happening. Results time. Phillip says it's an honor to be on stage. Jessica agrees. And...Phillip wins!!!