'American Idol' kicks off season finale (live blog)

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 24 2012 07:58 AM | Updated as of May 24 2012 07:57 PM

MANILA, Philippines – The latest season of “American Idol” comes to a close Wednesday night (Thursday morning in Manila) with a two-hour program, which will feature performances by Rihanna and last year’s winner Scotty McCreery.

The other Season 11 contestants will also be on hand to witness whether 16-year-old Filipino-Mexican-American teenager Jessica Sanchez or Georgia’s guitar-playing rocket Phillip Phillips will be crowned the new “American Idol.”

ABS-CBNnews.com will be constantly updating about the finale here. So check out this article often to see how the story will end.

Here we go!

The eight eliminated contestants of this season started the show with a group number of Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby,” wearing the traditional all-white outfits that have become a trademark of the “American Idol” finale.

Host Ryan Seacrest announced that a new world record was made last night with a staggering 132 million votes cast.

The "Idol" grand finale is famous for pairing the contestants with veteran musical acts and Wednesday's show was no different, with Phillips taking out his guitar to perform with classic rocker John Fogerty on "Have You Ever Seen the Rain," followed by "Bad Moon Rising." Fogerty is the vocalist of the '60s group Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Top 3 contestant Joshua Ledet did a duet with "Idol" Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino on Elton John's "Take Me To the Pilot." Ledet has earned the nickname "Mantasia" this season for their similar gospel singing style and Ledet admitted in his intro spiel that Barrino is among his greatest inspirations. Ledet even sang Barrino's "Idol" coronation song "I Believe" during the Top 7 redux show.

The ladies of Season 11 -- Sanchez, Erika Van Pelt, Elise Testone, Hollie Cavanagh, Skylar Laine, Shannon Magraine -- also got to perform a medley of songs with Chaka Khan on "Ain't Nobody," "Through the Fire" and "I'm Every Woman." Khan shot to fame in the disco era, first with the band Rufus and later on as a solo artist, eventually earning 10 Grammy Awards in a stellar career.

Rihanna finally took the stage with her latest hit "Where Have You Been," in an eleborate production number with African drummers and the sexy singer making her entrance inside a giant box.

Skylar Laine also got to perform with her idol, country superstar Reba McEntire on "Turn on the Radio." Throughout the season, the "Idol" judges have praised Laine as reminiscent of a young McEntire for her upbeat country performances.

This was followed by a solo spot from Sanchez, who reprised her version of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You," which earned her a standing ovation when she first sang it on the show. Many TV critics also considered her performance of the song as one of the most memorable moments on "Idol" this season.

This season's male contestants -- Ledet, Heejun Han, Colton Dixon, Deandre Brackensick and Jeremy Rosado -- performed with Neil Diamond for a medley of the crooner's biggest hits like "Coming to America," "I'm A Believer" and "Sweet Caroline."

Judge Jennifer Lopez also took to the stage to debut her latest single "Goin' In" from the movie "Step Up Revolution." She also did the first-ever live performance of "Follow the Leader" with Wisin y Yandel.

In one of the surprises of the show, former "Idol" contestant Ace Young proposed on live television to girlfriend Diana DeGarmo, who was the runner up on Season 3. Both pursued a career on Broadway after their stints on "Idol." A shocked DeGarmo accepted Young's marriage proposal. Yoing, a Top 7 contestant on Season 5, met DeGarmo when they were both cast for the Broadway revival of "Hair" in 2010.

Top 4 contestant Cavanagh tackled the inspirational number "You'll Never Walk Alone" with "Idol" Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks, while this season's Top 12 male contestants returned to the stage for a tribute to the late Robin Gibb, one of the members of the Bee Gees, who passed away recently. The Bee Gees medley ended with Ledet reprising his well-received version of "To Love Somebody."

In one of the most awaited pairings on the show, Sanchez sang "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" with Tony and Grammy winner Jennifer Holliday, who first sang that song on Broadway. To thunderous applause and an enthusiastic standing ovation from the both the judges and the audience, the two singers attacked the song with so much passion, taking turns on the song's demanding portions.

Holliday has been vocal about her admiration for the 16-year-old contestant -- even before Sanchez sang the "Dreamgirls" anthem during the Top 4 performance show. Days before the grand finale, it was Holliday who excitedly announced on Twitter that she will be singing with Sanchez on the show.

Judge Steven Tyler and his band Aerosmith rocked the "Idol" stage, performing some of the group's most popular hits such as "Walk This Way."

Sanchez and Phillips made their first duet during the entire season, singing "Up Where We Belong," which was also performed by finalists Carrie Underwood and Bo Bice in the finale of Season 4.

And the winner is PHILLIP PHILLIPS!

Thank you very much for joining us. Join us again for "The X Factor Philippines" on ABS-CBN soon.