- - Thursday, May 24, 2012

Country star Trace Adkins and “American Idol” runner-up Jessica Sanchez are among the performers slated to appear at the National Memorial Day Concert, which will air live on PBS from the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol from 8 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday on PBS (check local listings).

Co-hosted for the seventh year by Tony Award-winner Joe Mantegna and Emmy Award-winner Gary Sinise, the show’s all-star lineup will include former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, rock band Daughtry, nine-time Grammy award-winner Natalie Cole, actress Selma Blair; Oscar-winner Ellen Burstyn, and Emmy Award-winning actor and Vietnam veteran Dennis Franz, according to a news release. World-renowned tenor Russell Watson will perform with the National Symphony Orchestra under the direction of pops conductor Jack Everly.

The special, sponsored by Lockheed Martin, also will be sent to troops serving around the world on the American Forces Network.

Phillip Phillips named ‘American Idol’ winner

Phillip Phillips, a bluesy Georgia guitar man, was crowned the new “American Idol” on Wednesday after defeating teenager Jessica Sanchez in record viewer voting. He is the fifth male “Idol” winner in a row.

Mr. Phillips, 21, a pawnshop worker from Leesburg, Ga., looked stunned when host Ryan Seacrest announced his name, then wordlessly accepted a hug from Miss Sanchez and congratulations from his fellow finalists.

He dissolved into tears as he sang “Home,” the song that may be his first single.

Mr. Phillips retained his humble, self-effacing demeanor to the end, and beyond.

“I have no idea why I won, man,” he said in his backstage dressing room. “I guess some people liked the music that I was doing. I’m just lucky. … I was just doing my thing each week.”

He received the winning share of the record-high 132 million votes cast after Tuesday’s final showdown with Miss Sanchez, a 16-year-old high school student from Chula Vista, Calif. The breakdown of the vote count was not announced, typical for the contest.

His victory extended the “American Idol” winning streak for men to five consecutive seasons. The last female to win, and the last non-white winner, was Jordin Sparks in 2007.

Mr. Phillips has more in common with the last four winners than gender. Like them, he is a young Caucasian guitar player, known to “Idol” watchers as WGWGs - white guys with guitars.

Last year’s winner was Scotty McCreery, preceded by Lee DeWyze, Kris Allen and David Cook.

Miss Sanchez, who is of Filipino and Latino heritage, took a measured view of the outcome, one that she said had solely to do with music.

“I don’t blame it on anything,” she said backstage. “Phillip has his fans, and I have mine. We’re totally two different people. Our genres are completely different.

“He’s more like the indie, alternative rock kinda guy, and I’m more urban R&B pop. … It’s just the number of our fans,” she said, adding that she expected to be the runner-up.

“In the moment, I told him, ‘You’re gonna win this.’ I was smiling at him the whole time. I was ready to just give him a big hug, and that’s what I did when they announced it.”

Ms. Sparks, 22, was among the guest stars who helped fill out the two-hour finale show. Rihanna, Neil Diamond, Reba McEntire, Chaka Khan and John Fogerty also performed. “American Idol” judges Steven Tyler, with his band Aerosmith, and Jennifer Lopez performed as well, but it was Miss Sanchez and Jennifer Holliday who stood out with a powerhouse duet on “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.”

Besides music, there was a marriage proposal for the season 11 finale: Former contestants Ace Young and Diana DeGarmo got engaged on stage.

Country Music Association awards show set for Nov. 1

The Country Music Association’s 46th annual awards show is scheduled for Nov. 1. The three-hour show will move to Thursday this year after a run of Wednesday nights. It will be broadcast live on ABC from Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tenn.

More than 16 million viewers tuned in to the CMAs last year to watch Taylor Swift win her second entertainer of the year award.

The eligibility period for the CMA Awards closes June 30 and nominees will be announced in late summer.

The association also announced “CMA Country Christmas” will return for a third year with taping scheduled for Nov. 3. The show, which draws many of country’s top stars, also will run on ABC during the holiday season.

Compiled from Web and wire reports

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