American idol

As American Idol nears its finale and the judges' demands for "moments, moments, moments" increase, one would think emotions would be flaring backstage. But if you are to believe the Top 3 contestants — Jessica Sanchez, Phillip Phillips and Joshua Ledet — there's nothing more they can do to set themselves apart. The last thing they feel at this stage is competitive.

"We're all so numb. There's nothing we can really feel because it's almost over," Phillips told TV Guide Magazine backstage after the semifinal performances on Wednesday. "We prayed before we got on stage tonight and were talking about how much fun we want to have, because we're not in competition. Everybody's so different."

If anything, exhaustion had set in by the time they made their way to the press tent after each performed three songs. "I was so nervous going up there because we didn't get enough time to rehearse like a normal week," said Ledet, referring to the two days each singer lost to hometown visits. "I was nervous about singing three songs that I had to learn the lyrics to. Bringing all that on stage with me was kind of tough."

Sanchez, who tackled difficult songs by Mariah Carey, Aerosmith and the Jackson 5, was equally spent but could not stop grinning. "It was very nerve-racking, but I'm trying to enjoy the moment right now," she said. "I'm a 16-year-old, and I could be planning my prom but I'm singing in front of J. Lo, Steven and Randy. That is the biggest moment of my life."

Season 11 could be the last time contestants have the opportunity to receive criticism from the current Idol panel, if reports that Jennifer Lopez is leaving the show after this season turn out to be true. But the behavior of the three judges could not have been more relaxed or familial behind the scenes.

During commercial breaks, Lopez' boyfriend, Casper Smart, who has become a staple in the studio, lingered by the judges' table, stroking a giggling Lopez's foot while making small talk with Tyler and Jackson. Exec producer Nigel Lythgoe made frequent trips to the stage to brief the judges, eliciting smiles and laughter from all three. Lopez even leaned her head on Jackson's shoulder as they waited for one performance to begin.

While Fox and Lopez's rep had no comment regarding her future with Idol, the contestants expressed their satisfaction with the trio and the guidance they have received.

"They've given me so much advice and I love them for it because they have made me grow as an artist," said Sanchez. "I love all of them!"

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