‘Idol’ refresher: Petite powerhouseBy Princess Daisy Ominga
Philippine Daily Inquirer
(Here’s the conclusion of the Inquirer series on the Top 10 finalists of “American Idol” Season 11, who will perform live on Sept. 21 at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.)
Seventeen-year-old Filipino-Mexican singer Jessica Sanchez is from San Diego, California. The “Idol” Season 11 runner-up has been doing the rounds of singing competitions since she was this high, winning acclaim for her vocal prowess at a very young age.
She joined the first season of “America’s Got Talent” when she was 11. One of the judges, singer Brandy, said: “You have shown me that singing is the best thing ever. You’re gonna be huge, I promise.”
Her audition piece on “American Idol” was “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman.” The judges liked what they heard and let her through to Hollywood.
There she earned more positive remarks, particularly for her group performance, which the judges rewarded with a standing ovation. Although an early standout, she was not given much TV exposure until she sang Jennifer Hudson’s “Love You I Do” during the Top 25 performances and wowed everyone, making her one of the favorites.
Jessica is the fifth “Idol” contestant of Filipino lineage to break into the Top 12/Top 13 of the competition—following Jasmine Trias, Camille Velasco, Ramiele Malubay and Thia Megia. She was also the first female recipient of the Judges’ Save, and the only one to reach the finale.
Known for her growling and strong pipes, Jessica caught the attention of guest mentor Akon, who wished that Jessica would not win, so he could sign her up for his label. Another guest mentor, Mary J. Blige, was floored upon hearing Jessica sing Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You.” This phenomenal performance stamped Jessica’s stature as the contestant to beat.
Jessica’s interpretation of Billy Joel’s “Everybody Has a Dream” gave her another standing ovation. The number was declared the best of that crucial night.
For the Personal Idol Week, Jessica chose to do a slowed- down version of Beyonce’s “Sweet Dreams,” which made Randy Jackson declare her “one of the best singers I’ve heard in many years.” Jennifer Lopez said, “I have to do that in my next concert.”
To show her funky, fun side, Jessica introduced to the world her “alter ego,” BeBe Chez. She ventured into more upbeat songs and veered away from ballads. This move was met with mixed reviews. Steven Tyler counseled her to “not stray too far from what you sing the best, which is ballads.”
During Songs from 2010s Week, Jessica sang Jazmine Sullivan’s “Stuttering.” The judges were unanimous in their praise. To everyone’s shock, it was revealed the following night that Jessica got the lowest number of votes and was thus in danger of elimination. This led to the dramatic save from the judges before she even made it to the chorus of her “sing-for-your-life” number, Deborah Cox’s “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here.” Randy Jackson reminded the viewers to choose wisely and vote for the best singers.
Jessica proved worthy of the Judges’ Save as she gave stellar performances week after week. She was occasionally criticized for singing songs that were too old for her, or for wearing a dress too mature for her age (like when she sang “Proud Mary”). But she consistently got good feedback for her vocals.
Jimmy Iovine commented that the almost-elimination pushed Jessica harder, noting: “When you challenge her, she comes back at you—ferocious.”
A heartfelt rendition of Luther Vandross’ “Dance With My Father,” which Jessica dedicated to her dad who was about to be deployed to Singapore as US Navy man, gave viewers a glimpse of her tight family bond. In some of her preperformance intros, video clips of the family were used, most of the time showing their dining table laden with Filipino dishes.
A vocal master class rendition of “And I’m Telling You (I’m Not Going)” illustrated her amazing singing prowess and put her back to the top of the pack. With only four contestants left, Jessica decided to sing that song and said: “To tell everyone … I’m telling you, I’m not going.”
Jimmy Iovine was awed. “I’ve seen many great things in my life; I will remember this moment,” he said. “It could be game over.”
For the Top 3 performances, Jessica chose to sing the Aerosmith hit, “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” a courageous move, with Tyler among the judges. But he said, “You just took a great song and made it greater.”
Jessica gave rousing performances of “I Have Nothing” and “The Prayer,” for the Top 2 Finale. But the judges didn’t feel her Winner’s Single, “Change Nothing,” gave her voice justice. She lost the competition to Phillip Phillips after 132 million votes were cast.
A jaw-dropping duet on “And I’m Telling You (I’m Not Going)” with Jennifer Holliday during the finale show generated outstanding reviews as Jessica held her own against the Broadway diva, showing that the petite powerhouse, win or lose, was not going anywhere and was determined to become a big star, as predicted when she was young.
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