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Jessica Sanchez, Fantasia raise stakes for ‘AI’ vets

By: - Entertainment Editor
/ 01:18 AM May 11, 2013

FANTASIA. Releases best album to date.

Many “American Idol” winners and runners-up are compromised by underwhelming pop tunes that are hastily waxed to cash in on postseason hubris—a lesson that isn’t lost on gravelly voiced Season Nine winner, Lee DeWyze, whose first studio album, 2010’s “Live It Up,” hardly lived up to his followers’ expectations. After all, what are you a champ for if you generate mixed reviews for a recording that peaks at only No. 19?

“Me, You & The Music,” the first album of Season 11 runnerup Jessica Sanchez, gets off to a slow start on the Billboard 200 (it opens at No. 26 this week)—but, we’re expecting the disc to grow sturdier legs in the coming weeks, because it’s one of the most satisfying debut recordings we’ve heard from an Idol alumna in years! And her guest stint on “Glee”—as Frida Romero, the lead vocalist of The New Directions’ fierce rivals at Regionals—can only boost the album’s commercial appeal.

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Even the collection’s generic-sounding tracks like “You’ve Got The Love” have their wow moments when Sanchez skillfully reaches for high notes with no perceptible strain. It’s wise for her producers to take the singer’s tender age into account—she’s only 17—and not “force-feed” her with adult themes in a sappy coating.

Jessica’s carrier tracks are also age-suitable—and catchy as heck: It’s hard to resist the pulsating hooks of her duet with Ne-Yo, “Tonight” (which proves that she’s no Rihanna or Whitney Houston knockoff); the high-octane beats of “Right to Fall” (about a girl who “won’t let them tell us who to love”), and the anthemic tune, “Plastic Roses,” in which she channels Beyoncé.

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SANCHEZ. Her voice is as powerful as it is easy on the ear!

The significant ballad, “Crazy Glue,” which she co-wrote, is more haunting than hokey and, like the lushly idiosyncratic “Drive By” and the dance-hall sizzler, “No One Compares” (with Prince Royce), showcases her formidable pipes at their most supple!

With her range and enviable skills as a gifted vocal technician, she makes the album’s palatable dance-pop confections soar even more! Her voice is as powerful as it is easy on the ear.

The Filipino-Mexican singer taps into the Latino market with a Spanglish version of “No One Compares” (also with Royce) —but, it would’ve been wonderful to hear a Taglish duet of “Tonight” or “Crazy Glue” featuring Jessica and, say, The Black Eyed Peas’ Apl.de.ap or Journey’s Arnel Pineda.

‘Side Effects of You’

Like Sanchez, Fantasia raises the stakes for other “American Idol” vets. Season Three’s big winner may have been sidetracked by her forays into theater (she dazzled critics in the musical version of Steven Spielberg’s “The Color Purple” on Broadway) and television (she played herself in the top-rated biopic, “Life Is Not A Fairy Tale”), but it’s hard to deny that singing is what she does best, as is apparent in her fourth studio compilation, “Side Effects of You”—her best album to date!

Fantasia’s sturdy but occasionally squeaky voice is an acquired taste—but, it’s what makes her album, which debuted at No. 2 on Billboard last week, sonically unique. Moreover, it adds texture to her R ‘n’ B sound.

As musically satisfying as it is thematically cohesive, it’s a sumptuous pastiche of musical styles and genres, led by the zippy Motown swagger of “Get It Right”; the feel-good, “Nightshift”-channeling anthem, “Lose to Win,” and “Without Me,” the 28-year-old songstress’ gorgeously realized collaboration with Kelly Rowland and Missy Elliot!

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TAGS: American Idol, Fantasia, Glee, Live it up, Music, Side Effects of You, Television
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