The American Idol finale may be two weeks away… But that didn’t stop Jessica Sanchez from coasting to the finish line. Instead, the pint-sized phenom performed like a champion.
During Wednesday’s night two-hour episode, the 16-year-old half-Mexican singer seemed to be taking the motto “go big or go home” to heart by performing the iconic music of two divas: Etta James and Jennifer Holliday.
For her first performance—dedicated to songs from artists or bands from California or tracks about The Golden State—Sanchez performed a rousing rendition of Etta James’ “Steal Away.” Sitting atop a piano and dressed in a black and white top and pants with blue accessories, including a pair of sparkling earrings, Sanchez growled and rasped her way through the songs like a seasoned pro.
“You just nailed that,” declared Idol judge Steven Tyler, while Randy Jackson proclaimed, “Your vocals are ridiculous.” Meanwhile, Jennifer Lopez complimented Sanchez on her grownup growl.
“It was in full effect tonight, by the way,” said la Lopez. “That was crazy, crazy, crazy some of the things you did in there.”
Later, Sanchez returned to the Idol stage to perform The Bangles’ “Eternal Flame” with fellow finalist Hollie Cavanagh, looking angelicwhile swinging on white fabric.
“You both have sweetness and you both have power,” said Lopez after Sanchez and Cavanagh duet, which received a standing ovation from the audience. “And I think showed up both of those things in that song.”
Then Sanchez and Cavanagh joined the other finalists, Joshua Ledet and Phillip Phillips, to perform Foreigner’s “Waiting fora Girl like You.”
But it was Sanchez’s last performance, as part of the “Songs I Wish I Wrote” theme, which proved to be the night’s most impressive.
Dressed in a color-block dress with a single sleeve, Sanchez tackled a monster song, Jennifer Holliday’s “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going,” a song that helped former American Idol finalist Jennifer Hudson win an Academy Award. From the get-go, Sanchez wowed the audience with her mesmerizing rendition of the emotional tune that she’s been singing since she was 7—and earned a much-deserved standing ovation from the judges.
“With a performance like that… there’s just nothing to say,” confessed Lopez, who called Sanchez’s performance a “real moment.” “Your vocal ability, it’s not something that you see all the time.”
Meanwhile, Jackson complimented Sanchez on taking such a big risk.
“This is one of the hardest songs in the world to sing… It’s been sung like crazy on this stage,” explained Jackson. “And, you know what, you got up there and you just slayed it!”
In what could be considered a shock heard ‘round the nation, American Idol finalist Jessica Sanchez was thisclose to being eliminated on last night’s results show.
The 16-year-old part-Mexican singer, long considered “the one to beat” earned the lowest amount of votes after this week’s performance show, causing jaws to drop and drawing boos from the stunned studio audience.
While Sanchez’s fellow finalists were left in shock and awe, Sanchez began singing in a last-ditch effort to snag the judges’ save.
But before the San Diego-native could finish her rendition of Deborah Cox’s “Nobody’s Supposed to Be Here,” Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson rushed the stage and took the microphone out of Sanchez’s hand.
Moments later, Jackson implored America to think before they vote.
“We are saving Jessica without any doubt. For myself, Steven and Jennifer, this girl is one of the best singers in America. Please everybody … vote for the best!”
It was the first time the judges had rushed to join an Idol hopeful on stage, following the use of their special “save” privilege, according to Ryan Seacrest.
When asked if she expected to be the lowest-vote-getting finalist of the night, Sanchez diplomatically replied: “No, not at all. I don’t expect anything. I just do what I do. Whatever happens, happens. I just want people to know I’ve been working hard my whole life.”
But Sanchez wasn’t the only frontrunner to end up in the unexpected bottom three. : Fellow one-to-watch Joshua Ledet, whose high-octane performance had wowed the judges the night before, was also in the bottom three.
“Everybody did a good job last night but that shouldn’t be the bottom three,” said Idol mentor Jimmy Iovine, sitting in the crowd.
Meanwhile, guest judge Akon commented on Sanchez’s maturing, telling her “You’ve got so much control for that age!”
And, when it came time to take the stage, Sanchez didn’t disappoint…
Sitting atop a piano in a shimmering metallic dress, black leggings and black knee-high boots, the San Diego native delivered a moving interpretation of Sullivan’s rare track.
“That was superb, I mean that was like at the highest degree,” decreed AI judge Randy Jackson. “You did an amazing job!”
Meanwhile, Jennifer Lopez gushed about how beautifully Sanchez performed the song and encouraged her to take the American Idol audience and viewers at home on a journey every week.
“You have an amazing opportunity to take this audience… on a ride” said Lopez. “Take us on the ride every week; you can show us something we’ve never seen!”
Later, Sanchez returned to the stage wearing a shoulderless white blouse and pants with pink piping to perform an energetic rendition of Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” as a trio with fellow finalists Joshua Ledet and HollieCavanagh.
During last night ’80s Night-themed performance show, the 16-year-old part-Mexican singer mastered her second Whitney song.
The pint-sized singer, who hails from San Diego, proved she isn’t only a balladeer by covering Houston’s uptempo “How Will I Know.” And, once again Sanchez—rocking an ‘80s-inspired cropped jacket, side ponytail and skinny jeans—nailed her performance and garnered an A-plus from the judges for her effortlessly pitch-perfect effort.
During rehearsals, guest mentor Gwen Stefani called Jessica’s voice “shockingly good” and added “it’s crazy how young she is.” Following her performance, judge Jennifer Lopez concurred.
“You’re such a little girl, but there’s, like, this woman up there at the same time,” mused Lopez.
In addition to singing solo, Sanchez joined voices with fellow finalist Joshua Ledet to perform Aretha Franklin and George Michael‘s “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me).” And, the perfectly paired duo didn’t disappoint; they out-grooved the rest of their competitors.
“This is one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen on the show,” Randy Jackson declared, uttering his latest catchphrase: “They’ve gotta have it!”