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Jessica Sanchez is not going home on 'American Idol'
“American Idol” was great TV Wednesday night – not because of any manufactured fights, not because of any game manipulation, or cutting, pithy comments.
It was great because the music was great.
Despite what the judges, who now seem to be bordering on delusional where Joshua Ledet is concerned, may say, there were three great performances Wednesday night, as Ledet, Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips all raised their games to new heights. Unfortunately, they left behind Hollie Cavanagh, who tried to keep up, but folded under the pressure at the end of her version of “I Can't Make You Love Me.”
Now, the judges' pick of the night was, obviously, Ledet.
“I've never heard anything that good in my life,” said Steven Tyler, after Ledet's showy version of “It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World.”
“You're making me speak different languages,” added Jennifer Lopez.
“I think it's one of the best performances in the history of any singing show – including ours,” said Randy Jackson.
OK, let's be honest. Ledet's version of the James Brown classic was great. His powerful voice and unique phrasing set him apart and his swaggering delivery made him memorable, though he did give in to his urges to overdo it with the ad-libbing at the end. But not only was it not “one of the best performances in the history of any singing show,” it wasn't the best performance of the evening. It wasn't even the best performance of the song on any singing show this season. (That would go to “The Voice's" Juliet Simms, though maybe Randy isn't watching that show.)
The over-praise doesn't help Ledet. It doesn't help him grow as a singer, which, truthfully, he still needs to do. And it doesn't help him with the voters, who are either turned off by the hyperbole or don't think he needs any help and throw their support elsewhere. Hollie seems like a lock for elimination Thursday night, but Ledet could end up leaving in a shocking twist. “Idol” better have counselors on standby for the judges.
You see, despite the odds and the judges' overwhelming support for her main rival, Jessica Sanchez won the evening with a stunning “And I'm Telling You” that overshadowed Ledet because of how she embodied the song.
Either the 16-year-old is a remarkable actress or she believes that she has been wronged and is going to win people over. There's a look in her eyes, as she declares, “You're gonna love me,” that is an unmistakable mix of determination and hurt.
And how could she not be hurt following the weekly Ledet-loveathon? She didn't get any “best ever” accolades from the judges, though there was a somewhat half-hearted standing ovation from the judges. She also got “There are no words” from Lopez and “Julian Lennon loved it!” from Jackson. Um, thanks?
Nevertheless, Sanchez seems to take those slights in stride and funnel them into her performances. And whether it's artistry or genuine emotion or a mix of both, the ability to tap into her feelings is what Sanchez has that Ledet does not have just yet, along with a sense of restraint.
It's also what Phillip Phillips does better than Ledet.
His emotional reworking of Damien Rice's “Volcano” showed the difference between an artist and a singer. He crafted it to express his feelings, not offer yet another lengthy plea for attention.
Sometimes Phillips doesn't quite tap into the feelings behind the songs he sings, as he did in a lukewarm “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” But it's a problem he presumably won't have when he sings his own songs.
And as powerful as Sanchez's “Dreamgirls” moment was, Phillips' “Volcano” is the only song I'd want to hear regularly on the radio and, frankly, the only song of the night that could possibly get that chance.
That said, the fact “Idol” offers all three of those wildly eclectic, memorable performances in the same hour shows why it remains must-see TV after all these years.
Jessica Sanchez, “And I Am Telling You”
Phillip Phillips, “Volcano”
Joshua Ledet, “It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World”
Jessica Sanchez, “Steal Away”
Joshua Ledet, “You Raise Me Up”
Joshua Ledet and Phillip Phillips, “This Love”
Phillip Phillips, “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?”
Hollie Cavanagh, “Faithfully”
All, “Waiting for a Girl Like You”
Hollie Cavanagh, “I Can't Make You Love Me”
Jessica Sanchez and Hollie Cavanagh, “Eternal Flame”
BOTTOM TWO: Hollie, Joshua
WILL BE ELIMINATED: Hollie
SHOULD BE ELIMINATED: Hollie
ACTUALLY ELIMINATED: Hollie
Pictured: From left, Phillip Phillips, Hollie Cavanaugh, Josh Ledet and Jessica Sanchez competed on Wednesday May 9 another contestant is being voted off on Thursday's results show. (May 3, 2012)