Filipino-Mexican-American contestant Jessica Sanchez earned a spot on the “American Idol” finals next week, where she will be up against the guitar-playing lite rocker Phillip Phillips.
At the “Idol” results show on Thursday (Friday morning in Manila), judges’ favorite Joshua Ledet was sent home after garnering the lowest number of votes from “Idol” viewers, setting the stage for a showdown between Sanchez and Phillips.
It was a hard-earned victory for Sanchez, who was almost eliminated from the show during the Top 7, which led to the most dramatic judges’ save in “Idol” history. In that memorable episode, judge Jennifer Lopez stormed the stage and grabbed the microphone from a stunned Sanchez and scolded America for not voting for the 16-year-old.
After that save, however, Lopez, Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler seemed restrained in their comments for Sanchez, while showering other contestants, Ledet in particular, with overflowing praise.
The judges never failed to give Ledet a standing ovation in every show — including Thursday, when the trio gave the 20-year-old gospel singer his final standing ovation as he closed the show with a reprise of James Brown’s “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”
Sanchez had to wait for the last spot on the Top 4 performance night before earning another standing ovation from the judges with her powerful rendition of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going.”
Then on last Wednesday’s Top 3 performance show, Sanchez came in nursing a sore throat and only Tyler was on his feet after she performed Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing.” Both Phillips and Ledet got all judges off their seats.
Tense results show
TV critics gave Phillips and Ledet the edge after Wednesday’s show, although Sanchez topped the readers poll of magazine Entertainment Weekly and the website Digital Spy, indicating heavy fan support for the Chula Vista, California native.
Host Ryan Seacrest announced that they received nearly 90 million votes after Wednesday’s show.
Record producer and mentor Jimmy Iovine in his weekly comments was obviously not impressed with Sanchez’s three performances, echoing Jackson’s comment that she did not have a “real moment.” However, Iovine said he sees her worthy of performing at the Grammy Awards.
Iovine also had criticisms with Ledet, saying he oversang in “Imagine” and “No More Drama” — a point also raised by critics — but said Ledet deserves to be in the finals.
Iovine was most impressed with Phillips, particularly for his straightforward rendition of the Bob Seger ballad “We’ve Got Tonight,” saying it was Phillips’ best performance on the show.
During the last 10 minutes or so onThursday’s stretched out results show, which saw performances from Lisa Marie Presley and former “Idol” contestant Adam Lambert — a Sanchez supporter — Seacrest finally called the contestants for the results, and announced that Sanchez will be going to the finals, followed by Phillips.
And then the Filipinos on Twitter went crazy.
On to the finale
A Sanchez-Phillips finale will prove to be an interesting competition between two singers with very different styles. As USA Today put it, on one hand is a “pure singer” (Sanchez) and on the other is an “eccentric stylist” (Phillips).
A win next week by Sanchez will make her the first female “Idol” since Jordin Sparks beat Blake Lewis in Season 6. More importantly, Sanchez will become the first “Idol” with Asian and Latino roots to win in the show. She will also become the youngest “Idol” winner if she beats Phillips in the finals.
Phillips, meanwhile, is riding a four-season winning streak by so-called “white guys with guitars” on “Idol,” which started with David Cook in Season 7, followed by, in order, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze and last year’s Scotty McCreery.
The website Vote for the Worst has its eye on Phillips to become the fifth guitar-playing male contestant in a row.
For Sanchez to win next week, Iovine gave this advice: “It’s about the songs.”
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