MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Filipino-Mexican-American contestant Jessica Sanchez earned restrained praise for singing the Queen song “Bohemian Rhapsody” but bounced back with a stunning performance of Luther Vandross' “Dance With My Father” Wednesday night (Thursday morning in Manila).
The “American Idol” judges gave high praises to the 16-year-old singer for her second song choice.
Jennifer Lopez thought Sanchez's rendition of “Dance With My Father” may be the most beautiful she's ever heard.
“We’ve heard a lot of people sing that song. You can imagine over the past 2 years, it’s such a beautiful song... but the tenderness, the feeling, your vocal ability. The feeling for me more than anything is what makes me say that it’s the most beautiful song I’ve ever heard it,” she said.
Sanchez dedicated the song to her father, who is a soldier. Her father will be deployed to Singapore soon.
'Comparable to Whitney'
Steven Tyler said Sanchez can never sing a song bad, adding that her voice is comparable to Whitney Houston's. He also said it is an honor and a joy to watch the 16-year-old singer perform week after week.
“I’ve heard your performances but your voice is different than anybody else’s. It kinda touches on Whitney but then you got your own thing going on,” he said.
Randy Jackson was amazed at Sanchez's natural talent, saying she was able to establish that inner connection this time.
“You are truly amazing to me because you’re so natural... Now you got that feeling in there, you’re making that connection. Every time you get up and sing, you know what’s wrong with it? Absolutely nothing,” said Jackson.
Sanchez, meantime, received mixed reviews when she sang “Bohemian Rhapsody,” one of Queen's most popular hits.
Tyler said Freddie Mercury, Queen's lead vocalist, would have been proud to hear Sanchez's rendition.
Lopez thought Sanchez was vocally great but “it needed a bit more of that rock performance.”
TV critics agree
Jackson said Sanchez altered her usual approach to a song and can sing actually anything. “I loved it. You sang no runs,” he said. He, however, told Sanchez to channel Tina Turner when performing such songs in the future.
Some TV critics also agreed with the judges’ comments.
Newsday said Sanchez’s “Dance with My Father” was an emotional performance. “Her tone is perfect. She's playing with all the possibilities of the lyrics, not going too fast. It was a little too smooth, too polished maybe, but still effective."
For its part, USA Today said: “Sanchez struggled to connect with Bohemian Rhapsody but came back strong with a rendition of Luther Vandross' Dance With My Father that she dedicated to her own father.”
Zap2it, meantime, said Sanchez’s second song “was a marked step up from her earlier performance and got her back on track to the type of songs that are more in her lane as an artist.”
Even American singer-songwriter Richard Marx, who originally produced and wrote “Dance With My Father” praised Sanchez.
“Hey @JSanchezAI11 Just watched you sing "Dance With My Father" online. Killer job! You did Luther and me proud. Good luck,” he tweeted.
Other contestants who got good reviews from the judges were Joshua Ledet, Skylar Laine, Phillip Phillips and Hollie Cavanagh.
Ledet received a standing ovation anew for his rendition of India Arie's “Ready For Love” and “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” with the judges commenting on his “unbelievable” talent.
Laine sang “The Show Must Go On” and Jason Aldean's “Tattoos On This Town.” The judges said she looked very comfortable performing the songs she picked.
Phillips picked “Fat-Bottomed Girls” and Dave Matthews' “The Stone.” The judges thought Phillips "did it again," showing his own "colors" while always adding a different flavor.
Cavanagh also got a standing ovation for her version of Miley Cyrus' "The Climb." She got flat reviews for her "Save Me," however.
Elise Testone, meantime, took on “I Want It All” and Jimi Hendrix's “Bold As Love.”
Currently, Dial Idol ranks Sanchez at number 4 with a score of 8.182. Cavanagh leads the pack with a score of 12.602.
Dial Idol, which estimates who has the most number of phone votes, says that Sanchez "may be voted off or be saved and it's just too close to call," based on its margin of error.