MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Even before the start of “American Idol” on Wednesday night (Thursday morning in Manila), the microblogging site Twitter was already all abuzz with the leak that contestant Jessica Sanchez will be singing “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” for the Top 4 performance show.
|Jessica Sanchez lets tears flow on "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going."
For fans of the Filipino-Mexican-American contestant, it was an opportunity to show off her big voice and blow away the competition.
But for the 16-year-old San Diego native, it was almost like a powerful declaration to “Idol” viewers and judges.
After almost getting eliminated from the popular US TV show when she received the lowest number of votes despite a well-received performance of “Stuttering” during the Top 7 performance show, Sanchez, in selecting the anthem from the Broadway musical "Dreamgirls," seemed to be saying that she isn’t going anywhere -- at least not without showing off what she can do.
And they heard her and agreed. The three judges gave her another standing ovation – her first since getting the "Idol" judges on their feet when she sang a duet with Joshua Ledet on "I Knew You Were Waiting For Me."
Although an early favorite on the show, after her rendition of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You,” Sanchez, in the past few weeks, seemed to have lost momentum, as the judges poured praises on other contestants, particularly Ledet, who got his 14th standing ovation on Wednesday for his performance of James Brown’s "It's A Man's Man's Man's World."
But “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” could be the key turning point for Sanchez at this important stage of the competition.
“If the audience sees and the judges see what I saw, it could be game over,” record producer and mentor Jimmy Iovine said during rehearsals.
Picking the "Dreamgirls" showstopper as the song she wished she had written, judge Steven Tyler pronounced it another “over the top” performance for Sanchez, who had tears rolling down her cheeks while singing the song.
Judge Jennifer Lopez, who was wowed by Sanchez’s vocal ability, said it seems that it’s going to be race to the finish. "It was a real moment," she said.
Judge Randy Jackson, for his part, said Sanchez picked “one of the hardest songs in the world to sing but you slayed it.”
Actress Jennifer Holliday, who originated the role on Broadway, tweeted, "Jessica, God gave you an amazing voice and tonight you sang your song of redemption. Gratitude to God for the save. I love you and your humble heart."
It was a good night for Sanchez, who also drew praise from the judges when she chose to sing Etta James’s hit song “Steal Away” with a jazz band for the “California Dreamin’” round.
Showing versatility and pizzazz, Sanchez was effortless, starting out the song while sitting on the grand piano.
Tyler said Sanchez just nailed the song. “I loved it. That showed the other side of your voice.”
Lopez, for her part, thought Sanchez’s performance was “crazy,” calling her as one of the greatest female singers she has heard in a long time. Lopez also lauded Sanchez’s ability to “growl” while singing.
Jackson said he is glad that she can tap into James’s soulfulness even at a young age. Jackson also said she can actually sing anything.
“I love the whole vibe of that. The blues is so much soul so much heart in it. That’s what it’s all about. Your vocals are ridiculous. That girl can sing the phone book. Amazing, again,” he said.
Only four competitors remain on "Idol" -- Sanchez, Ledet, Phillip Phillips and Hollie Cavanagh.
After Wednesday's performance show, national newspaper USA Today predicted Sanchez will make it to the "Idol" finale, while New York-based newspaper Newsday said her performance of the "Dreamgirls" song may be game over for her competitors.
“She's got the notes, she's got the attitude. Frankly, it's her first performance in weeks that has really wowed me. Even knowing what she's capable of, this is fantastic,” Brian Mansfield of USA Today, said, picking Sanchez, Ledet and Phillips to advance to the Top 3.
“Putting her all into this, there's so much emotion in her voice. It's her best performance of the finals; and one of the most powerful things I've seen on the show, it just keeps going on when you think it can't get any better,” Newsday said in its review.
Eliminated contestant Heejun Han also praised her fellow Asian-American. “Jessica Sanchez just stood there and sang. But her melody and soul walked all around the world. A star is here,” he said on Twitter.
Sanchez also managed to convert skeptics with her performance.
Blogger Jason Scott of rickey.org, who hasn’t been fond of Sanchez, admitted that “she’s workin’ the song out.”
“This is the first time in several weeks that I’ve loved her. If she doesn’t make the finale after this performance, there is something seriously wrong,” he said on the site’s live blog.
“The judges give her a STANDING OVATION. It’s about time they did something right tonight.”
Sanchez's supporters in the United States can vote for her by dialing 1-866-436-5704 or text "VOTE" to 5704 or go to americanidol.com voting page or American Idol's Facebook page.