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American Idol: Jessica Sanchez & The Judges’ Save – Things That Make You Go Hmm

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Last Thursday night was fraught with controversy after American Idol’s results revealed Jessica Sanchez to be the lowest vote getter after Wednesday night’s performances. Last season when the judges’ favorite Pia Toscano was eliminated, their one coveted save had already been used on Casey Abrams. This season, there was a sense that the judges were waiting to use it on certain individuals. If I were to guess at three possibilities, I would say Joshua Ledet, Colton Dixon, and Jessica Sanchez.

AMERICAN IDOL: Jessica Sanchez performs in front of the Judges on AMERICAN IDOL airing Wednesday, April 11 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. CR: Michael Becker / FOX.Last Wednesday, Jessica performed a flawless rendition of Jazmine Sullivan’s “Stuttering.” It was one of my favorite vocal performances from her of the season. The judges let her know that she sounded beautiful per usual, but Jennifer Lopez decided it was time to take her performances a step further and “take us on the ride.”

Even with the slight critique from the judges, I don’t think anyone would have predicted that Jessica would wind up in the bottom three. Well not until Idol host Ryan Seacrest tweeted about the results the following afternoon proclaiming to the Internet, “there is a result tonight on @AmericanIdol that some would say is very shocking!” Talk about things that make you go “hmmm.

Based on Ryan’s tweet alone, I figured that Hollie Cavanagh’s fan base had rallied and voted her into the next round and that the Judges’ Save would more than likely be coming into play that night. And both of those things did happen, but the question is, was Jessica truly in the bottom three (which also included Joshua Ledet and Elise Testone) and the night’s lowest vote getter? Or was her “elimination” and “save” a ploy for ratings?

To be honest, I can see both sides of this controversial coin.
I definitely think that Idol could have been simply mining for ratings. (Shocking, right?) They’re finally doing better than The Voice and a shock elimination/save situation could continue the show’s ratings climb.

Ryan’s tweet definitely set the tone that something big was about to go down on that night’s results show. What fueled the fire even more was a TMZ article that was later released stating, “TMZ has learned one of the absolute favorites to win the competition will be eliminated.” (Favorites to win all season have been most notably Jessica and Phillip Phillips.) According to their sources, “producers are scrambling to persuade the judges to use their ‘save’ tonight on the contestant.”

This is begs the question, did the judges know about Jessica’s possible ouster before the results were stated on stage? Possibly. Obviously someone at Idol spilled to TMZ about their “shocking” results, which of course would attract more viewers to the show. Could the source stretch the truth about how much the judges knew about the situation? Of course. However it was Steven Tyler’s comment, “We’re gonna use our card tonight, especially with an outcome like this,” that took away any kind of possible suspense after the bottom three had been revealed. 

Maybe Jessica was in the bottom three and the producers simply wanted to make the night interesting/borderline ridiculous by baiting the judges to use their save on her. Can you imagine the buzz from the East Coast as the West Coast was gearing up to watch the show? 

From my perspective, there seemed to be more of an emphasis put on the Judges’ Save being used last Thursday than there had been all season long. Not entirely surprising, since the save needed to be utilized this season to stay on schedule for the finale. If you remember, the Top 12 became the Top 10 due to the disqualification of Jermaine Jones and elimination of Shannon Magrane taking place during the same week. So no matter what, the save was going to eventually come into play and all the contestants at whatever point the save was used at were going to repeat a week or the producers were going to need to get creative with an extra week. 

AMERICAN IDOL: Jessica Sanchez is saved on AMERICAN IDOL airing Thursday, April 12, (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. L-R: Jessica Sanchez, Randy Jackson, Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Ryan Seacrest (R). CR: Carin Baer / FOX.Now on the flip side of things, I also believe that it’s completely plausible that Jessica could have been the lowest vote getter.

Not to completely come off sounding like Kara DioGuardi circa Idol season eight, but Jessica does lack artistry in this competition. Even though she has this great big voice, she’s been giving the audience pretty straight forward versions of songs, which isn’t as interesting as some of her competitor’s performances. It would be great to see her take a song and completely flip it and see what Jessica Sanchez, the post-Idol artist, might sound like.

Also, song choice is a huge factor when it comes to winning people over to vote for you. And it’s not that “Stuttering” by Jazmine Sullivan isn’t an amazing song, but I would assume that it’s a relatively unknown song to the Idol voting audience. So there’s the possibility that casual Idol voters put their votes towards a contestant who performed a song that they recognized.

What I think that most likely happened in the scenario of Jessica being the lowest vote getter is a combination of two things: voter complacency and the judges over-stepping their role.

The thing is that you have to vote no matter what. If you’re a fan of Jessica and you want her to win, vote for Jessica. The same goes for any of the contestants. Vote for who you want to win. If your chosen contestant has a great performance, vote for them anyways. Because it doesn’t matter what the judges say, you need to vote.

I mean, let’s be real here for a second, when it comes down to it, this show is about who gets the highest number of votes. It’s not always about who had the best performance of the night. I know the judges want people to vote for “the best,” insinuating last Thursday that “the best” is Jessica, however each of the Idol contestants’ individual fan bases think the contestant they’re rooting for is the best. That way of thinking doesn’t work.

The judges need to re-think their plan of action, as far as singling out a contestant as “the best” and maybe dial back to being semi-neutral judges that don’t play blatant favoritism. There’s seven singers left in this competition that have a shot at winning, not just one.

That’s my two cents on this season’s Judges’ Save, but what do you think? Was last Thursday’s Idol results show a scripted drama that began unfolding via the internet as a ploy for ratings or were the votes simply just not on Jessica’s side?

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About Kirsten Coachman

Kirsten Coachman is a writer and editor from the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit her long-running music blog, Wait...WHAT, at waitwhatmusic.net. Follow Kirsten Coachman on Twitter: @KirsCoachman
  • I thought we were talking about the stated goal of AI, which you, Dreadful, had said was to find a future star. While it’s true the show used to carry the tagline, “The Search for a Superstar,” I believe they have dropped that. From their perspective, its the short term they’re interested in – before the public forgets about them.

    I didn’t mean literally “no discernable personality” – I meant that in terms of stage presence, they are basically blank slates. That’s valid criticism. If they don’t exhibit any charisma (or confidence) now, the AI machine won’t be able to market them effectively to an indifferent public.

    I disagree that Phillip is the weakest of the remaining. But I also disagree that he is “extremely talented.” Like Jimmy Iovine said recently of Phillip, without knowing if he’s capable of writing a decent song there’s no way to gauge what his ability level really is. Outside of the context of AI, he’s just an okay coffeehouse performer for all we know. His skill set will not be viable unless he happens do be a capable songwriter. Similarly, there is likely at least one “Colton” at every high school in America. Colton is more image-conscious than most of these contestents, but as a singer and performer he’s completely generic.

    Phillip may not be versatile, but neither is Joshua (a better singer than Phillip, by far, but he’s consistently the same week after week). Elise has some versatility, but people in general don’t like her. Mainly, I think, because she’s dour.

  • That’s true from the producers’ perspective, Chad, but not mine. Or that of record companies and the buying public, it seems, since most of the biggest AI success stories have been contestants who didn’t win (Jennifer Hudson, Clay Aiken, Chris Daughtry, Adam Lambert, Katherine McPhee etc).

    Sociopaths and people with serious brain injuries are the only humans with “no discernible personality”, so that particular criticism is just nonsense.

    Philip (with Holly close behind) is the weakest of the remaining contestants. He’s extremely talented, of course (all of them are), but nowhere near as versatile as the rest of them. He always sounds like he’s straining.

  • I disagree about their being to find a future star. Potential is not important – what they can milk from the winner immediately following the end of a given season is what counts the most. I don’t think the previous ten seasons demonstrate much interest in honing a winner’s potential and developing their career. They got lucky in a couple of obvious cases, otherwise they make do with what they can get for that year between the end of one season and the start of another.

    The problem with both Jessica and Elise is not their voices – it’s that they are non-entities. No discernable personality. Elise continues to commit the cardinal sin of looking dejected, defeated, and defensive week after week.

    Joshua’s problem is not with his voice nor his performing ability. His style of old-school soul singing is not in vogue with young viewers.

    I do agree that the lad with the weird hair – Colton – will finish in the top two, possibly winning. He has arguably the weakest voice of the remaining competitors, but I agree with what you said about why he’s winning the votes of young females. His undoing might be his apparent arrogance. Though arguably equally weak in the vocal department, Phil Phillips is so unpretentious and good natured, he just might be a dark horse contender for the top three.

  • I realize AI is a competition but its stated goal is to find a future star. In that sense, whether Jessica is raw or not is a bit moot. Potential is what I’m looking at: not just for the remainder of the competition but for the remainder of a career.

    In that sense, Elise, Jessica and Joshua are the best of the remaining contestants by light years.

    However, all three of them will probably be gone in the next couple of weeks because the way the show is set up right now, you have to be (a) male (b) from the South (c) country in order to win.

    Skylar fits two out of the three criteria so will probably win. Final two will be her and that lad with the weird hair who didn’t want to be in the competition in the first place, whose name escapes me for the moment, and who is only still around because millions of teenage girls are voting with their vaginas.

  • I think its very true the judges did Jessica a disservice overall by overpraising her. People in general don’t like being told who to vote for. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Jessica doesn’t last long at this point.

    She has a technically good voice, but I find her very boring as a performer. And whether this should matter or not, the crap outfits she wears when she performs make her look like a 12 year old playing dress-up in her grandmother’s attic.

    I know she was trying to pull out all the stop last night, but she seemed way too studied – especially on Try a Little Tenderness (that’s a grown folks song, she sounded like a real pretender on that one – and I don’t mean Chrissie Hynde).

    Jessica has a big voice, but unlike Joshua, Skylar, or Elise, she hasn’t harnessed its power yet. I hope it’s back to the bush leagues for her soon. But unfortunately I think Elise’s is finally up (what was she thinking with those song choices last night?? Especially “Let’s Get it On,” which came across as simply cheesy and lazy.)

    Skylar on the other hand – now there’s a firecracker peformer with a whopper of a voice. She was truly awesome on “Grapevine.” Idol better be praying for her to win (I think she has a real shot) because they could clean up with her.

  • alonzo

    I love Jessica’s voice & most of her performances. But her song choices last night didn’t help her. Unfortunately I predict she’ll be gone in a show or two. She’ll certainly have a career afterwards, however.

  • Dave

    I agree that song choice probably influences voting as much as vocal talent. However, familiarity might not be as important as “wow!” factor. “Stuttering” is very contemplative and won’t ever be a song to make you want to jump & shout. Contestants need to keep this in mind when choosing their material.
    I like her voice but if she bottomed out once, she’ll probably do it again… unless she can “make my pants want to get up and dance!”

  • REDScorpio


  • REDScorpio

    Seriously, do you really think that every one loves her voice? I for one do not! My favorite button on the remote when she is singing is the fast forward button!

  • Jason

    I totally agree that this was a stunt for ratings just like Simon Cowel did on the xfactor with the best singer Melanie Amaro when he initially sent her home and then supposedly couldn’t live with himself over his massive mistake. What an insult to the viewer’s intelligence. American Idol is also a sham with pre scripted results in order to get the ratings which pay for the host and judges outrageous salaries.