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Was Jessica Sanchez’s “elimination” and “save” a ploy for ratings or did voter complacency nearly send one of this season’s biggest talents out the door?

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

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?

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

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