I’ve been meaning to write about American Idol ever since I wrote this post about Heejun Han and Phillip Phillips. Back then, Idol wasn’t showing any footage of Jessica Sanchez, so it’s as if she didn’t exist at all. Suddenly, boom, she was introduced, and everyone was like Wow, what a voice!
Of course Jessica is a Filipina, so it’s kind of expected that I’ll be biased for her. Bias aside, I really do think that Jessica is one of the best singers in that competition. I do recognize that the competition is fierce. Every contestant has his or her great moments, but Jessica has been one of the consistent ones. If she wins, I think she deserves it. There are several complaints against Jessica, and the biggest one is the complaint about her personality. Let me go through each of these complaints and at the end address the really contradictory assessments about her personality.
I’ve been reading a lot of articles about Idol and also the comments on the articles. Most people agree that Jessica has an amazing voice especially since she’s only sixteen. Some of them do complain that she has no emotions which really discombobulates me. I mean the girl digs deep. My favorite performance is “Stuttering” by Jazmine Sullivan.
In the performance above, you really feel the pain that she feels. Even her facial expression matches what the song was all about. Seriously, how much more emotion do you need?
Some are saying that she sings the songs just like the original version. Crazily, one even pointed to “Sweet Dreams” by Beyonce as an example of Jessica not mixing it up.
The version of “Sweet Dreams” that most of us know is the fast version, but Jessica opted for a slow version.
The fast version is the one that’s played on the radio, so how could most of the public already know Jessica’s slow version? I researched if Beyonce had a slow version of the song, and I did find one.
Even if this exists, and probably Jessica borrowed a lot from this version, you will see where Jessica deviates from this version, opting for stronger vocals that attacked the lyrics which is different from Beyonce’s version where she opted for airy sweet tones in several parts of the song.
Another thing is that past Idol contestants have also borrowed from previously unknown song versions. David Cook’s phenomenal performance of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” was taken from a version sung by Chris Cornell.
Think about it, if you’re a contestant in this reality show, and you’re given a week to get a song right, can you really create a completely new arrangement? Plus, these contestants are singers, they are not producers or songwriters. Yes, they have to put their own spin on the song, and that comes with the way they handle the emotion and delivery of the song, but to create a completely new version of the song is a just a pretty crazy expectation, so I’ll forgive her for borrowing an unknown version of the song.
If you listen to the original version of “Stuttering,” you’ll notice that Jazmine Sullivan opts for a more gruff vocal while Jessica opts for a clean and crisp version with some growls thrown in here and there. Jessica also opts for higher notes in certain parts like the part where she goes “My, my, my, my, my…”
Of course there are things she sang straight up like “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston. There are songs that are so legendary that you just shouldn’t touch it. Such is the case of Whitney’s song. More than that, “I Will Always Love You” is one of the most difficult songs to sing, so all Jessica really had to do was nail it, and she did.
The thing with Jessica is that she can make a song seem like that is the perfect way to sing it. She doesn’t have a let loose vocal like Elise Testone who skyrockets and crashes and burns every now and then. She doesn’t have an over-the-top-boy-I’m-going-to-church vocals like Joshua Ledet. What she has is perfection. A few singers have that quality. One of my favorites is the perfect Barbra Streisand.
Barbra doesn’t have gruff rock and roll vocals. Celine Dion probably has a more unique sound that Barbra. What Barbra has is perfection. There’s nothing more to it but that. Every note is a strum towards perfection. Of course, Jessica is just starting, and so she is not yet as seasoned as Barbra. What she shares with Barbra is that quality of perfection and that comes with the amount of control she has over her vocals. Some people interpret this as not being original. For these people, being original or exceptional means having rock and roll vocals or church vocals. Jessica doesn’t fit any of those, but if you don’t judge her by the standards of the music that she doesn’t sing, then you’ll begin to appreciate what she can do and how great she is at it.
The craziest thing about Jessica is that some say she’s humble and some say she’s completely arrogant. Seriously people? Are we watching the same show? So what’s the real deal when it comes to her personality? Let me try to analyze it based on the information that I’ve gathered.
I do agree that her interviews are a bit boring. She is a shy girl. A lot respond to her despite her shyness because she is so humble. There are lots of instances where she shows this. The night she got eliminated is a perfect example. When she was asked if she was surprised by her elimination, she said that she doesn’t expect anything, and she just wants people to know that she is working hard. For someone with that vocal talent to not feel entitled to the crown is indeed a mark of humility.
I think the reason why people don’t believe her shy self is because she’s so confident on stage. Maybe they interpret her sweet self as a front. Jessica does talk about her alter ego Bebe Chez who she says takes over her when she sings. One of the comments I read went something like “You’re not yet famous, so you don’t have the right to have an alter ego.” I think that comment completely misses the point.
Jessica didn’t create Bebe Chez just for kicks. Jessica and Bebe Chez exist because that’s the kind of personality that Jessica has. There are individuals in this world who are socially shy, but when it comes to performing, they suddenly turn into an extrovert. This is something that is inherent in that individual’s personality, so it can’t be just turned on by the switch of fame.
A very prominent example is Beyonce. If you listen to her interviews she is very soft spoken, but when she’s on stage she is on fire. Another example is Freddie Mercury. Freddie was very shy when it came to social situations. He doesn’t even like to be interviewed that much. His flamboyant over-the-top stage performances can make people assume that he is the same person on stage as he is in normal life, but that isn’t the case.
It’s the same with Jessica. That’s the way that she is. Her sweet shy self is not a front just because she’s confident on stage.
Another complaint is that she did not cry when she was saved. For many, not crying means she’s ungrateful. I understand that if she cried it would have been good TV that’s why people expect it, and when Jessica didn’t cry, people were turned off. Then again, it’s kind of sadistic to crave for people to cry, wail, or almost faint.
At that moment, I felt that Jessica acted like a typical Filipino. Many Filipinos, although not all, are very shy when it comes to revealing intimate emotions. If you noticed the behind the scenes footage of Jessica’s save, you will see that she is crying while lying down on the sofa. Another thing is that I think she was just largely confused and shocked, but she’s such a strong person that she didn’t allow herself to breakdown on national TV.
She isn’t supposed to be a spectacle. She isn’t the type who’d be like an emotional mess. She is a person who likes control. She controls her vocals as much as she controls her emotions. This kind of composure is what contestants need to survive the emotional roller-coaster of reality shows such as Idol or even Hollywood itself.
If Jessica threw a tantrum, then maybe people would have been satisfied by her emotional turmoil. She didn’t do this because she didn’t want to look like a fool on national TV. People just have to accept that individuals respond to situations differently. Just because a person’s response does not fit your immediate expectation of what you wanted her to exhibit, doesn’t mean that she’s cold, or arrogant, or prissy.
Of course I wouldn’t know either if she is really humble and sweet. I guess we all choose what we see and believe. I just hope people give her a chance because she really is such an amazing singer.
Check out my other posts about music:
- Something pitchy this way comes (Published in the Philippine Star)
- My Favorite Contestants in American Idol So Far
- My Favorite Barbra Streisand Songs
- My Top 10 Favorite Whitney Houston Songs
- My Favorite Songs
- My Favorite Artists (Singers/Bands)
- Why James Durbin Got Eliminated (Squidoo)
- Still Worshiping the American Idol (Squidoo)
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Age of the Diary by Jasmine T. Cruz. If you like this post, please subscribe to this blog. Follow Ja on Twitter: ageofthediary. Email Ja at: firstname.lastname@example.org.