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'American Idol' alum Jessica Sanchez releases debut single 'Tonight' featuring Ne-Yo

Ten months after finishing in second place on Season 11 of American Idol, 17-year-old diva-in-training Jessica Sanchez has released her first single, “Tonight,” a club thumper featuring Ne-Yo, who penned the track.

The song is far better than Jessica’s non-starter pop singles “Change Nothing,” which she performed at last year’s finale, and “Fairytale,” which she debuted at a showcase last year. And it’s light years ahead of the generic dance tracks released by The Voice‘s Jermaine Paul and The X-Factor‘s Melanie Amaro. “Tonight” actually sounds like it could fit right in on pop radio or blaring out of the speakers in a club.

Here’s the thing, though. I’m just not buying it — and that’s because I still remember the Jessica Sanchez I got to know on Idol. (How could I not? It hasn’t even been a year.) That girl was timid, chaste and typically performed vanilla Star Search-approved anthems like “The Prayer” and “I Will Always Love You” without an evident connection to the lyrics.

She had a bellowing instrument and could hold her own with the likes of Jennifer Holliday, but when she’d sing sassier tunes like “Proud Mary,” she’d stomp her feet and snarl and seem as if she was play-acting like all the diva greats she grew up watching on YouTube. To be clear, Jessica was (and is) an incredible vocalist, but what I’m saying is that she lacked her own artistic perspective. She was immature.

Granted, maybe she’s changed a lot in a year. Maybe sparkly bare midriffs, high tops, and techno productions like “Tonight” have always been her prerogative, but I can’t shake the feeling that she’s still playing a part — especially when it stands in such stark contrast to her previously TV-established identity. “We ain’t even on earth tonight,” she sings. “We on a planet where the dudes got money and they not afraid to spend it.”

Does that really sound like something that Jessica Sanchez, the quietly polite up-and-comer we saw on Idol, would ever say? To be fair, Rihanna plays a part when she performs. So do Katy Perry and Ke$ha. But they all arrived on the pop culture landscape as fully realized personae — we didn’t watch them transition into their sexified selves. When you do watch that transition, though, it’s hard to read the resulting work as authentic.

Check out the video for “Tonight” below: READ FULL STORY

'American Idol' runner up Jessica Sanchez announces she's signed to Interscope, performs new song 'Fairytale'

American Idol runner up Jessica Sanchez, the powerhouse diva-in-training who almost got eaten by Jennifer Holliday once upon a time, made a big announcement at the iHeartRadio American Idol tour stop in New York City last night.

“After the show, I got signed to Interscope Records,” she said.

The news isn’t all that surprising. Interscope has first dibs on all the Idol kids, and Jimmy Iovine wasn’t about to let a voice like Sanchez’s out the door.

More surprising, though, was the fact that Sanchez debuted a new song called “Fairytale” for the crowd. The track has less of a sassy, urban feel than expected considering how frequently Sanchez has expressed her desire to head in that direction musically, but it is a young, bouncy pop ditty that feels about a million times more legit than her potential Idol coronation “Change Nothing.” Still, it sounds awfully generic.

Give it a listen below (videos via MJ’s Big Blog): READ FULL STORY

'American Idol': Relive Jessica Sanchez and Jennifer Holliday's 'And I Am Telling You...' duet one frame-grab at a time

Anyone who watched the American Idol finale last night got the special treat of seeing original Dreamgirls star Jennifer Holliday and finalist Jessica Sanchez rip into the ubiquitous showstopper “And I Am Telling You…” like two rabid wildebeasts tearing apart a wounded antelope made of air and musical notes.

It was, in a word, reality TV ridiculata at its finest. Both powerhouse divas belted and growled and made some of the craziest singing faces television has ever seen. (Holliday is the one to watch, though Sanchez held her note-pummeling own).

Below check out the 15 Best Diva Stank Faces from the finale’s most over-the-top (in the best way, ladies!) moment: READ FULL STORY

'American Idol': Jessica Sanchez's and Phillip Phillips' coronation singles

For years, American Idol has focused on the fish out of water, reveling in making the country girl sing Queen or the soul singer take on Bon Jovi.

But that’s changed for the better since Interscope took over the music on Idol in 2010. Label head Jimmy Iovine and the rest of the crew now wisely choose to use the show as a platform to develop the strengths and core identities of its contestants, rather than throwing them out of their comfort zones for ratings’ sake.

Not that it means confining them to their genre; it’s been more about creative adjustments, like taking Whitney Houston’s “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and making it a viable country platform for Southern girl Skylar Laine, or giving Eminem and Rihanna’s domestic-violence account “Love the Way You Lie” a piano-pop twist for the God-fearing Colton Dixon.

Perhaps that’s why this year’s coronation songs, “Change Nothing” by Jessica Sanchez and “Home” by Phillip Phillips, are so many miles away from the one-size-fits-all schmaltz of former Idol anthems like “Inside Your Heaven,” “I Believe,” or “No Boundaries” (which, for the record, I never thought was all that bad: especially when performed reggae-style).

Interscope has sent its fledgling Idols out into the music world with viable singles that forgo mentions of a “magic rainbow on the horizon” or  “flying without wings” — you know, things that modern, non-Idol viewers might listen to.

Sanchez and Phillips unveiled their new tracks last night, and although both sounded much more current than any other Idol winners’ single,  judges made it clear that they felt that only one of them had produced a potential hit. Randy Jackson boldly told Jessica Sanchez that he “did not love the song” and wished she’d chosen something more urban in the style of Beyoncé. Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler agreed. (Who knows how much Interscope pushed these singles on each finalist, but Sanchez did make it clear that “Change Nothing” was her single by choice.) Meanwhile, the judges gave Phillip Phillips a standing ovation for his performance of “Home.” “You were perfect tonight,” Tyler gushed.

But what did you think of the new Idol songs?

Give the studio versions of the two tracks a listen below, read my takes on each, and then sound off in the comments. READ FULL STORY

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