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(Updated 1:39 p.m.) - Jessica Sanchez lost no time in letting viewers know she’s “in it to win it” by delivering a powerhouse rendition of “I Have Nothing” just minutes after “American Idol” Season 11 finale began Wednesday morning (PHL time; Tuesday night in the US West Coast).
The petite 16-year-old Filipina-American-Mexican sang the Whitney Houston song for round 1 of the top-rating show.
Phillip Phillips, the other finalist, on the other hand, sang “Stand By Me” by Ben E. King, accompanied by bongos and an electric guitar.
AI judge Randy Jackson said round 1 went to Sanchez, making the crowd go wild.
For round 2, the finalists got to relive their favorite performances in this season.
Sanchez sang "The Prayer" by Celine Dion and Andrea Bocelli while Phillips chose "Movin' Out" by Billy Joel.
AI judge Steven Tyler said Sanchez won the second round, but Jennifer Lopez, another judge, thought Phillips won it.
Jackson believed it was dead even.
For the last round, the two finalists sang songs that would be their first single if they win the finals.
Sanchez's song is the pop ballad "Change Nothing", which is about love.
Lopez said a pop ballad should not be Sanchez's first single considering that the young singer has a lot of soul.
Jackson wasn't such a fan of the new song, but loved how Sanchez made more out of it. He also advised her to put in some "urban swag" into her songs.
Phillips' song, on the other hand, is an acoustic song entitled "Home" and he received a standing ovation from the audience after singing it.
Jackson said everything about it was perfect, from the production, the song, the band, and Phillips himself.
Lopez thought it was moving and different, while Tyler believed Phillips was "perfect" and sounded like Paul Simon.
Voting for US residents will run for four hours right after the performances.
The winner will be revealed on Thursday morning (PHL time).
"She's a natural," said Filipino musician Jim Paredes in an interview on GMA News TV’s News to Go after Sanchez's final performance.
"At 16 years old and you can do that, my gosh! What are you going to do at 20? Parang pagaling lang nang pagaling from this point on. Hindi 'yun downhill," said Paredes.
He noted that Sanchez had an advantage in terms of being more mysterious than Phillips. “’Yung mold na babae na bata na minority, there's more myth about that. Mas average lang si Phillip in terms of what he is—he’s a white singer na magaling kumanta. Parang there's more mystery kay Jessica," he said.
Paredes also said it's important to choose the right song.
"May limitations din ang song. A singer can only do so much with a song. Considering that it's ‘American Idol,’ sometimes you don't even do the whole song; you do one half of the song only," he said, adding that a singer must capture the audience at once.
"Within a few seconds dapat may takeoff ka na. That's why all of the songs that they choose, parang right away you up the ante already, may birit na," he said.
Paredes said that Sanchez is a versatile singer, but her natural style seems to be R&B. "'Yung kulot ng boses niya, 'yung kanyang dating, ‘yung kanyang mga birit, I think 'yun ang nakasanayan niya," he said.
He also said that winning “American Idol” would be "the icing on the cake."
"I think she definitely has a career. The world has taken notice of her," he said, noting that others before her were successful even without winning first place on “American Idol.” — Karen Galarpe and Carmela G. Lapeña/LBG, GMA News