For “California Dreamin'” and “favorite song” week on "American Idol," Jessica Sanchez brought out the big guns vocally, refusing to stay behind as the competition narrows down to the top three. And the judges sure didn’t seem to mind Sanchez being a spitfire on stage Wednesday night.
Singing Etta James’ “Steal Away,” Sanchez brought out her old-school glamour and was all about singing the blues.
“How old where you when you were growling?" "Where you like five years old?" "Who taught you that?" "Did it just come natural?"
These were just a few questions that Jennifer Lopez heaped on Sanchez right after her performance.
“I was like seven,” Sanchez replied. “I listened to other artists and I just picked it up.”
Lopez was nearly speechless.
“For me, one of the best I’ve seen in such a long time,” said Lopez. “I have to say, when I think about all the great female singers out there right now— who would be your contemporaries at this moment—you are one of the best.”
Fellow judges Steven Tyler and Randy Jackson were equally impressed.
“You nailed that,” said Tyler. “I’m currently doing an Etta James song myself. It shows the other side of your voice. You are shaking off the old you and changing. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Music producer Randy Jackson, who at time has been rather harsh on Sanchez, was all for the part-Mexican contestant emulating Etta James.
“I love the whole vibe,” said Jackson. “She’s 16, singing Etta James the bluesy… there’s so much heart and so much soul, it’s about all of that pain.”
“For you to tap into that, your vocal cords are ridiculous,’ he continued. “Truly great singers can sing anything. That girl right there can sing the phone book,” he added as he pointed at Sanchez.
The night carried on as Sanchez had the judges standing in applause for her rendition of Jennifer Holliday's "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going," which was also performed by Jennifer Hudson in “Dreamgirls.”
“Another winning performance. Just over the top,” a mesmerized Tyler told Sanchez. "How did it feel singing that?"
“Amazing. I just let it all out,” said Sanchez.
"That’s what I’m talking about from the very beginning," Tyler said. "Getting out of yourself and putting yourself in the songs .Everybody forgets where they are and what they are doing. That’s what you just did. Congratulations.”
Lopez and Jackson were on the same page as Tyler. JLO said that “it was a real moment that was amazing.”
“It seems like it’s going to be a real race to the finish,” said Lopez. “I don’t know who’s going to win. This is crazy. With a performance like that. There’s nothing to say,”
“Your vocal ability, it’s something you don’t see all the time," Lopez said. "I’m sure you are feeling emotional right now. You just let out so much through your voice. I felt you digging deep. I think they told you don’t move. And to contain all that while you are singing … it probably was ripping your soul apart.”
Jackson finally said his signature phrase when he thinks there is a real contender on the show.
“You guys are in it to really win it,” he said.