“Jessica Sanchez is legit!” screamed Randy Jackson.
“You may be the one,” added Steven Tyler.
And Jennifer Lopez was already talking about an all-female final for the season.
Yes, Jessica Sanchez was that good.
The San Diego 16-year-old took on Whitney Houston's “I Will Always Love You” and nailed it, showing off so much power and control that it brought the judges to their feet and, according to Tyler, tears to 40 million people.
Her vocal prowess aside, her poise was even more impressive. Not only did she not try to simplify Houston's masterful version, Jessica boldly tried an incredibly difficult ending that required finesse and skill as her notes went higher and higher. She stuck the landing.
It was the crowning achievement of a very tough opening week -- Stevie Wonder songs for the guys, Whitney Houston songs for the gals. To their credit, most of the Top 13 handled themselves well.
Phillip Phillips turned “Superstition” into a howling jam band anthem. Colton Dixon made “Lately” completely unrecognizable, reimagining it as a passionate Coldplay song. And Skylar Laine's twangy “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?” could easily make a run up the country charts right now.
Only Shannon Magrane's frightened, pitchy “I Have Nothing” and Elise Testone's stumbling “I'm Your Baby Tonight” truly failed. Testone's passive-aggressive decision to change to the song, at the suggestion of mentor Jimmy Iovine, was a big mistake – not because Iovine was wrong, but because Testone stupidly thought she could attribute a bad performance to the switch. (Side note: Can we have Mary J. Blige be a mentor every week? She was spot-on and helpful every time.)
Speaking of stupid, however, “Idol” producers are once again trying same gamesmanship. Instead of the usual ritual where the singer with the lowest number of votes goes home, this week is “Boys vs. Girls Week” and the guy and girl with the lowest vote totals will face off and the judges will decide who goes home. (Oh no, I'm sure they're not worried about “The Voice” at all, right? This is nothing like the NBC show's “Battle Rounds,” of course. Oh wait.)
This stunt is a way to help the female contestants, who have, in recent years, been the first to go, because of the way the show's voters skew overwhelmingly young and female.
So don't be surprised if instead of Elise or Shannon heading home tonight, which would be deserved, the judges decide to send Jermaine Jones packing. What will J.Lo do if her beloved Jeremy Rosado ends up the lowest vote-getter from the guys? Guess that's why we still have to watch.
Jessica Sanchez, “I Will Always Love You”
Phillip Phillips, “Superstition”
Colton Dixon, “Lately”
Skylar Laine, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go?”
Deandre Brackensick, “Master Blaster”
Heejun Han, “All in Love Is Fair”
Erika Van Pelt, “I Believe in You and Me”
Hollie Cavanagh, “All the Man That I Need”
Joshua Ledet, “I Wish”
Jeremy Rosado, “Ribbon in the Sky”
Jermaine Jones, “Knocks Me Off My Feet”
Shannon Magrane, “I Have Nothing”
Elise Testone, “I'm Your Baby Tonight”
BOTTOM FEMALE VOTE-GETTER: Elise
BOTTOM MALE VOTE-GETTER: Jermaine (actually Jeremy)
WILL BE ELIMINATED: Jermaine
SHOULD BE ELIMINATED: Elise
ACTUALLY ELIMINATED: Jeremy