'American Idol' vs. 'Voice': Is Jessica Sanchez the best performer?
"American Idol" was shaken by drama this week when fans voted to send Jessica Sanchez home and the judges used their save on her. Across the dial on "The Voice," Karla Davis and Kim Yarbrough from Team Adam and Tony Vincent and Erin Martin from Team Cee-Lo said goodbye.
But both shows carry on, along with our "Idol"-"Voice" rankings, which take all the singers from both shows and put them head to head each week. I'm choosing my top five performers from among the two shows, along with Times music writers Todd Martens and Chris Barton -- and you can cast your votes too, at the bottom of this post.
Below are my picks for the week. To see what my co-judges have to say, and to view the performances, click here.
Jessica Sanchez, "American Idol": How is it possible that this precocious, preternaturally talented 16-year-old was almost sent home this week? We've long known that Sanchez is a star -– this week's guest mentor, Akon, called her a "legend" in the making -– but with her riveting take on "Stuttering," she surpassed even her sky-high standard. The powerhouse performance may also have been Sanchez's most intimate. When she sang about yearning to connect and communicate, it felt like she was reaching out directly to the audience. At that moment, the contest seemed to have been Sanchez's to claim, potentially making her "Idol's" first female winner in years. Which is why her near elimination, before she was yanked back from the brink by the judges' save, left us sputtering.
Elise Testone, "American Idol": If I could squish Philiip Phillips' face in here next to Testone's, I would. Their duet of "Somebody That I Used to Know" was suspenseful and satisfying, with Phillips contributing the creepy undercurrents and Testone delivering stylish swoops of melody –- distinctly different from "Voice" contestant Lindsey Pavao's take on the song last week. Testone also showed off her textured tone and in-the-moment performance style on Lady Gaga's "You and I," gently caressing the soft notes, bouncing up and like she was revving for takeoff, and then letting her voice soar.
Jamar Rogers, "The Voice": They're calling Rogers, who has survived drug addiction and an HIV-positive diagnosis, the "comeback kid." I call him totally exciting to watch onstage. This week he burst onto "The Voice's" live shows like a fireball, energetically inquiring "Are You Gonna Go My Way" while, at one point, running through the legs of stilt-wearing, guitar-thrashing dancers. He worked the crowd like a pro and didn't miss a note. Leading us to answer the question posed in his song with a definite "yes."
Katrina Parker, "The Voice": Though I began to admire Parker's voice during the battle rounds, I understand why voters might not have rallied around her for her performance of "Tonight Tonight" on "The Voice's" performance show this week. But her "last chance" take on "Don't Speak" showed off her passion, vulnerability and throaty-good vocals. I do wish the show's stylists would stop making her up to look like Adele, though. Parker's got an individual voice; she should have her own look to match.
Skylar Laine, "American Idol": After looking to stay in the game by showcasing her ballad-worthy vocals on "Wind Beneath My Wings" last week, Laine seemed to slide back into her own persona, while perpetuating the power of that moment. Accompanying herself on guitar, with campfire sparks flying, Laine looked and sounded every bit the confident country star. She hit every musical and emotional note of "Didn't You Know How Much I Loved You" just right. Didn't know how much I liked her until this performance.
-- Amy Reiter
Photo: Jessica Sanchez on "American Idol." Credit: Michael Becker / Fox