'American Idol' vs. 'Voice': Juliet Simms better than Jessica Sanchez?
The finish line is in sight for both "The Voice" and "American Idol," with just a handful of performers still standing. On "The Voice," Jamar Rogers, Lindsey Pavao, Katrina Parker and Erin Willett were eliminated, leaving behind a final four of Tony Lucca, Chris Mann, Jermaine Paul and Juliet Simms. Over at "American Idol," Skyler Laine went home, leaving behind Jessica Sanchez, Phillip Phillips, Joshua Ledet and Hollie Cavanagh.
As the final four on each show move forward, so do our "Idol" vs. "Voice" rankings, which take 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 below.
1. Juliet Simms, "The Voice"
This performance of "It's a Man's, Man's, Man's World" wasn't just a deeply visceral take on the James Brown classic and one of the best performances we've seen on either "The Voice" or "Idol" all season long. It also was a rallying cry, a raised fist against the male favoritism Simms has come up against in the music industry. "My performance tonight is for women everywhere. Mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, and grandmothers," she tweeted. "You're amazing and beautiful. <3 you all." It feels both ironic and inevitable that it helped secure Simms' spot as the sole surviving female contestant on "The Voice" going into next week's finals, an especially impressive accomplishment given that she had to beat out perceived front-runner Jamar Rogers to get there.
2. Jessica Sanchez, "American Idol"
Shunning the stage commotion after her too-much, too-soon take on Tina Turner, Sanchez kicked off her high heels and offering up a soul-baring moment with "You Are So Beautiful" that was magnified by its intimacy. She'd worried before taking the stage that she might end up sounding lounge-y. But her voice came through as pure and honest and just … so beautiful. The stillness and simplicity of the staging (nothing onstage apart from a few fog-ensconced flickering candles) allowed us to zoom in on Sanchez's pure voice — its clarity and vibrato, its breadth and tone — and appreciate every detail.
3. Jamar Rogers, "The Voice"
Despite the song title ("If You Don't Know Me by Now") and the fact that we've been watching and listening to Rogers all these weeks, we learned a few things about him we didn't know. He showed us his vision for the sort of musician he'd like to become and revealed a heretofore-unheard resonant lower register that somehow felt like a deep surprise. On results night, he seemed as shocked as the rest of us by his elimination. But we know him well enough by now to predict that — as long as he keeps his newly adopted "victor's mentality" — the comeback kid will bounce back just fine.
4. Lindsey Pavao, "The Voice"
Katrina Parker, also eliminated this week, was a near miss for this slot. But Pavao, with her quirky lyrical pronunciation, asymmetrical 'do, beautiful tone and shy smile, pulled ahead, capturing my attention anew in her final performance of "Skinny Love." Those haunting, breathy, half-swallowed "my my mys" were particularly arresting. Had Christina Aguilera not been so irritatingly aggressive an advocate, my love for Pavao, slender at times though never emaciated, might have been much beefier.
5. Joshua Ledet, "American Idol"
Though he'd never heard the Bee Gees song "To Love Somebody" before Jimmy Iovine and this week's guest mentor, Steven Van Zandt, handed it to him in rehearsals, Ledet sang it as if it had been written for him — or by him. He got swept up in the emotion, and swept us up in it, but never lost control. Midway through, he actually seemed to be ripping whole hunks of pain off with his teeth, chewing them up and spitting them out. We may or may not know what it's like to love somebody like he does. But he sure made us love him.
Each week our experts and readers rank the best of the best between the two blockbuster singing competitions. Last week, "American Idol's" Jessica Sanchez came out on top. Who will be the favorite this week? Use the poll below to vote. Check out this week's performances and see what our judges had to say at latimes.com/idol-voice.
— Amy Reiter
Photo: Juliet Simms on "The Voice." Credit: Lewis Jacobs / NBC.