Like millions of Filipinos, last Thursday morning I was glued to the TV screen awaiting with hope for the victory of Jessica Sanchez in American Idol. Well, unfortunately we didn’t get the victory we hoped for, but we had the consolation witnessing that the finale is practically a Jessica Sanchez show, as she performed four numbers during the finale–the Chaka Khan medley with the other Top 12 girls, her solo number for “I Will Always Love You”, her final duet with Phillip Phillips to Jennifer Warnes and Joe Cocker’s 1982 smash “Up Where We Belong”, and of course the now-immortal duet with original Dreamgirls star Jennifer Holliday to “And I Am Telling You (I’m Not Going)”. There could have been a fifth number, as the Top 12 girls were supposed to also do a Donna Summer medley, featuring a climax of Jessica dueting with Kristen Chenoweth on the famous Donna-Barbra Streisand duet “No More Tears (Enough is Enough)”, but that was scrapped for time constraints.
A piquant note about that epic duet: doesn’t Jennifer Holliday look like Today Show host Hoda Kotb? Albeit Jennifer has admittedly more frighteningly freakish expressions than Hoda.
In some ways, it’s also third placer Joshua Ledet’s show, as he also performed five times: the opening number to Bruno Mars’ “Runaway Baby” with the rest of the Top 12 (sans Jessica and Phillip–note: Joshua performed this song earlier in the competition), a duet with Fantasia on Elton John’s “Take Me to the Pilot”, a hilarious pre-taped number with the Top 12 (again sans Phillip and Jessica) singing a “phonebook song” and two Top 12 boys’ (sans Phillip in both) performances with a Neil Diamond medley and a Robin Gibb medley.
It was fun seeing Joshua dueting with Fantasia (It’s the Fantasia-Mantasia showdown!), though it is both a hot mess and a lively spiritual experience as they gave a session in major holleration (though it was abruptly cut off in the broadcast). Fantasia looked strikingly different with a long straight weave and sporting that sequined black jumpsuit. Unfortunately, Fantasia should fire the stylist who suggested she wore such outfit as this outfit is simply so unflattering to her figure–I had visions of Paula Abdul’s 1991 MTV Music Awards performance to “Vibeology”, where she sported an unforgiving and unflattering sequined leotard wherein the media then viciously compared her to Miss Piggy.
Reflecting on Jessica’s duet with Jennifer Holliday and Joshua’s duet with Fantasia, I noticed some eery parallelisms especially when I remembered Loretta Devine was Jennifer’s Dreamgirls colleague, and Jennifer Hudson (who won an Oscar playing Jennifer Holliday’s role in the movie version of that musical) was in Fantasia’s season of American Idol. During their stint in the musical, Loretta Devine was slim, and Jennifer Holliday was the heavy one. In Season 3 of American Idol, Fantasia was slimmer than Jennifer Hudson.
Now, thanks to life-saving gastic bypass surgery in the 1990s, Jennifer Holliday slimmed down (and unlike Carnie Wilson, managed to remain in a slimmer, healthier frame). Loretta Devine meanwhile became heavier but still remains a well-regarded active actress with guest appearances and supporting roles in various movies and TV dramas. Jennifer Hudson has Weight Watchers to thank for her now slimmed down frame, while we saw how Fantasia looks now…
I also have to note that after Jessica performed that intense duet with Jennifer Holliday, she followed it up with the tender “Up Where We Belong” with eventual champion Phillip Phillps. It’s such a sharp contrast as Jessica growled and hollered epically with Jennifer Holliday, then she showcased that sweet and tender high register in her voice in this latter duet–such amazing range Jessica has, no?
Finally, I just want to close my essay with my favorite highlight from the Idol finale, the aforementioned “Phonebook Song”. Deandre Brackensick’s falsetto, Joshua’s holleration and the reaction from the lower-ranked finalists (and musical arranger Michael Orland) cracks me up every time (I’ll try to find a better resolution copy when it’s available).