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When picking out the title for her debut album, Jessica Sanchez looked to a song that didn’t make the record — Me, You and the Music.
“I had to use it somewhere,” the 17-year old Chula Vista, California native tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s a great title for my first album, because it’s really inviting to my supporters and my new start.”
That fresh beginning unfolds tonight with a three-episode run on the Fox show Glee, as Sanchez fans finally get to see her embody the “diva powerhouse singer” character– Frida Romero- that was teased over the past year.
“I’m part of the rival school and my team is called the Hoosierdaddies,” she reveals with a laugh. What does that mean for New Directions at Regionals? “It means I’m competition! … There is definitely a little bit of drama there. I definitely had to act playing this role, but it was so much fun and I’m definitely going to make my mark.”
It wasn’t all cutthroat competition — Sanchez also got to tap into her inner Gleek by finally meeting her favorite star, Naya Rivera. “I soaked it in,” she says. “She’s, like, freaking gorgeous in person. I was jumping up and down. We really didn’t get to talk much because we were shooting and there was a lot of hurry up and wait. I got a picture with her and I got to meet her, so I was very happy.”
How has her foray into acting affected her musicality? Sanchez said she learned plenty, like “how to put emotion into a line that you are not even really feeling. It helped me on my music side to get into my songs. It’s helped me overall. That’s an important thing for a performer to do,” she says.
Sanchez knows a thing or two about competing, blasting her way to second place in the season 11 American Idol finale last spring. Since then, the pint-sized powerhouse has toured the country, entertained the Democratic National Convention, visited The White House, rubbed shoulders with George Clooney, appeared alongside Carly Rae Jepsen in a motivational PSA for kid-friendly bottled water WAT-AAH!, and has reached superstar status in the Philippines, where she headlined a solo show with season 11 compatriot Colton Dixon at Quezon City’s Smart Araneta Coliseum on Valentine’s Day.
“That was insane,” Sanchez recalls. “I didn’t know how ticket sales were doing twenty minutes before the show and then I walked out there and it’s packed. I wasn’t even doing all my original songs, I was doing covers and one song released [only] in the Philippines,” she said. “I’m definitely going back soon to give them some love. I’m very excited for those trips. They have been so supportive. Over there I’m Jennifer Lopez.”
Could Sanchez-mania bleed over into the United States? Even a cursory listen to Me, You and the Music reveals a playful foray into contemporary, youthful dance beats as well as the ballads Idol audiences grew accustomed to hearing each week. It’s an album that appeals to all age groups. To wit: the song “Don’t Come Around” samples Tom Petty’s “Don’t Come Around Here No More,” and turns it into a kiss-off anthem with an “island feel.” At the same time, the record boasts two gorgeous ballads, “Plastic Roses” and “Crazy Glue,” a torch-song number sure to delight Sanchez’s core fan base.
“That’s pretty much what I’m known for on the show,” she explains. “I grew up singing ballads, but what I really wanted to get into was the mainstream music on the radio because I really love the beats and everything.”
To achieve this, Sanchez worked with a slew of producer/songwriters like six-time Grammy-Award-winner Harvey Mason Jr. (Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown, and Britney Spears), Toby Gad (Fergie, Alicia Keys, and Kelly Clarkson), J.R. Rotem (Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Flo Rida, Rick Ross), The Underdogs (Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson, Snoop Dogg) and Stargate (Ne–Yo, Wiz Khalifa, Katy Perry). Grammy Award-winning songwriter, singer and producer Ne–Yo appears on the first single “Tonight,” and Dominican singer-songwriter Prince Royce pushes Sanchez to reveal her chops in Spanglish. It’s an interesting mix, but Sanchez said she was anxious to incorporate many flavors into the music and experiment with her voice, which by Sanchez’s description has an “old-fashioned, soulful tone.”
“I wanted to incorporate that into the beats and the melodies and everything that’s going on right now with my generation of music,” she adds.
Performing with Ne-Yo was a smart step in that direction, as Idol audiences experienced when she appeared on the show in March.
“It was so much fun,” she says of her return to the Idol stage. “He is so down to earth and just going back on the show debuting my first single, pretty much where it all started…I couldn’t have done it any better.”
As a matter of fact, Ne-Yo proved to be a great mentor to the teen. Says Sanchez: “He’s like a big brother to me. We only interacted a couple of times, but every single time he treated me like his little sister. He gave me advice about touring and being comfortable on stage, so he’s very sweet and down to earth, talented and so amazing.”
One thing she couldn’t learn from the multi-talented artist? His dance moves. “I tried to, but he’s more of a moonwalker, and I really can’t get that down.”
So which song would she say is the most “Jessica” sounding track? She pauses for a minute, then offers an analysis. “Plastic Roses”, for example, showcases the “the ballady stuff — I love singing pretty and soft and very heartfelt and emotional.” However, she also likes to show her “nitty-gritty hardcore side,” and that comes out naturally in the rap-oriented track, “Gentleman.
“[That] was the most fun to record, because it was, like, in your face,” she said. “I love performing ‘Tonight.’ Every song has their own little story with me.”
As for the future, Sanchez revealed that she is lining up some promotional appearances at radio for the summer, and teased that fans just may see her back on Idol one more time. Finale, perhaps?
“Maybe,” she teases. “We’ll see!”
Twitter: @Idol_Worship ; @Michele Amabile
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