You could say the Jessica Sanchez that fans saw on Thursday’s elimination show was older, wiser and edgier than the girl who came in second on season 11. And that’s just judging by her new single “Tonight,” which she performed on the show with hitmaker Ne-Yo.
As it turns out, the 17-year-old Chula Vista, Calif. native is not that innocent, telling that she’s approaching her upcoming two-episode arc on (airing May 2 and May 9) by being ready for just about anything. “I’m all about risqué — I love that stuff,” she says proudly. "I love to be creative — that’s what the entertainment business is about. You have to be out there sometimes, and is so colorful and unexpected with everything. I’m really excited to see what they have planned for those episodes."
One thing she hopes will happen: a scene shared with Naya Rivera. “I love me some Santana, she’s amazing,” says Sanchez. “I can’t wait to meet her. I hope I get to.”
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By her description, which she only recently received from producers, Sanchez will be playing “a student from a rival school who’s this legendary diva powerhouse singer.” So viewers can expect to hear a ballad or two, as was her trademark on .
But when it comes to her own music, Sanchez takes a slight departure from the constant crescendo of a big note, opting instead for more of a pop-R&B flavor to her debut. “I’ve always wanted to be more of an urban singer,” she explains. “I did a lot of ballads on to show my vocal technique. People don’t necessarily want to see you dancing and losing your breath on the show every week, so I’m glad I could show them this side of me.”
The Ne-Yo collaboration, curiously, came as a result of him being a fan of hers. “He reached out to my people and it just happened and it’s amazing.”
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“Tonight,” co-written by Ne-Yo with Stargate, is the first single from her forthcoming album, , due out April 30. Says Sanchez: “I’m so very lucky and very blessed to be working with such big producers.”
To be sure, she credits patience as the key ingredient. “I wanted to make it perfect for the fans and supporters that have been waiting for the music,” she says. “If I had rushed it, this wouldn’t have happened with Ne-Yo. It’s all about timing.”
As for her return to , Sanchez says it’s an entirely different experience. “Because it was such a stressful moment for me and something I wanted so bad and it finally happened. This is where it all started — it’s so surreal and weird.” But ultimately, she did her best just to have fun. “I wasn’t being judged this time,” she laughs. “I felt like a bird. I was free and I could just sing.”