For the past 9 seasons, fans of "American Idol" have gotten used to a holiday two-fer: a full length debut from that season's winner and, typically, a few weeks later, an album from the year's runner-up.
Season 11, however, was different. Yes, we got the now-gold-certified debut from Phillip Phillips in November and a hit single with "Home," but to date we haven't heard much from runner-up Jessica Sanchez aside from the potential album track "Fairytale," which she performed live last summer.
That will all change soon, though.
With "Idol" scheduled to rev back up again on Wednesday, big-voiced teen Sanchez got on the phone with MTV News recently to give us the lowdown on what she's been up to since being bested by Phillips and hitting the road with the rest of the top 10 last summer.
"I've been working on my album since the 'Idol' tour and I just finished it up," said Sanchez, who is preparing to drop her debut single in February. The song, whose title she would not reveal, is expected to feature a duet with Ne-Yo, who is among the producers/songwriters who helped work on the as-yet-untitled album.
He's joined by such veteran song masters as Toby Gad (One Direction, Kelly Clarkson), Harvey Mason Jr. (Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake) and Rykeyz (Wiz Khalifa, Fantasia) on the disc, which is due in the spring.
As for why it's taken so long to get her debut into the hands of her LittleBluJays, Sanchez said, "I wanted to make it perfect for the fans. "I've worked in the studio before, but going to that next level with such high producers? It was crazy ... working with Ne-Yo. Everything was such a blur and I was just a fangirl the whole time."
Sanchez had to fit those session in between "Idol" tour dates, often flying from a show to a different city to hop in the studio, then back out on the road the next morning last summer. The result is 16 tracks that Sanchez said achieved the feel the 17-year-old pocket-diva was after the whole time.
Jason Morey, executive vice president and worldwide head of music for 19 Entertainment told MTV News that the management company was in no hurry to rush Sanchez's debut out. "We wanted to develop her into an artist with longevity, and wanted her to put out a product that truly showcased her as the artist she wants to be and we wanted to take the time to make it perfect," he said. "She is truly a world class singer and we wanted to put her with the biggest producers and writers in the business ... She literally blew everyone away in the studio with her talent and as she began working, more opportunities arose for her to work with different people."
Sanchez said her focus was on sounding completely different from anything currently on the radio. She's pretty sure she got there, considering she often found herself dancing around the studio while listening to playbacks of the upbeat tracks.
"It's me, soulful, but more dancey," she said. There are, of course, a couple of ballads in the mix as well, which makes sense since she made her name on "Idol" with covers of songs by Celine Dion, Alicia Keys and Luther Vandross. "It's all completely me," she promised of the disc, which Morey described as an upbeat, mainstream pop disc with an R&B edge that might give "Idol" its first chance to land a contestant on top 40 radio in years. "And I'm excited about all of it," Sanchez said.
Before she even tried out for "Idol," Jessica said she knew exactly what kind of music she wanted to make and what kind of artist she wanted to be. And, after some hard work, the album is exactly what she pictured. "This is completely who I am and I'm excited to show it to everybody," she said.
While fans await the music, they can look for Sanchez in an upcoming four-episode arc on "Glee." The singer said creator Ryan Murphy called her people a few weeks after the "Idol" finale and asked for a meeting, which led to the gig. She's been taking acting classes and though she didn't know at press time what role she would be playing, Sanchez said the chance to work with Murphy is a huge honor.
The opportunity is so big, in fact, that Morey said the timing of the album release is coordinated to take advantage of the exposure from the show.
The biggest upcoming date on her calendar, though, is her first headlining gig in her mother's native country, the Philippines. Jessica's first solo concert will be before 15,000 fans and she'll have some help from her "Idol" homie, rocker Colton Dixon, who will open. "There might be a sneak peek of some songs [from the album]," she said. "Some 'Idol' songs, some covers."
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