Home / The Sanjaya Express Runs Out of Track

The Sanjaya Express Runs Out of Track

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Sanjaya Malakar, my Little Engine That Could, ran out of track on American Idol's country theme week. Country music theme week can be a daunting week for many contestants, including Taylor Hicks, who suffered a close call during this theme week last year. It proved the undoing of Sanjaya. The straw that broke the Cowell's back was Sanjaya's song choice, "Let's Give Them Something to Talk About", referencing all the media buzz he's generated. Top that with his featuring his hair once again, sporting a wacky bandana-do. The fact he did not deliver as sound a performance as he could have did not help his cause either.

Following Sanjaya's Tuesday night's performance, Cowell let it be known he was through with the boy. In order for Sanjaya to have remained on the show, he needed to give the type of performance he delivered the previous week with "Besame Mucho". He had made a positive impression on Simon Cowell as well as many others — this was not a week to flaunt a goof or toss up the hype he'd been receiving from the media.

Cowell did not appear to appreciate the joke Sanjaya made with Ryan Seacrest during Tuesday night's pre-performance interview in which Sanjaya said he'd like to hear Simon sing, "Shiny Happy People". I imagine Cowell may have interpreted the entire performance as an insult to the show, and therefore an insult to him.

Sanjaya's death knell was ringing during the American Idol "interview the public" segment seen in the beginning of Wednesday night's show. This segment featured interviews, "randomly" selected, of Seacrest talking to folks about the show and the contestants. The clips struck me as highly manipulative. I found that entire segment hard to swallow, it reeked of false production and slanted portrayal of show-scripted public opinion. I drew my analysis by contrasting that seemingly scripted segment with the previous week's many endorsements of Sanjaya that came sprouting forth from various celebrities and viewers, carrying growing positive feedback. That said, hardly anyone, whether it was good or bad, talked about American Idol without mentioning Sanjaya and yet this segment relatively ignored him, placing the focus on the other contestants.

Of course, next week is the special Idol event, "Idol Gives Back" and I'm venturing a guess the producers figure the guest stars will be sufficient to keep any ratings drop off from occurring. Following next week's special, the show enters top five and heads for the home stretch and the finale. I think the show capitalized on the bad choice this week made by Malakar and took their opportunity to evict him from the show, feeling that he was not needed any further as a ratings draw. I'm thinking with all the buzz he's received and then a recent surge of positive feedback, the show's man behind the curtain decided it was time to pull the plug, lest there be another outcome similar to last season when Taylor Hicks won.

When it came time to announce Sanjaya's departure from the show last night, the studio audience broke out in cheers and stood clapping when it was announced that LaKisha was safe. I attribute this to two factors: it was a celebration for LaKisha's remaining on the show, as well as a tribute to the Sanjaya's achievement in staying on the show so long against big odds. I would hate to think that a studio full of adults would cheer for a seventeen-year-old kid being kicked off the show. I salute LaKisha in her standing with the boy while the audience clapped and cheered. She really impressed me with her lack of selfishness at that moment.

Ironically, for all the claims of Sanjaya bringing about the ruin of American Idol, this season with all the scandals, such as Paula's questionable interviews prior to the season's beginning, and the shortness of talent this year, he had actually greatly helped contribute to saving this season. I know I'd have tuned out long ago if it wasn't for this boy. One person, on the Vote for The Worst website, wrote, "The synergistic pair of Sanjaya/VFTW was the best thing that could have happened to AI6. This season has been visual Ambien from day one. I suspect this was why Antonella and Sanjaya were even let through. But as much fun as our Princess 'toiletta was, Sanjaya was our "Willy Wonka" Golden Ticket to the Chocolate factory of WATCHABLE IDOL."

I agree with the assessment and possibly without the debate between the show and the Vote for the Worst website, this season would have been even more sorely lacking in entertainment. I have to hand it to Sanjaya as well for catching onto the concept and the spirit. He demonstrated it in his clothing choices, hairstyles, and his performances. He's provided more fun, and more interest this season, for me, than any of the other contestants combined.

Sanjaya has been pivotal this season in drawing in a more diverse news coverage for American Idol. Howard Stern and his cohorts jumped aboard the VFTW bandwagon to help "Save Sanjaya", NPR gave the show ample coverage in reports, all featuring Sanjaya, Bill O'Reilly devoted time on The O'Reilly Factor to talk Sanjaya news. Vote for the Worst website founder, Dave Della Terza, due to the buzz behind the Sanjaya phenomenon, appeared on the Stern radio broadcast and Dave Letterman had him on this week to discuss how it felt to be, in Letterman's semi-joking assessment, "maybe one of the most powerful men in the world."

I have taken a great deal of verbal shrapnel in my support of Sanjaya, I've been called all sorts of derogatory names, told I'm deaf, crazy, the list goes on and none of it has bothered me. It has not deterred me or made me question myself. I found something special within this kid. Sanjaya has provided me with hours of enjoyment and uplifting emotions as I have watched him reach for his star. I have never claimed I thought Sanjaya the best singer on this show, but what Sanjaya possesses the others lack, the X-Factor. That brilliant, elusive, shiny, make-your-heart-sing factor. He's one in a group comprised of possibly three of the contestants to show much heart and any soul.

Sanjaya wore a shirt Wednesday night that read "Life is Beautiful". I thought it somehow appropriate he was wearing that on the night the show sent him home. "Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit," says Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich.

Sanjaya Malakar has been a shining light on American Idol this season. To sum it up, the show would have floundering without him.

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About Sunny

  • aleysa

    I agree with the writer that AI pulled the plug on Sanjaya….I am not sure how they managed that. I was always amazed to read and listen to the vitriol and anger that was heaped on this young man! Personal attacks on him were unprecedented!

  • Howard Stern’s apparently riled up and talked yesterday about pitting his Howard100 News Team against the voting results. Howard asked, “…are the voting results fixed by the producers? According to the official voting rules of the hit show, “Rules and procedures are subject to change at producer’s discretion without notice.””

    “Howard 100 News reporter Steve Langford is launching a full investigation to find out if American Idol should be named along with Florida and Ohio, as one of the great voting injustices in American history.”

    Not sure what his news team can actually accomplish against FOX but in the past they’ve been pretty tenacious on whatever they’ve investigated.

  • Dana

    Completely agree with you. For a 17 year old, Sanjaya has a lot of class. Throughout the public scrutiny, bashing by the media, he never lost his cool or showed any anger. I’m done watching AI. I watched it only for Sanjaya. The rest of the contestants are dull and forgettable.

  • Tandalaya

    FYI – TH was never in the bottom 2 or 3, so don’t know why you used him as a comparison to Sanjaya.

  • Taylor was really bad last year during Country week. He butchered John Denver. Hicks survived miraculously, many thought he’d at least hit B3, that’s where the comparison lies.

  • Rainn

    It is true that public could not see the sweetness and charm in his presence. Many became hystrical and even one went on hunger strike, as if it were the end of the World. Now, he is booted off, a growing majority of viewers are already missing him. I am one of them who is not going to watch the show. There is no X factor. Despite give back star packed show, I will not watch it any more. Sanjaya was a fresh wave of the air for the show.

  • Mandi

    I give credit to Mr. Richardson, the author of this article to depart from common media and speak the truth. I miss Sanjaya. I am not so sure I will watch show any more. I can better watch other things than AI now.

  • Roman

    I guess it is bad for AI now. Their rating are going to slide drastically.

  • Me

    I’ve never read anything so stupid in my life. Sanjaya had the “x” factor? Hardly. What he has is marginal talent, the type that gets you a part in a high school play, and it ends there. It’s “hip” now to downplay American Idol. So all the truly un-hip people are getting on the bandwagon. All it does is make the Idol detractors look desperate for attention, desperate to look cool. As far as this year’s “sagging” ratings, the show still draws tens of millions of viewers each night. I think any network would be thrilled with that turnout. Sorry to say, “hipsters,” Idol is here to stay. There are three contestants on this season who are incredible singers, they are Melinda, Jordan, and LaKisha. And they are very entertaining. It’s a shame that some people will miss the performances of these amazing singers simply because they are trying (and failing) to be hip and cool.

  • I love it when small minds try to have big thoughts. Talking to you, “Me”. “Hipsters” that’s funny.

  • s

    Sanjaya brings to mind the power of “i am”. He is a very strong young man who knows what he is and is not afraid of showing it. How many of us are secure enough in what we truly are? Can we undergo the hatred and spite that has been heaped on this charming young man and still remain who we truly are? Sanjaya is a perfect role model to us all, to put yourself out there and be to true despite the world. And yes, he can sing and he will be a great star. He has proved that he has the most important factor to be one.

  • “s”, your sentiments regarding Sanjaya are lovely. Too, his interviews following the show indicate what kind of soul and heart this boy possesses. He may not be the “Idol” the show has in mind but he has much to offer.

  • Cheryl

    Taylor Hicks was NEVER in the bottom 3. He might
    not have done very well during country week – but he did win American Idol didn’t he.

    Taylor is one great American Idol – one who has talent, looks and MANNERS!

    We Southerners love that!

  • Cheryl, glad you enjoy Taylor Hicks, this is not a slam at him, so calm down darlin’.

  • Karen

    I liked Sanjaya, too, but never thought he could win. He has a good voice, but he holds it back; it was very uncomfortable to hear him sing — almost like when you want to clear your throat for someone. I was thinking he sounded a bit like Frank Sinatra the night Paula said that he did, thought it before she said it. And he did a good job on Besame Mucho.
    I, for one, don’t think the show has any effect on the voting. It was just time for him to go. It actually validates the voting process.

  • Yeah, Karen there were times I hoped he’d let it out. He sounded nice on “Live” today, but still man, holding back, trying to break through that shy boy that he is.

    Regarding the voting, you can believe what you wish, but look up the rules on the show regarding voting. Small print clause gives the producers ultimate control if they chose to use it. I’m not thinking last year they’d have had a chance to pull Hicks, THAT was a runaway train! LOL!

  • Manuela

    Taylor was never in the bottom 3, so I don’t see how you can say ..”including Taylor Hicks, who suffered a close call during this theme week last year.” I actually enjoyed his version of Country Roads very much which he chose to sing in light of the Sago Mine accident.

  • I’m not referring to B3 here, just Country theme week. It was a debatable week in which many fans questioned if Taylor might hit B3. Taylor admits the performance was one of his worst and this song was his second choice. His first choice was booted by the show, as happened to him several times during his Idol run.

    Regarding a tribute to the miners, I had read that someplace on-line, but I also read something to the effect one of his grandfathers liked the song, that’s why he selected it – who knows.

    Look up reviews from last year, I’m not alone in my assessment it was Hicks’ worst performance, even worst of the night. He had already amassed enough fans to save him at this point. Sanjaya had not. It’s past history, and I only used his name as a comparison because Country week was weak for him and he is one of the strongest competitors to ever win on Idol.

    I compare the two guys because out of each season they are the two that created the most polarization regarding commentaries and appeal, and the most talked about – the news makers of the shows.