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.