Of all the people made happy by Sanjaya Malakar’s exit from American Idol – and yes, I’m looking at you and your big fat grin, Simon Cowell – the happiest is, I think, Sanjaya himself. If he isn’t, then he should be.
I’ve said for a while now that the show was sapping whatever talent he had, pushing him to make a bigger spectacle of himself each week because plain singing just wasn’t enough in his case. In the process, he got some of the hardest-earned stage confidence that I’ve ever seen anybody garner and that’s the one positive thing he can take with him from Idol. Once the crushing weight of the show was off his back, he immediately relaxed into a much more confident and less desperate performer – the evidence is right there for you to see in his farewell performance.
So now that he no longer threatens the crown itself, everybody can sit back and enjoy his kookiness. No longer will he inspire hunger strikes and boos at ball games. Howard Stern and Vote for the Worst just got their rightful comeuppance. In this bright new day, people might even wave back at him occasionally. He is no longer the Anti-Christ of Idol (makes no sense, I know, but play along please, we’re pretending Idol hysteria has real world implications).
I personally started the process a full two weeks ago so I can recommend it for the rest of you haters out there. I was shown the light by Tony Bennett, people, when he said he loved Sanjaya because he was a performer. He must be, I reasoned, because the Sanjaya Freak Show had me transfixed at the pony-hawk. I mean, before that I was just appalled at the fact that he made it when people who could carry a tune like Sabrina Sloan and Stephanie Edwards got kicked off. But the faux-hawk convinced me I was witnessing some sort of greatness – some sort of awesomely bad greatness.
I know, I know, the rabid Sanjaya Sweeties (how come there’s no “official” name for Sanjaya lovers? I think his claim is far greater than that of Chris “Fro Patro” Sligh) amongst you will come out with your war cry, “Sanjaya Can Sing!” Look, don’t convince us, convince him.
This is the kid who told us two weeks ago that his mission was to “show America [he] can sing”. While it was nice to see that hubris hadn’t gotten the better of him and tipped him headfirst into a boiling vat of delusion (yes, I mean you Antonella!) like the one some of his fans were wallowing in, it also made me feel bad for him.
Look, he’s a nice kid. I’ve said that from the beginning and I maintain it till this day. The “Smugjaya” (thanks, Kaonashi!) that emerged to flutter its beastly wings in the past few weeks was entirely the result of a weak defense mechanism. Actually, I think in real life he’d just have taken his constant spankings and gone to his room to soak his pillow with tears. But that puts a damper on everyone’s fun, so I don’t doubt the producers were feeding him lines and propping him up to be as mean as he could (which wasn’t much).
It is worth noting that not even at the very bottom of the trough that has been his Idol experience did he exhibit the levels of sullenness shown by Chicken Little. Nor did he try to justify his bad singing a la Chris Timberfake this week (“nasally” is a style of singing? Ri-i-ght). And he didn’t try to smother his defeats under a cloak of fake-cool like the Fro Patro guy.
All in all, my pet object of hate this season has been very unsatisfactory. First of all, I couldn’t enjoy hating him because every time I did (which was every time he sang) I felt like I was kicking a puppy. Nor could I properly enjoy the full extent of his bizarreness because as soon as I tried, I felt like I was getting played. I don’t like the sensation of being a puppet on a string and every time I winced at Sanjaya I could feel the producers gloating at having hit the jackpot in a contestant who simultaneously made me laugh, hate, fear, and pity.
Laugh because he’s such a dork and nobody ever gets too old to laugh at dorks. Hate because I’m not tone deaf and there were a couple of songs he butchered that I really liked but now will never be able to hear without remembering his (shudder) version. Fear because Idol really would have gone down the toilet (at least for me) if he’d ended up a finalist and I don’t want to give up my yearly fix of crazy beeyotches auditioning to get their miserable dreams shot to smithereens on national television. And pity because the only thing this kid ever did wrong was take a chance on his dreams and look where he ended up.
He’s got the starring role in all kinds of conspiracy theories on an international level – in fact, I’m kind of surprised, what with all the egregious shoutouts to Virginia Tech Tuesday night, that nobody’s brought up the theory that he got voted out as part of an immigrant backlash. He has an amazing amount of name recognition and nobody really knows what he can do with it because if he did put out a record, what would it sound like?
Would it have an awesome video with him going crazy coupled with terrible singing? The two times he’s sounded decent on this show, he’s pretty much bored me to tears, so would it be a well-sung snoozefest with a hair fixation? If the tweenie market is his target audience and Stevie Wonder is his inspiration then how’re those two facts going to gel? If the older “I’m an underdog/I got laughed at in high school/I got wedgies in college” pity crowd is his soft spot, then will their compassion extend to buying his albums? Is the hair going to follow him every where he goes like the image of Faith followed George Michael and the briefs followed Mark “Marky Mark” Wahlberg…?
Hold on, rewind. Did I just lump Sanjaya with George Michael and Marky Mark? BWAHAHAHA!
Never mind. I think I just got an irony headache. Like Ryan said, we won’t soon forget you, Sanjaya, whether you get Sign-jaya or not.
[Originally published at Blogcritics.org]
Update: No way is this the end of the road.