Thursday, March 22, 2007

Sanjaya 4Ever!

I'm just pulling your leg. Or am I? Now ... I really hate to post about American Idol (no, I really do. I'm aware that I'm one of those refuge places from the nonstop AI assault in the blogosphere and on the news --WTF? How is this news? so my apologies to those that enjoy the safe place. I know this is disappointing for you) but I have to get this off my chest:

What is so terrible about Sanjaya Malakar?

I ask in all sincerity. Everyone I hear talk has it out for him, strangers and friends alike. Why? Perhaps I should explain why I am bewildered at the hate. Perhaps I should explain why I remain unhating.

Last time I checked (yesterday) this juggernaut show was a glorified MOR golden oldies karaoke contest. So why get upset about a singer who perfectly meshes with their groove: simplistic, poppy, safe for all ages, cute as a button, and young. The show is famously ageist --a common insult being references to people sounding or looking like anything past say 30 years of age. Sanjaya never comes across as anything but a smiley teenager who lucked out and got onto a massive television popularity contest. And that's exactly what he and this is. Good for him. But people hate that he is doing well. Why? This show was created to showcase people just like him.

Last time I checked the judges kept reminding me that it's a singing competition. It isn't really but let's pretend it is. AI has delivered many worse earsores to us than Mr. Malakar who at least often stays in the right key. This season alone (if you count semi-finals) there've been plenty of singers inferior to him. All but maybe two of them are gone --Haley, the whispery boobshaker & Chris Richarson, the nasally one who shuns "melody" (ewww, melody! yuck) for unspecific derivative "runs"-- it's true, but aside for perhaps Antonella whatsherface nobody hated on any of them the way people hate on Sanjaya. Why?

Last time I checked this show was judged by three people with extremely limited vocabulary who often don't know what they're talking about -- I'll give you one largely undiscussed example. The term "cabaret" is used as an insult on this show. Always used that way. Now, unlike the AI judges, I'm guessing, I've actually attended cabaret shows. And the musical truth, at least from my personal experience here in NYC, is that most professional cabaret singers would eat these kids up vocally and still have plenty of room for entrees and dessert (or at least another vodka stinger). They have stunning control over their voices and a complex understanding of song content and storytelling --both of which are skills that AI as a show pays lipservice to. So why is the genre an insult? Are the judges just dumb? Why do they use words in the wrong context? Why can't they define sharp and flat rather than a vague unhelpful "pitchy" Etcetera...

Point being: There are so many reasons to hate this show why pick on Sanjaya? I could talk about all the hateable things about this show for hours. I'm not sure why I watch it. It always makes me angry.

But back to Sanjaya Malakar to wrap up. Things that define him:
  1. He experiments with his hair.
  2. He looks like a cartoon character.
  3. He doesn't have a terrible voice.
  4. He seems friendly and accessible.
  5. He seems to be loved by little kids.
Now correct me if I'm wrong but don't all five of those attributes describe several extremely famous and successful pop icons of the past? Just about the only area where Sanjaya is a failure is in performance: he's boring on stage. But look around. He got company! So why is he the most hated? I seriously don't get it.

Maybe this is why I write about the movies instead of reality television.

Thus endeth my rant on American Idol. I know you didn't ask. I hope to never speak of it again.

[Final note if you're not sick of hearing about my AI love/hate thing: I usually lose interest in the show at this point each season when I realize I only look forward to seeing two of the performers -- Blake & Melinda this year-- and why sit through 2 hours of filler to see 6 minutes of singing?) The reason I want Blake to win is that I think it's hilarious that he's
AI's idea of "contemporary". He's easily the best performer and all around musician on the show but he's only contemporary in that he is retro 80s. So, is he really contemporary or is he just a fun twist on the shows fossilized sense of popular music? I vote the latter. I hope he wins]

Tags: American Idol, Sanjaya Malakar


Neel Mehta said...

As a fellow Indian guy, I provide my own selfish reason for supporting Sanjaya here.

Not much is written about it stateside, but I think Simon in particular is very careful to treat his dislike of Sanjaya as a youth thing, in order not to create another Shilpa Shetty situation.


Neel, those are as good a reasons as any and better than some ;)

i mean you know people vote for terrible reasons that have nothing to do with singing so why not a good one that has nothing to do with singing.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, Are you a singer??? Sanjaya is horrible... compared to the others I resent him because he is taking the place of ones that SHOULD be there. He sounds like he is in a high school talent show.. He even seems to be emnarrassed each week that he is there and kept on. With the exception of Paula, the judges are usually right on about their critiques, especially Simon.

Also, Sanjaya is sooooo cutesy in a real feminine way. I have NOTHING against gays, either.

SamuraiFrog said...

That was a good defense, but I still refuse to be swayed from my hatred for Sanjaya. I'll tell you why I personally don't like him: I think he's got no personality, and he cannot sing. Every time he sings, I cringe. He's over-the-top and his breath control is staggeringly bad. Just taking it as a singing competition (which the judges pretend it is, but it's a marketability contest), he's just so awfully awful. Screaming out the words to "You Really Got Me" was the dregs.

That said, it's not like the most talented is going to win, anyway. I think the best are Melinda and Blake, but I thought Jennifer Hudson was the best, too, and look what happened to her on that show.

Anonymous said...

I think Melinda is great, but I looooooove Jordin. she has a gorgeous voice.

and Blake is from the Seattle are so I root for him, but then again, so is Sanjaya...ick


i am not a singer no. but i know the difference between off key and on at least as well as the AI judges probably more... since they often praise really out of tune performances.

sanjaya is a terrible performer i've admitted as much (zzzz) but his voice isn't any worse than tons of AI people's voices. but yeah, screaming a song is stupid. otoh they did ask him to come out of his shell and he did. and it aint like Gina and Phil don't also scream their notes.

Anonymous said...

Melinda's the real talent this year. A pity if she wins, though, because she ought to be singing jazz. Her instincts are terrific, her restless interest in phrasing a worry for the narrow pop/easy listening tunes that mark most of the AI winners' output. Jordin's the real thing, too, but way too young to win without being forever ruined. I have a sinking feeling that Lakisha will win. Blake? Meh. Sanjaya? AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Talent free, that one.


Lakisha could win but i'll be disappointed. She is so obviously their desperate attempt at Jennifer Hudson redux. and you can't catch lightning in a bottle twice.

nice voice. but it aint even close in terms of charisma.

Neel Mehta said...

I may break the finalists down eventually, but I'll share a little now: I think LaKisha is this year's Katharine McPhee. Both are good technical singers, but excellent mimics.

Listen to McPhee's CD and you hear her channeling Beyonce, Mariah, Christina... whatever the song requires. Similarly, LaKisha is supposed to remind us of Jennifer Hudson because she's impersonating her. Same with Shirley Bassey.

Anonymous said...

Sajaya's voice cannot compete with the other contestants. His last performance was perhaps the worst Top 12 performance I've seen. The whole rock thing didn't work for him at all. He has no idea how to be a singer or entertainer. He is just...terrible.

Anonymous said...

I have a confession to make. Last week, I voted for Sanjaya five times. Why? Because he was the only entertaining one of the bunch. So what if he's the worst? He freakin entertains me. I tune in to watch the trainwreck that is Sanjaya Malakar and after he has "performed," I change the channel. His performances are so awkward, his hair is so awkward, and his hula dancing is so unusual that I am honestly rolling with laughter on my couch every week. As a reality show, is the purpose really to find the best singer? That's what America might think, but I bet the producers don't actually give a damn as long as people tune in to get entertained. And Sanjaya Malakar entertains me.

Glenn Dunks said...

As an Australian, I so hope Sanjaya stays on because holy freakin' hell he's hilarious! The show isn't on down here atm (the only season I watched was the Fantasia/Jennifer one because I was obsessed with Idol at that time) but reading about and watching anything Sanjaya related is sort of hilariously entertaining.

He DOES look cartoony (but in an uninsulting way) and he's just a hoot. Plus, without Sanjaya there would be no Liveblogging of Sanjaya over at The Gilded Moose and various other things around the net.

My family came back from America and I asked if they had seen any Am Idol and they said no and I told them about Sanjaya and my mum went "Oh! I heard about him. People were talking about him on the street".

Anonymous said...

Sanjaya is by far the worst Top Twelve member on AI since they had that crooner back in Season 3. He is an average singer (if not below average), he is dull, awckward, and it is clear that he is trying to hard to be cool and sexy (what was that whole wild child thing?). The judges putting them through have created a small monster that will grow into a big one. Sanjaya has a loyal group of voters who ONLY vote for him every show. Personally, I think this is one of AI's strongest Top 12 and the other singers clearly split the vote. However, Sanjaya's fans are both rabidly loyal, and unfortunately, rabidly insane. As the weeks go on, he will wipe out other strong singers and will eventually knock out Melinda and Blake. Then a movie will be made about him: The Kid Who Ate American Idol.

OhMyTrill said... a musician who does know the difference between off and on key I can tell you that Sanjaya rarely is on key, and he really has no feel for singing, or music at all (Diana Ross had to teach him how to clap to the beat)...the real singer/talent of them competition is Melinda, who continues to show that she actually knows something (actually quite a lot) about what she is doing...which probably means she will get eliminated in a few weeks, which is sad...Sanjaya needs to go...

Anonymous said...

I knew this was coming, Nathaniel, because I know you've liked Sanjaya from the start. But I think the problem is that you set up five faulty premises why people dislike him in your article:

1. He experiments with his hair.

True, he does. But almost all of the styles are ridiculously overdone. They aren't hairstyles, they're drag queen wigs. Why can't he just leave it normal?

2. He looks like a cartoon character.

I don't think this is true, but you're entitled to that opinion. What I think I would say is that he has very little actual stage presence...were he not on a reality show where the camera zooms around trying to create artificial energy, he could never hold an audience onstage for an entire concert.

3. He doesn't have a terrible voice.

Yes, he does. I sit every week and watch the show with a classically trained singer with over 25 years experience. Technically, he's bad...breath control, pitch, tonality, and phrasing are strictly amateur. But even if you dismiss his technical weaknesses and like the voice, there's no way it compares favorably to anyone left in the competition. In fact, we've now seen a number of people leave the competition who were better singers.

4. He seems friendly and accessible.

So give him a prize for that??? I fail to see the relevance of this. Being nice does not give you the right to suck as a professional performer. And don't they all seem nice, really? He doesn't stand out for that.

5. He seems to be loved by little kids.

As I reported on my blog yesterday, the little girl was planted by the producers. And she was crying throughout the show, but they only decided to make a big deal of it during Sanjaya's order to fool you into thinking he has this effect on pre-teens, and to reinforce a heterosexual subtext on a kid who, let's face it, has gender issues. (And I'm sure you'll say that it's mean for me to say that, but I mean no harm. I think he's clearly dealing with something, and IDOL is a frightful place for someone who may feel different from the norm.)

It's easy to rag on AMERICAN IDOL as a "karaoke contest", which it is...but it's also a major cultural destination for hundreds of millions of people around the world, which is why I cover it on my blog. It's an enormous comment on cultural erosion, and Sanjaya is Exhibit A of that erosion.


see. this is EXACTLY why I posted this and why i feel no one is seeing clearly here.

everything people are responding to is wrong.

I certainly "like" sanjaya more than the rest of the world but i'm not a fan. Those five points are not faulty premises of why people dislike him because they are not premises of why people don't like him true or false. They're just descriptors. Descriptors that i think reveal his poppiness.


he's not exhibit A in cultural erosion. Even if he's contributing to it he's at LEAST exhibit Y or something. MANY equally untalented people have been foisted upon us by this show. Why does this kid have to bear the brunt of that?

this is why i wrote this article. Nobody is thinking clearly. EVERY SEASON of this goddman show has had people who can't sing that well on it. EVERY SEASON has had people who couldn't "perform" why this kid gets the contempt?

And yes, completely agree that Melinda has the best voice.

this article never once claimed that Sanjaya should win the competition or that he is the best. It just claims that the hatred is insanity.

i don't wanna go back and look up names of past seasons but there are so many terrible people on this show i just can't believe the reaction to this harmless guy.

Colin said...

But every season has its scapegoats that everyone picks on, too. This domino mentality allows the other contestants to shine in comparison. This allows those involved to rid themselves of the cognitive dissonance that stems from the mediocrity of the whole lot (compared to the vast number of musical talents already in the industry).

Anonymous said...

Sanjaya is the worst contestant Idol has had in its history. What's bad is that he's made it as far as he has on sympathy and crying girls that don't know any better than to vote for garbage. And in the process, he's making a mockery of the show and its reputation. You'd know that if you actually watched the show.

Kamila said...

Blake is an original performer. I like him, but I don't think he is the best male singer of AI. Chris Sligh is way better than him.

This season, I am rooting for Melinda Doolittle, who I think is the best singer who was on the show. I love her voice, her personality and I really hope she wins this.


anonymous. i do watch the show. god help me.

which is why the sanjayay hate perplexes me. I've seen A LOT worse on idol. But I don't remember the names and I'm NOT doing research to look it up. and the reason i listed those 5 common pop star traits is i'm trying to point out that at least he has something going for him... i mean some of the bad singers they've had are boring too. He's a boring performer but at least he's not a boring contestant.

that's all i'm trying to say...
memorable and bad is a lot better than not memorable, generic and bad.

Glenn Dunks said...

What about that truly awful redheaded thing that was in the Fantasia/Jennifer season. Ugh.

"It's easy to rag on AMERICAN IDOL as a "karaoke contest", which it is...but it's also a major cultural destination for hundreds of millions of people around the world,"

Hah, don't give it that much credit please. I'm fairly certain most people outside of America don't give a damn about your Idol. They care about their own. That's why only Kelly Clarkson has gone on to international success (and surely Jennifer Hudson soon enough).

Trust me on that one.

The reason why Idol and others like it are popular is really simple. Usually attractive people with half-decent voices (not many are "alternative" and different) being thrown into the deep end and singing popular songs and then being judged. If it were ancient Rome it'd be tiger fighting at the Collusium.

Sam said...

I think Sanjaya has the potential for real success as a teen idol, one hit wonder. Sure, he can't sing, but so what? There have been many pop stars who can't sing... Paula...that doesn't mean he can't have a carefully mixed hit record.

Then when the Tiger Beat thing fades quickly, he can come out on the cover of People, date Reichen, get an HRC "Visibility Award," do a reality show, and have another brief wave of fame. Hey, it's a lot more than most of us will ever get.

Anonymous said...

I think you miss an important distinction, Nathaniel. It's not just that Sanjaya is bad. It's that he is being kept in the competition over singers who are significantly BETTER than he is. The anger about Sanjaya comes from a sense of fairness...that he should have gone way before Stephanie Edwards, for instance.

This anger is supported by two things: the widespread opinion that he is not very good (and the technical truth of that, as any professional musician can tell you), and the fact that better singers are disappearing before him.

You're right about IDOL's history of celebrating mediocrity. But you're wrong about the historic place of Sanjaya in that. Never in previous seasons has such an inferior singer been so inexplicably forwarded in the contest...he's more egregious than the other effeminate boys (Kevin Covais, John Stephens) who have had a similar trajectory of poor performances yet stayed in.

At least, this seems to be the prevailing opinion of almost everyone who isn't a teenage girl, a relative of Sanjaya's...or The Film Experience. ;-)

Anonymous said...

I am with Film Experience here. It's not unfair that Sanjaya gets to stay. Obviously, enough people are rabid enough to keep him in the competition (myself included because he makes for GREAT television). If you're really vehement about Melinda winning, vote for her. But the common sentiment among 20+ is that voting for American Idol is childish, but complaining about its injustices is not.

Anonymous said...

I truly don't care about the fairness of the competition, and I actually think that Haley Scarnato is worse than Sanjaya anyway. I just see something very exploitative about the public basking in the trainwreck that is Sanjaya week after week. I agree with Modfab that this is a kid who seems to be struggling with his gender identity, and it almost seems to me that voters are getting off on watching that struggle. Do people really love him, or do they simply enjoy the mockery that is being made of him? Are they laughing with him or at him?

Anonymous said...

People want to keep Sanjaya on like some sideshow for their personal amusement, which is lame to begin with. If the competition is about weeding out the muck to find the best singer out of the group, then Sanjaya should be gone, and the longer that he sticks around when infinitely better singers are eliminated, then the stronger the backlash becomes for him. It's going to get worse and worse the longer he sticks around and performs the crap that he does when others leave. He's getting votes for the wrong reasons -- sympathy, freak show amusement,, or poor tastes.


my point is (it's still lost in this parade of inexplicably misdirected hate) he at least has some things going for him (memorable, cartoony, hair, etc...) which is WAY more than can be said for other past no talents (Covais was cited but there's many more)

or better singers with zero personality (sorry but what was stephanie's personality again? she never registered) or negative personalities (scott savoy ? -god he lasted for ever and he was hateful) etc...

i guess i just feel bad for the kid. And the way people just freak about how much they hate him --it makes me think there's something more to it than his lack of talent --maybe the gender thing.

what was that cute guys name that was a horrilbe singer... ACE? very similar in my mind to Sanjaya (cute but severely lacking in actual talent) only he was WAY more masculine and he lasted awhile and people didn't want him strung up and executed.

the communal hatred is still freaking me out.

peace out. i'm done.

Anonymous said...

Well I agree Sanjaya is a train wreck, but what about Melinda Dolittle her voice is fab, but that is one weird girl, her expressions are just off the wall, and I think she's missing her neck. I like Gina!

Anonymous said...

Sanjaya cute????? What like Michael Jackson that's who he reminds me of wahahahaha! All he's missing is a veil.

Anonymous said...

Look, American Idl IS a siging competition!!! Sorry , but true. And those that want to make it about someting else, well..who can stop you??But what about the people who are trying their asses off to sing?? What about singing a song so well that you can't believe they are on the show and not on a stage in front of millions, Sanjaya is not good, he has a great personality, which is great for other thing, but not for this. People are making a mockery of him and he's too young to get it. It's just cruel and mean and disrespectful to the other competitors who are actually trying to sing with all their heart. Voteing for someone because he's"no the best" is just wrong. He is still a kid, doesn't anyone consider that??? (HOWER STERN!!!)
Have some compasion for F*** sakes!!!