Thursday, April 19, 2007

Sayonara, Sanjaya

If you (or your kids or your grandkids or your sister or your Mom or...well, you get the idea) have been watching American Idol at all this season, you know who Sanjaya is. A sweet, good-natured kid with a charming, self-deprecating manner and a mop of black curly hair that drives tween girls wild, Sanjaya really only has one fault.

He can't sing.

That hadn't stopped him from getting into the top eight finalists in American Idol, however. Despite the constant reminder of the "judges" that this is supposed to be a singing contest, Sanjaya sailed by week after week, rarely even falling into the dreaded bottom three when "America voted" each week.

The truth is, the fact that Sanjaya was by far the worst singer in the bunch (and I say this as someone who genuinely likes the guy) might just have earned him more votes than his smile and his constantly changing hairstyles.

There is a vocal underground on the internet that are disgruntled with the way American Idol in general works, and with Simon Cowell in particular. First of all, like most of us that have ever tuned into the show, they disagree with the way previous seasons have gone. Though the singer with the most votes is supposed to win, over-loaded servers and transposed phone numbers have caused problems in the past, most notably in the first season when Tamyra was voted off and in the second season when Clay Aiken, despite the support of thousands of "Claymates", came in second after Reuben. ( I have to admit that whenever Reuben sang I found myself constantly distracted by the worry that he would keel over with a heart attack. He was always sweating as if the simple exertion of singing was taking a lot out of him, and with all that extra weight it just seemed like a matter of time before he collapsed.)

Added to the chaos underlying the entire voting process lies the deep enmity many voters feel for Simon Cowell. Never mind that Paula Abdul's entire "critique" of each singer sounds something like this: "You look wonderful tonight. I love the way you really know who you are and your spirit shines through," at least when she isn't crying. Never mind that Randy starts with, "I don't know, Dog, it sounded sorta pitchy to me...." Never mind that Simon is the only one who really does have the guts to tell the truly awful singers how "perfectly dreadful" they are.

No, it's the way he does it that bothers so many people. Simply prefacing comments like "you have to be the worst singer in the entire world," with "I don't mean to be rude..." does NOT make those comments any less rude, or any easier for deluded dreamers to hear after they have just finished belting their hearts out to the whole country, on camera, after bragging about how great they are to Ryan "I am not gay, I'm just a snazzy dresser" Seacrest.

So, during the season before last, these disgruntled viewers started taking matters in their hands, by voting specifically for whichever candidate Simon appeared to hate the most, out of simple spite. Their votes helped muck up the works a bit, but then Carrie Underwood, who actually can sing, won, and you would have thought that would be the end of the whole controversy.

If you really did think that, though, you are an idiot, because this season the anti-Simon voters really got their act together and focussed on Sanjaya. And that was pure genius in action. Because not only did Sanjaya have their votes, but lots of Moms and nurturing types voted for him out of sympathy because they couldn't stand to see such a sweet guy lose. And lots of tween girls voted for him because, apparently, they loved his hair.

And that was enough to keep him sailing through until Tuesday night, when Sanjaya came out and sang Bonnie Rait's "Let's Give Them Something to Talk About," wearing, oh my god, an ugly red banana that pushed that adorable mop of curly black hair up behind his head in a riotous spiking mess.

And he was, finally, voted off the show.

The moral of the story?

Don't wear an ugly bandana, apparently. At least, that's all I got out of it.

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