American Idol: Deconstructing Sanjaya Malakar
American Idol's sixth season has faced an interesting dilemma: the bad singers are more dynamic and intriguing than the good singers.  When Melinda Doolittle comes on stage, it's not to fevered anticipation.  Melinda (despite being a legitimately great singer), does not excite viewers in the way that past American Idol champions have.  I guess you could call this the curse of consistency; we know what we're getting with Melinda and, therefore, it's become a little blasé.

The most anticipated performance of every recent American Idol episode has been, hands down, from Sanjaya Malakar.  It's a sick world we live in where this is the case, but it is undoubtedly so; Sanjaya is the most interesting performer on the show.  Now, don't confuse “interesting” with “good”.  Sanjaya's appeal (to the objective viewer) is more of the “train wreck” variety than the “personification of beauty” variety.  The whole Sanjaya phenomenon is inherently absorbing, if only because it is so continually mystifying.

What is it that makes Sanjaya so appealing to one portion of viewers and so appalling to others?  The silly hair?  The staunchly asexual persona?  The soft voice?  For someone firmly in the anti-Sanjaya camp, last night was a nightmare.  If one is actively rooting against somebody on a show like American Idol, the worst possible thing that could happen is for the person you're rooting against to succeed.  The “I told you so” mindset isn't nearly as satisfying as newly formed self-doubt is debilitating.  And, after Sanjaya's surprisingly solid performance last night, self-doubt was exactly what I felt. 

Is Sanjaya better than he's been letting on?  Was last night's performance a fluke?  “Latin Night” certainly put things into a weird light, what with most of the singers being bogged down by song choice and, as a result, producing performances that were, across the board, worse than what we've come to expect.  The conspiratorial view of last night's show would say that the American Idol producers set Sanjaya up to succeed.  How, you ask?  By letting Sanjaya go last on a night with a difficult theme, our expectations went steadily down as the other seven singers disappointed us.  Thus, Sanjaya's performance just seemed better than it was, a result of lowered expectations.

But, I don't think that's the case.  After a fitful night of sleep trying to eradicate all thoughts of the apocalyptic implications of a quality Sanjaya performance, I revisited Malakar's outing via YouTube.  He wasn't bad.  Confusion set in once again as I pondered what exactly this meant.

Then, I found peace.  Stepping back and attempting to view the performance objectively, I can chalk it up as a fluke.  It was an easy song to sing.  His soft, weak voice wasn't an issue (for the first time) and it became a perfect storm for Sanjaya.  He won't ever put on another performance like last night.  I guarantee it.  Below you will find a video of Sanjaya's rendition of “Bathwater”.  It should cleanse your palette and ease your mind.

See?  Isn't that better?  That is the kind of performance we can expect from Sanjaya going forward.  But, you know, with me being secure enough to admit a good performance when I see one, maybe it's a good thing that Sanjaya impressed viewers last night.  The Sanjaya-hating had reached monolithic proportions and if last night can quell some of that venom, then that's good for everyone.

That is, as long as Sanjaya doesn't win the whole thing. 

(Which could happen.)

-Oscar Dahl, BuddyTV Senior Writer