The Republic of T.

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Can Sanjaya Steal the Show?

I went on about Sanjaya Malakar and American Idol last week, drawing some parallels between the show and American politics, and I didn’t expect to be blogging about it again, but I just read that the show’s music director says Sanjaya could actually win the whole thing.

“Not only did “American Idol’s” little-contestant-that-could impress Simon Cowell and Jennifer Lopez this week, but the show’s musical director Rickey Minor now says it’s possible that Sanjaya Malakar can win the entire competition.

“You know what? I think that he could win the show,” Minor told The New York Post. “He’s gotten this far because he really is what he is – he’s got this huge smile, he’s a handsome guy and is really likable. People are pulling for him – and people really care about him.”

For the first time since the show entered the final 12 phase, folks got a glimpse of the pipes that impressed the judges during auditions during Tuesday night’s performance of a song in Spanglish.

“I can tell you he can sing,” says Minor, now in his third season as “Idol” musical director. “I think there are people who are naysayers, but I’ve run into a lot of credible people who really enjoy his voice. He has a connection to the lyrics and people are pleasantly surprised.

“This isn’t a singing competition alone. It’s for a star to emerge,” he says. “Sanjaya has a huge likability factor. I think it’s possible for him to win based on the way he’s moving through the competition.”

That alone did my heart good, then I heard Sanjaya sing “Besame Mucho.”

Um. I’m not sure when or how he got the rep as being “the worst” singer on the show, but I couldn’t find anything wrong with this performance. In fact, there was a lot to like there. No, he’s not Kelly, Fantasia, Ruben, or Clay. And maybe I’m wrong for judging the show by who’s won (or come in a “successful second”), but I can’t imagine that the American Idol stage has seen many performances that were quite so understated. And there’s a lot to be said for understatement.

There are at least a couple of ways to sing a song. One is to dump a truckload of fireworks on top of it, light a match, and wait for the “oohs-and-aahs.”Another is to ease into it with enough texture and nuance to say to a someone “Hey, stop and listen to this.” That’s kind of what Sanjaya did for most of this. I found myself singing along (as much as I could, not knowing any Spanish), and I kept waiting for him to take it into the “stratospheric” range, at which point I’d have to stop. There was at least one perfect spot for him to do so in the song, in what I kind of take to be the typical American Idol style.

He didn’t. I’m not sure if it’s because that would have been out of his range, or because he just made a different vocal choice, but I was impressed that he didn’t. That’s something else about singers who don’t have “big” voices or ranges that reach all the way to Pluto and back (Billie Holiday comes to mind, again). They can’t rely on volume and range, so they have to find other ways to get you interested. That may be focusing on creating a particularly pleasing “sound,” a bit of improvisation, or a particular reading of the lyrics, or maybe some combination of all the above.

And, from what I’ve seen, you can’t help but like the kid. Or, at least I can’t. (Yes, he cute. And yes, I’ve always kinda liked long hair on guys. And check out that look he gave the camera at the end of the song.)

Seeing him win would be almost enough to begin to redeem “reality television,” though I don’t really think there was ever much to redeem there. But Sanjaya might actually get me to watch the show. And I’m someone who swore off the genre right after the first season finale of “Survivor.”


  1. I am in love with him. I really think he can win the whole thing too.

  2. I’d lay out coin for someone to bet against him. He can’t be beat!