Sanjaya Stays: Mediocrity Marches On!!

Sanjaya: “Cheek to Cheek”

Sanjaya Grabs Top Vote in March Toward Finals

Sanjaya managed to garner enough votes stay on American Idol for yet another week.  Rock singing Gina Glocksen was sent packing from the group of nine finalists on the Fox television show, while Malakar, the 17-year-old whose finalist status has defied shaky performances and criticism from the judges, was easily voted through.  He continued to star in his role as the worst of the bunch on American Idol this week, but then that was true last week too.  At this point, Sanjaya knew that a lot of people would hate him regardless of what he did.  Giving up his flaming pony-hawk hairdo from last week, Sanjaya’s performance of “Cheek to Cheek” certainly wasn’t anything to write home about.

When Sanjaya came before the judges, the sense of contempt in the air was unmistakable.  His slicked-back hair style, faux moustache and even his wanna-be white gangsta’ suit couldn’t get him a compliment.  At one point, Paula Abdul muttered inaudibly something about Sanjaya being a “beautiful flower in the atmosphere of joy,” but then nobody really pays any attention to her mumbling anyway.

Simon made a total joke out of Sanjaya’s performance, letting it be known that as far as he was concerned, Sanjaya should be kicked off the show immediately.  “Lets try a different tactic this week,” Simon said.  “Sanjaya, that was incredible,” he sardonicaly observed, no doubt hoping that this week would finally send Sanjaya packing for home.

But this season’s most talked-about American Idol contender either didn’t get or ignored Simon’s facetiousness and responded with an enthusiastic: “Thank you! Welcome to the universe of Sanjaya!”  While this provides rather alarming testimony about the state of Sanjaya’s mental health, it also clarifies the fact that the intense hysteria over the 17-year-old pretty boy has gone to his well-coiffed head, which was carefully greased back and tucked behind his ears last night.

As for how the rest of the show went:

American Idol Falls into The Dog Days

In today’s edition of Salon, David Marchese lamented that however the outcome of the voting on American Idol’s marginally talented singers turned out tonight, right now the show is caught in a dreadful deadspace, where everything seems to be grinding to a painfully boring halt.  It was an act of drudgery just to watch the humiliation bonanza lumber along gusto of a funeral:

“Every year, in that dead space between the humiliation bonanza of the early episodes and the palpable finish-line excitement of the final installments, “American Idol” grinds to a halt, with too much time spent spotlighting marginal talents at the expense of singers we actually want to hear.  The truth is, even down to nine contestants, we have to sit through too many middling performances and engage with too many mediocre personalities.

Last night’s show was but the most recent example of what I’m talking about.  Phil Stacey’s rendition of “Night and Day” was notable more for the impressive amount of sweat that managed to accumulate on his bald head than for his funerary stage presence.  “Rocker chick” Gina Glocksen sang Charlie Chaplin’s “Smile” with all the sonic gusto of a silent film.  Is-he-or-isn’t-he in on the joke Sanjaya resorted to his usual ham-fisted mugging in an effort to make up for his lack of talent.  Simon Cowell was typically mean but right when he told Haley Scarnato the best part of her performance was her legs.  Even the über-positive special guest Tony Bennett had to remind multiple contestants that (zounds!) it helps the performance when you understand the song’s lyrics.  Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul aren’t much help at this point in the season either, relegated as they are to commenters rather than deciders — and their comments are frequently useless.  “Idol” producer Nigel Lythgoe pointed out as much in an MTV news interview when he said, “If I was a contestant listening to everything that’s been said over the last six seasons, I wouldn’t know what to do,” he said.  “They tell you one week you’re playing it safe and then the next week they tell you it’s dangerous.”  Once they no longer have the power to give people the boot, Randy, Paula and Simon are there pretty much for shtick — a task only Simon seems to have any knack for.

Last night’s show wasn’t a complete dud, though.  LaKisha Jones, Jordin Sparks and Melinda Doolittle all sang with personality and skill, making for a cumulative four minutes and 30 seconds of honest-to-goodness entertainment during the hourlong show.  It wasn’t enough.  I want to be entertained, and watching some well-meaning schnooks deliver songs with the panache of a piece of wonder bread doesn’t cut it.  Here’s my solution: Cut the field down to a final four or six earlier on.  But rather than shortening the season, give us more time with the contestants who deserve more than 90 seconds to showcase their skills.  I’d love to watch Melinda sing for, egads, 10, maybe even 15 minutes.  As it currently stands, the show’s good performances feel like drops of water in a drought; the current string of episodes feels absolutely interminable.  You know something’s gone wrong when the biggest story lines so far this season are about how a crappy singer (Sanjaya) is still in the running and whether the since-departed Antonella Barba posed in dirty pictures.  Maybe I’m missing something.  Is it possible that even at this stage of the game, the skill and talent are still less of a draw than the drama of watching nice, not-very-talented people wave bye-bye to their pop star dreams?  In any case, I feel safe in saying, gams be damned, Haley Scarnato’s getting axed next.”

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