In Defense of: Sanjaya and his teenybopper fans
But as much as I've disliked his performances, I'm actually going to defend Sanjaya. Mostly, because I feel sorry for him. He's a young kid thrown in the deep end of the pool, and sometimes he looks like he's drowning in front of 33 million viewers. The judges, critics, and viewers have been really, really cruel. And I'm not a fan of big bullies (ahem, Simon) who beat up on the younger, weaker kids just for sport.
Listen, I believe that Sanjaya is totally out of his league on this year's Idol. Since hitting the Top 24, his performances have been pretty weak, and embarrassingly awkward. His youthful lack of confidence and experience make him stick out like a sore thumb among his more polished, experienced peers. And his charisma seems to disappear the moment he begins to perform.
I personally don't understand why people are voting for Sanjaya, but they are. And as long as he's getting the votes, he deserves his place as much as the rest of them. We can complain all we want about the voting system, but "it is what it is." And I'm also not sure it's fair to call his teenybopper fans "stupid" for voting the way they want, rather than the way WE want.
The fact is that you can't blame his young fans or "Fanjayas" for being completely devoted and committed to keeping him in the competition. Isn't that what American Idol is all about? It is their right to vote as many times as they want. And I say, more power to them.
I don't vote because I'm an almost-40-year-old woman who can't be bothered. This is, after all, a TV show. And if I have two extra hours, it won't be spent on the phone listening to busy signals. As much as I enjoy watching American Idol -- the Reality TV show -- I'm just not that emotionally-involved in the outcome of the show. It is pure escapist entertainment to me. And I really can't invest more emotional energy here, than I do to the presidential election.
Therefore, the fact that Sanjaya remains in the competition week after week, doesn't anger me as it angers some of you. I'm not that emotionally-attached to any contestants. And I find Sanjaya's presence mildly amusing. For all of our complaining, I truly believe that this contest is going to get a bit duller once all the "controversial" contestants are sent home. Sanjaya might not be the best singer, but he does stand out in the crowd, and he gives us something to talk about around the watercooler.
In our comments, Shannon agreed, saying: "Sanjaya deserves to stay another week just for making people laugh...he's hysterical, and at least his performances are memorable..."
I also think that the Sanjaya-bashing has gone a bit too far. I'm especially tired of the racist and homophobic rants. Some of you are more paranoid than Oliver Stone with your conspiracy theories about the Indian-controlled call-in centers. Let me remind you again -- this is a TV show. It's a game. It's supposed to be fun. No need to get yourself all worked up. Sure, it's okay to be momentarily stunned when one of your favorites is sent home prematurely. But if you're an adult or a reasonably stable person, you should be able to "let it go" without bringing "hate" into the equation.
Besides, Sanjaya seems like he's a nice kid. I'm not sure how many other 17-year-old boys would smile graciously each week while taking his lumps from Simon. I think he possesses some fine traits: humbleness, politeness, courage, good spirit, and sweetness. And I think a lot of people appreciate those traits. As far as American Idols go, there's nothing wrong with having a sweet role model for our kids. So yeah, maybe Sanjaya has earned some "Mommy votes" too.
Sanjaya is also cute, with great hair and an awesome smile. He clearly has the teenybopper "crush" vote. Should young girls be voting for a guy just because he's cute? Sure, why not? This wouldn't be the first generation to make an average singer a pop idol because of great hair. Think about David Cassidy, Shaun Cassidy, Leif Garrett, Ricky Nelson, and anyone else who ever made the cover of Tiger Beat magazine.
And guys, before you think you're better than 10-year-old girls, think about this: How many female singers that grace the cover of Rolling Stone magazine are actually fully clothed? My point is that many of you won't even listen to a female artist unless she's smoking hot. So before you judge girls and their crushes, think about the fact that most women in the music industry are sex objects first, singers second. Do you really think Madonna, Britney, or Shakira could sell millions of albums with their voice talent alone? Without their charisma and sex appeal, I doubt Madonna or Britney could even have won American Idol.
In some ways, Sanjaya is totally Idol-worthy because he has amassed a huge fanbase despite some very flawed performances. This tells me that this kid does have something special -- the elusive IT FACTOR. And more importantly, he appeals to the teenybopper audience -- which makes him extremely appealing to record companies. He might not be there yet, but Sanjaya is young and has POTENTIAL. He could easily star in High School Musical 3, or have his own music-variety show on the Disney Channel, and make somebody very, very rich.
Say what you will about teenyboppers -- but the kids BUY music. Sanjaya could probably release an album of nursery rhymes tomorrow and still outsell Taylor Hicks. And American Idol NEEDS a teenybopper heartthrob if they want to sell tickets to this year's Idol concerts. Because I don't know about the rest of you, but Idols in Tour isn't on the top of my concert-going list. And I'd probably only consider if, it my kids really, really bugged me.
In our comments, Bob C, agreed, saying: "The tour needs Sanjaya to pull the 11-13-year-olds into the arena. He won't be voted off until he is #10..."
I think the producers probably are praying that Sanjaya can stick around one more week. We can trash the lowbrow tastes of teenyboppers all we like, but the producers know that teenyboppers show up in mass for someone like Sanjaya. They know kids will dole out tons of money for even a mediocre album by someone like Sanjaya. The simple reason why the industry caters to the youth market is because they buy CDs and go to concerts in great, great numbers. And the teenyboppers have already proven just how devoted and fanatic they are for Sanjaya, by keeping him alive in this competition against all odds.
Look, Sanjaya probably isn't going to go much farther in this competition. He's already in the bottom three and Entertainment Weekly gave him 100,000-to-1 odds of winning. And I don't think Vote for the Worst wields as much power as they think, even with the backing of Howard Stern. When it comes right down to it, I don't believe that most adults are going to take hours out of their life to vote -- as a goof.
If this were truly a singing competition, then Melinda Doolittle would have it in the bag (she's currently at 2-1 odds to win according to EW). But we all know that real Idols have more than just great voices. They have charisma to burn. They have larger-than-life personalities. They have rabid fanbases.
Still, Sanjaya probably won't win this thing. But if he did beat Melinda, wouldn't that be a major upset? Wouldn't that make for memorable TV? Wouldn't that keep us all talking? And for that reason alone, I wouldn't complain. In the end, all I want is to be entertained.