Thursday, March 29, 2007

Every Generation Sends A Hero Up The Pop Charts

Sanjaya has survived yet another week on American Idol. What is America thinking?

Good Question. There is something going on beyond limited singing skills and a devotion to seemingly more and more bizarre hair styles at each performance. What drives the Sanjaya Machine?

A few educated guesses...

1. / His story is endearing. He's a 17-year-old who somehow made it to the hottest TV show in North America. He was devistated when his sister failed to make the cut, but has continued in competition. By becoming the lightening-rod for criticism on his performances, he has carved out the obvious "underdog" role among this year's competitors. And, let's face it; Among this year's crew, he may be the only one with a story.

2. / He's cute, in an "odd" sort of way. When I watch Sanjaya sing, he seems like a living caracture in action. His mouth and eyes in particular seem exagerated, as if drawn by a sketch artist(I suspect that a young Jerry Lewis [mid- to late-1950's era Jerry]clone could do some serious damage on the show. Especially if, unlike the real Jerry, he could actually sing...). And that hair! Early on, Sanjaya must have realized that the viewing audience would need some kind of "hook" to remember him by (Unlike Blake Lewis, who uses his "human beat-box" routine in almost everything he performs, he picked a constantly changing hairstyle.If you realize that you may not be the strongest singer, an Idol entrant can do worse than using his or her hair as a weapon...). The total package is memorable [think Rings Starr or, for children of the 80's, Boy George].

3. / He's non-threatening. This may be his strongest advantage. Ever since Lisa Simpson was first seen reading an issue of "Non-Threatening Teen Boy Idols" magazine, it's become obvious that appealing to the "tween" market [girls 8-14] is just good business. Sanjaya comes off as a "buddy", a "pal", not the teenager to start the "dangerous" hormones that scare most parents half to death.He's polite on TV, taking even the worst criticism from Simon Cowell in a respectful manner [Simon seems to have thrown in the towel on the Sanjaya Phenomonon; His most recent critique was along the lines of 'It doesn't matter what you sing, nobody really cares anymore, anyway'. And, in the interest of fairness, it should be noted that Sanjaya does seem to be improving from week to week. Or are we just getting, like Simon, more accepting of the Phenomonon?].

4. / His [Apparent] Fan Base, the already-referrenced "tweens" and Grannies, kept John Stevens on the show much longer than his talent should have allowed. John Stevens grew up, and still lives, as far as I know, just outside of Buffalo, NY, our home base. He is, by all accounts, pleasant and gracious. But there was NO WAY he should have lasted on Idol as long as he did. There seems to be much of the Stevens Factor about Sanjaya.

Could Sanjaya Win It All? In a season when there seem to be no compelling options, maybe. Will he have a career? He wouldn't be the first "low talent, high attraction factor" performer to do so, if he does...

Quoting Jim Morrison, "...the little girls understand".

-Mike Riley