Sanjaya Isn’t Going Away Quite Yet (Give Him Another Month, Maybe)

Dan Gibson | January 23, 2009 3:00 am

If the news that crazy-haired American Idol also-ran Sanjaya Malakar was finally releasing his first EP, the singer also has a book about himself and his time on Idol. Thankfully, the fine people at ABC News have offered an extended excerpt from Dancing To The Music In My Head, so as to spare you some of the effort of thumbing through its 256 pages in a cafe at Borders with zero intent of purchasing it.

From the section entitled “Something Good”:

I think that part of the reason they ran us so ragged was to emotionally strip us. They wanted to see what we could do when we were at our most vulnerable. If our nerves were right at the surface, that could lead to onstage meltdowns, or offstage drama, either of which would lead to better ratings. Also, they wanted to see how we could handle the pressure of having twenty-five hour-long commitments in a twenty-four-hour day. None of us knew if a successful (or even semisuccessful) career in the music industry would be that difficult, but at least we’d be prepared.

Sanjaya makes it known after the fact that he wasn’t worried about getting cut (after all, he has his sister to lean on at home), but he did want to stick around long enough to make the Idol tour…. you know, for the exposure. Then it came down to British Invasion week, and gosh, Sanjaya just couldn’t decide which song to perform.

Twenty-four hours before the performance, I hadn’t decided whether to go with the Kinks’ “You Really Got Me” or Herman’s Hermits’ “I’m into Something Good.”

“I’m into Something Good” is a cheerful, poppy, feel-good kind of sappy tune that’s supposed to make you happy all over. Lyrically speaking, “You Really Got Me” is equally feel-goody (“I always wanna be by your side / Girl, you really got me now / You got me so I can’t sleep at night”—if you didn’t know the melody, you might think it’s a Bryan Adams ballad), but musically, it’s more grrrrrrrrrr. Crunchy guitars, hard-hitting drums, growly vocals; if I could pull it off without looking silly—and avoid people thinking Oh, look at Sanjaya, Mr. All About Love, trying to get all gritty—I might be in pretty good shape….

My song selection surprised most everybody associated with the show. They probably didn’t think I could do justice to a Kinks song, because I was the mellow crooner guy who, when it came to choreography, walked around the stage and did a little Gospel Rock dance move. To them, “Sanjaya” and “garage rock ‘n’ roll” didn’t add up.

During dress rehearsal, I ran through “You Really Got Me,” and it felt all wrong. Maybe everybody was right. Maybe I wasn’t that guy. Maybe I wasn’t a rock singer. Maybe it wasn’t my thing. But I took Peter Noone’s suggestions and went for it, went all the way there. As a matter of fact, I went farther than all the way there, jumping off the stage, running through the aisles, generally acting the rock ‘n’ roll fool. The arrangement ended on three percussive hits—Bap! Bap! Bap!—during which I leapt back onstage and fell right on my butt, then raised my arms to the sky, as if falling on my butt was my plan from the get-go.

Ken and Nigel stared at me, frozen. It looked to me from the stage like they were freaking out, but I wasn’t sure if it was out of happiness or horror. I was certain, though, that they never expected that sort of energy burst out of me. How could they have known that when we Malakars get excited, we get excited. It’s a heredity deal.

Then, it was showtime, and Sanjaya met the girl who would change his life forever: Ashley Ferl, a.k.a. The Crying Girl.

Since I was planning an all-out performance, I wanted to keep my style relatively simple, but still be bold. The stylist found a gray jacket with the alphabet printed all over it, and we built around that. We kept the hair natural so I could toss it while I ran around. I thought it looked good. And apparently, so did the Crying Girl.

Ashley Ferl, aka the Crying Girl, was a pale-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed preteen from Riverside, California. She and her parents won tickets to the March 21, 2007, Idol dress rehearsal, and they got themselves some great seats; they were close enough to the stage that I could read her hand-drawn sign: MY DREAM IS TO MET SANJAYA.

As the contestants and I lined up onstage for our weekly introductions, I gave Ashley a little wave, and she immediately started crying. The producers noticed, and thought having her bawl during my performance would make for a great Idol moment, so they gave her tickets to the live show and hoped for the best. I decided to use this to my advantage. She would be a responsive soul to sing to, and I thought that her energy would help my energy….

On a certain level, I didn’t even care what the judges thought. This week I was doing it for myself. I was going to be free. If I was going to get cut, I wanted to at least be able to say that I put my heart into it. Anything that happened beyond that was out of my control….

And the good news for the producers was that Ashley got more into it than they could’ve hoped for. She cried and cried and cried, and was having trouble catching her breath, so much trouble, in fact, that she wasn’t able to clap in rhythm on two and four. And the cameras captured it for all eternity…

And then it was time to sing for Ashley. But being that the arrangement was only two minutes long, I had to do a quick walk-by. When I saw the tape later, I realized the producers were right: crying girls make for good television.

From there, Sanjaya made it another week—and the potential of another hairdo—much to the likely chagrin of Stephanie Edwards, who was eliminated despite actually having some singing ability. The rest, as they say, is history.

Excerpt: ‘Dancing to the Music in My Head’ [ABC News]