Anyone familiar with American Idol and that is just about anyone who is not living underneath a rock is familiar with the staying power of Sanjaya Malakar. The seventeen year old has become famous for his ability to stay in the talent contest although he possesses the weakest singing voice, thanks to campaigns from websites like Vote for the Worst, and the backing of media powerhouse Howard Stern.
The grassroots campaign to keep the mediocre singer within the contest have increased the popularity of the show with stories running in popular celebrity weeklies such as Star Magazine and the National Enquirer, and scores of stories on television. According to the show, they received their highest number of votes this season, 33 million, probably due in part to the Malakar controversy.
Simon Cowell, usually the most truthful of the judges has vowed to quit if the young singer wins. In fact most of us will lose if Malakar actually wins, because I cannot think of anyone who would actually buy an album created by the creaking voiced crooner.
The present controversy does shed some light on the weakness of the American Idol system. While it was the premise for Americans to vote for the person they felt was most talented, those with less than altruistic motives can affect the results of the show if they have a big enough following. Perhaps it is time that the creators of American Idol address this by making some much needed changes on how the contest winner is chosen.
Another fan favorite show, Dancing with the Stars, allows both the audience and judges to have a say so in the outcome of the show which should equal the playing field for contestants. However, this too does have its problems as the celebrities with the biggest fan bases sometimes seem to garner the lions share of votes. In the past season country singer Sarah Evans continued to plod along week after week even though she was by far the least talented of the performers, at least in the dancing department. A large contingency of country music fans tuned in to vote for her every single week and she only left the contest after issues in her personal life arose.
Though the system is flawed, there is a much better chance of getting a better winner when both judges and fans have a say in the outcome. Contestants who have large fan bases, or get large amounts of sympathy votes cannot guarantee an overall win. The same thing can be said for a contestant who just does not seem to strike the fancy of the judges, and can be sent packing prematurely though they deserve to stay and compete.
Judges are after all people and they will of course have their favorites. Dancing with the Stars message boards have been lit up with the prospect that the judges have been much too kind to former NBA star Clyde Drexler though his dancing has improved very little since the onset of the season. The voters of course can take him to task and can create a level playing field. The same can be said for American Idol.
It is doubtful that many would have remembered Sanjaya Malakar after this season of American Idol. However, now he will either be known as the face of the person that killed Idol, or the reason that the rules were chanced. Either way, Malakar has helped to change the television show American Idol forever.