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Friday, March 30, 2007 - Page updated at 02:00 AM

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Could Sanjaya mania be "Idol's" undoing?

New York Daily News

Will Sanjaya Malakar kill "American Idol"?

The Federal Way teen says he'll win, but Simon Cowell says if that happens, he'll quit. Even Paula Abdul, usually the kindest judge, says the buzz surrounding this unlikely contender has "run amok."

It started with the Web site, which encourages voters to keep 17-year-old Sanjaya on the Fox show because his performances — marked by a weak singing voice that often veers off-key and flowing hair that has been arranged in increasingly bizarre styles — are just so bad.

Radio shock jock Howard Stern picked up on the movement and urged listeners to vote for Sanjaya. Then came the newspaper articles, blog posts and even mentions by David Letterman and DJ David Lee Roth.

And it appears to be working.


"American Idol," 8 p.m. Tuesdays and 9 p.m. Wednesdays on KCPQ-TV.

Despite cool reviews from judges — and his most outrageous hairdo yet, seven small ponytails swept into a mock Mohawk — Sanjaya survived Wednesday night's contestant-pool pruning on the mega-popular reality show.

Chris Sligh was booted instead.

Show producer Nigel Lythgoe has scoffed at the idea that the Vote for the Worst site has affected voters.

"When you're getting 30 million votes, whatever that Web site can do is just not enough," Lythgoe insisted this week.

But if the teenage troubadour keeps raking in the votes and actually wins, it will undermine the very premise of the show — that the singer America loves most will win. If Sanjaya comes out on top, it may be because America hates him most.

The British show "Pop Idol," the inspiration for "American Idol," was ditched when Cowell decided viewers had spiraled out of control in picking winners. "Pop Idol" was scrapped in favor of "X Factor," where contestants advance solely on the judges' calls.

"Sanjaya winning would change the show dramatically," said Dave Della Terza, who is behind the Vote for the Worst site.

And Della Terza points out that singing talent isn't the only thing that makes a performance.

"It makes the show infinitely more entertaining when Sanjaya comes out with a new hairdo than when LaKisha [Jones] sings another boring ballad," he said.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company



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