"American Idol" is really, of course, America's amateur Grammys — that is, it's a showbiz competition in which participants get judged (sometimes cruelly) by their peers.
Well, I'll have no more of that cruelty when it comes to poor, misunderstood Sanjaya Malakar, who's getting an awful thrashing for doing his job ridiculously well on that stage. Tonight tune in to Keith Olbermann's "Countdown" show to watch me rally to his defense! (You know, dear trusty readers, what a caring, Christian samaritan that I am!) Meantime, "Countdown" producers asked me to contribute my fearless views to their blog. CLICK HERE! to see the piece. Or read on — text repeated below.
Back off, Sanjaya-bashers! "American Idol's" newest superstar is really a master showman.
Who cares if he can't sing? Sanjaya's got another talent and knows how to sell it. Camp is one of the great traditions of showbiz and — come on! — it takes a genius to know how to pull it off. As those sassy strippers in the classic Broadway musical "Gypsy" say, "Ya gotta bump it with a trumpet, honey!"
You can't just do it a little. You've gotta go screaming (or screeching) over the top. The next time you see a photo of Sanjaya's pony Mohawk, think of Dame Edna's purple hair, or that rat's nest on Tiny Tim's head. Both of those guys have equally ghastly singing chops. (Uh-oh. You didn't know Dame Edna was a guy? Sorry!)
But it ain't about the singing. It's about putting on a show! And that spunky, little 17-year-old Liberace wannabe knows what he's doing and is doing it with shrewd surrender and abandon.
Frankly, let's be honest — that's how Taylor Hicks WON last year. Justin Timberlake was right about him. Taylor "couldn't carry a tune in a bucket." Simon Cowell was correct, too, when he slammed Taylor for sounding like a drunk dad at a wedding while singing "Living for the City" the first time on the show.
But, then — presto, change-o — as soon as America started buying into Taylor's campy wiggle and screech, cheering him on, that unabashed hypocrite and celebrated cad started praising Taylor. Worse, Simon applauded Taylor for singing "Living for the City" the exact same, awful way during one of the finale shows.
Hey, where's the Let's-Get-Simon-Cowell-Lynch-Mob when you need it?
The real tragedy of Taylor's triumph as top winner last year was that Simon wasn't alone. Everybody cheered on that no-talent. Why? Because that's what we do to drunk dads acting silly at weddings? Yes, as long as they're macho cool.
Sanjaya is acting silly, too, but he's a sissy. So the bullies of America are beating up on him. Unfair! Rise up, oh, Sanjaya fans! Let's strike back! Keep voting for him! Dialing and dialing! And keep the faith!
Because Sanjaya is exactly what "American Idol" deserves. Early on in the TV season producers played up the worst acts as a way to pump ratings. Now it's their own fault that one deliciously, hilariously lousy act survived and is drumming up legions of fans the same way that camp rockers like Ozzy Osbourne fill football stadiums -- because they know how to ENTERTAIN.
The lesson here: it's not always about the singing. It's about putting on a show. Taylor Hicks proved that last year without the pizzazz, the humor, the wink to the audience, the gutsy camp that Sanjaya knows instinctively.
All of THAT plus the hair!
Go, Sanjaya! Gooooo!
Photos: Sanjaya (top) knew how silly he looked last night. When his poor mom saw his wild hairdo backstage before the show, she shrieked her protest, "You can't go out there looking like that!" But Sanjaya replied firmly, "It's OK, momma. I know what I'm doing!" What Sanyaha knows is what other great camp performers know, too — that they shouldn't be afraid to look ridiculous, like Dame Edna, Liberace and Tiny Tim. (Fox/ Radio City Music Hall)