Indian finalist Sanjaya Malaka, loved and hated by bloggers and critics, had a nerve-wracking evening on Wednesday as he became one of the three American Idol contestants to receive the lowest number of votes.
But his fears were shortlived as it was Brandon Rogers, who received the lowest votes and was ousted from the singing competition watched by over 30 million Americans.
Brandon, who forgot the lyrics midway, became the first casualty as the 12 finalists were reduced to 11 after Wednesday's elimination round.
An estimated 28 million calls were placed within 20 hours following Tuesday's performance as the race for a recording deal hots up. The winner, to be chosen in May, stands to make thousands of dollars in endorsements not to mention other opportunities in Broadway or movies. Just making it to the top 12 could do magic to one's career. Take Jennifer Hudson, for example. Though she did not win the title, she did win an Oscar for her role in Dreamgirls.
So, the tension was palpable on Wednesday evening when the three contestants receiving the lowest votes were called on stage. Sanjaya, 17, who has been getting a lot of praise for his affable personality but plenty of rap for his singing ability, was the last to be called.
Sanjaya's rendition of Diana Ross' classic Ain't No Mountain High Enough was not good enough for the judges who said the only thing in common the singer had with Diana was their hairstyle. However, Simon Cowell gave him credit for being 'brave'. And it looks as if America agreed with Simon.
Well, not all.
Sanjaya's continued survival has been a source of great merriment. Melanie McFarland in Seattle-Post Intelligencer.Com, Sanjaya's hometown newspaper wrote, "In fact, I hope the 2007 mascot for VoteForTheWorst.com wins. It could happen. The Federal Way (near Seattle) crooner is the top searched contestant this week on Yahoo. Does that mean anything? Who knows."
"Idol 'has a white chocolate soul potato, a successful pop star, an R&B queen and, you know, those other people," she pointed out. "But if Sanjaya wins, we'll have Idol's first hair act! In a very real sense!' If nothing else, Sanjaya is good enough for a Pantene endorsement."
Some critics and bloggers, while being convinced that Sanjaya will be eliminated in a few weeks, if not next week, still give him a chance of making as a performer or a singer.
The reality talent show is one of the most lucrative shows in TV history with attendance ranging from 27 million to 37 million.