'American Idol': Why Sanjaya Malakar Was Better Than Lazaro Arbos (Video)
Even on his worst day, the season six contender was a cut above season 12's last guy standing.
With all this talk of season 12 finalist Lazaro Arbos being the new Sanjaya Malakar, I wanted to take a look back at the performances of the flashy and controversial Seattle vocalist who bewildered American Idol viewers until his seventh place finish in season six.
After careful review, I've decided that even on his worst day, Malakar was not as bad as Arbos. Not even close.
Until Malakar was eliminated after his swan song of Bonnie Raitt’s “Something to Talk About,” the now-23-year old Queens bartender and subway busker was the watercooler topic of 2007. Whether it be his wacky hair, or attracting crying girls in the audience, the Washington state native was anything but boring.
Let’s just get the most obvious Arbos flaw of forgetting the lyrics out of the way. With the exception of a few hesitations and one on-purpose lyric change during “Something to Talk About" (he changed “how about love"” to “other than hair” in his farewell) the then-17-year old vocalist could never be accused of experiencing lyrical brain-freeze. You can also argue that Malakar was better schooled in his musical history. Despite being Cuban, can anyone watching Idol this year honestly say that Arbos can handle “Besame Mucho” the way the fauxhawked former contender did? Malakar did part of the song in Spanish, and there was nary a lyric flub. Even Jennifer Lopez in her pre-judging days was charmed enough to exclaim that she “liked” the “kid” after his Latin night bow.
“I have to tell you, he really impressed me,” said Lopez in her mentoring session, while Randy Jackson called him the smartest contestant ever to compete on the show, telling him that his version was "really good."
Also, it’s hard to recall a single season six contestant ever publicly throwing Malakar under the bus the way Arbos’ castmates have -- from Devin Velez protesting to this day that he knew his part on the boys’ failed group night number of “I Can’t Help Myself” to even Angie Miller retweeting angry Twitter messages regarding Burnell Taylor being dismissed while Arbos lived on to sing another day. These obvious problems festered in Hollywood Week when Arbos couldn’t tackle “Wouldn’t It Be Nice?” by The Beach Boys, and then blamed lack of preparation for his epic fail of “In My Life” by The Beatles (a point contested by Idol mentor Jimmy Iovine, who argued that he had five days to learn his song).
Which isn’t to say Malakar didn’t have his shaky moments — “Bathwater” by No Doubt comes to mind, and then there was British Invasion week and his take on The Kinks with “You Really Got Me," a song that Jackson and Paul Abdul hailed as fun, but Simon Cowell clearly hated. But even THAT was far more entertaining than Arbos. At least he got to reprise that moment with Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry in the finale. Plus, it must be said: the ratings of that season declined by 9 percent the week after he was kicked off.
I picked a few of Sanjaya’s more well-known appearances for your own analysis. Watch them below: