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No chance to ‘bring chubby back’ on ‘Idol’

Chris Sligh’s poor performance leaves viewers cold and he’s sent packing. By Craig Berman
/ Source: contributor

On a week where hair took precedence over anything else, it was fitting that the guy with the funkiest hairdo got sent packing on “American Idol.”

Chris Sligh again proved that a poor performance that comes early in the show can be fatal, even to someone who hasn’t been in danger yet. He was out of synch on “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic,” and thus became the third of the 12 original finalists eliminated.

Sligh’s exit deprives the show of its most distinctive personality, which in addition to the haircut, caused a group of his fans to dub themselves the “Fro Patro.” Even on nights when his voice didn’t stand out, which was most of the time, he still managed to be one of the more entertaining acts because he was always good for a smart-alecky response to a Simon Cowell or Ryan Seacrest question.

Onstage, Sligh was Taylor Hicks without the herky-jerky dance moves and gray hair, but also seemed to lack the ability or desire to cut loose and go for broke like Hicks did. Ultimately, that left his performances too uninspiring to garner the support he needed to advance.

He came to the auditions with the hope of making David Hasselhoff cry. He joked around in every interview and looked comfortable in front of the camera. He’s probably got a future in television. But if America can be believed, that future’s not in singing.

Sanjaya survivesThen again, America keeps on letting Sanjaya Malakar continue in the competition, which is a big hole in the wisdom of crowds theory.

Malakar is this season’s “what is HE still doing here” contestant, an honor formerly held by the likes of John Stevens, Scott Savol and Bucky Covington. Every year, someone goes farther than their talent would indicate, for whatever reason, and thus there’s the worry about whether the entire “Idol” concept will collapse should that person win. But every year, it ultimately works out and the singer in question fades out of the limelight.

That will likely happen again this season, but credit Malakar for making the most of his 15 minutes of fame.

There aren’t a whole lot of teenagers in his position who would have dared to pull off the hairstyle he came onstage with Tuesday. Mainly, that’s because it looked idiotic and out of place on him, like he was a straight-A student desperately trying to impress the punk rocker in chemistry class with a funky new 'do.

It looked ridiculous, and Malakar had to know that when he took the stage. He didn’t care, and thus nobody remembered that he couldn’t come close to pulling off the vocals on his No Doubt track. Instead, the story was the hair.

Ryan alluded to that at the beginning of the show Wednesday. First, his voiceover solemnly intoned: “Two important questions will be answered. Who is going home … and how will Sanjaya wear his hair?”

On this day, Sanjaya’s hair was normal. Instead, Ryan came out in a wig made to look like the Malakar faux-hawk. It looked even more out of place on him, though at least he shook it off after a minute or two onstage.

Everyone got a good laugh, and the worst vocalist among the remaining finalists didn’t even wind up among the bottom three. If this were “Survivor,” all the talk would be about his skills as a strategist. People may be mocking him over the airwaves, but at this point he’s laughing all the way to the bank.

Scarnato, Stacey on thin iceInstead of Malakar, it was Haley Scarnato and Phil Stacey in the bottom three this week. Chris Richardson, who came in next-to-last a week ago, was secure among the top vote-getters.

Scarnato and Stacey probably won’t get to rest easy anytime soon. Neither is a stranger to “Idol” danger, and both have an uphill climb ahead.

Scarnato skated by this week, but just hasn’t been able to stand out for anything other than her looks. Simon said a couple of weeks ago that she was so bland that he couldn’t remember her name, and Ryan got it wrong on Wednesday’s show, calling her “Stacy” instead. It’s never good when the host of the show is still getting someone’s name wrong this late in the game, so Haley/Stacy needs to do something to get herself noticed.

As for Phil Stacey, he’s been in trouble in two of the last three weeks, despite the fact that he’s not singing all that badly. If he’s doing pretty well and still not getting the viewers’ love, imagine what will happen if he has a true off night?

Maybe they should each try coming out next week with a different look. For Scarnato, a classic beehive hairdo may be the retro style she needs to get noticed. Stacey’s a trickier subject, since he has no hair at all, but he could pull off something new and funky with a wig or a funnier hat. Judging by what worked for Malakar this week, that may be all either needs for a long run in the competition.

Craig Berman is a writer in Washington, D.C.