Excerpt: 'Dancing to the Music in My Head'

My song selection surprised most everybody associated with the show. They probably didn't think I could do justice to a Kinks song, because I was the mellow crooner guy who, when it came to choreography, walked around the stage and did a little Gospel Rock dance move. To them, "Sanjaya" and "garage rock 'n' roll" didn't add up.

During dress rehearsal, I ran through "You Really Got Me," and it felt all wrong. Maybe everybody was right. Maybe I wasn't that guy. Maybe I wasn't a rock singer. Maybe it wasn't my thing. But I took Peter Noone's suggestions and went for it, went all the way there. As a matter of fact, I went farther than all the way there, jumping off the stage, running through the aisles, generally acting the rock 'n' roll fool. The arrangement ended on three percussive hits—Bap! Bap! Bap!—during which I leapt back onstage and fell right on my butt, then raised my arms to the sky, as if falling on my butt was my plan from the get-go.

Ken and Nigel stared at me, frozen. It looked to me from the stage like they were freaking out, but I wasn't sure if it was out of happiness or horror. I was certain, though, that they never expected that sort of energy burst out of me. How could they have known that when we Malakars get excited, we get excited. It's a heredity deal.

After a few moments of awkward silence, Ken cleared his throat and said, "Um, wow. Wow. Wow. I didn't even know you could do that. And, um, I don't even know if you should try that. Maybe you should go with Herman's Hermits."

The last thing I wanted to do at that point was kick into "Woke up this mornin' feelin' fine / There's somethin' special on my mind"—after having fun with the grungy Kinks song, it would be hard to be all cheerful with the Hermits—but I was a good soldier, so I gave it a shot. But I wasn't that good of a soldier; I completely overdid the song and cheesed it up as if it was a piece from a Broadway show. In other words, I tanked it. Ken rolled his eyes and said, "Do whatever song you want." I'm sure he had plenty of other fires to put out and didn't have the time to argue with me about tune selection. He probably thought that if I got voted off, it was my own fault.

Since I was planning an all-out performance, I wanted to keep my style relatively simple, but still be bold. The stylist found a gray jacket with the alphabet printed all over it, and we built around that. We kept the hair natural so I could toss it while I ran around. I thought it looked good. And apparently, so did the Crying Girl.

Ashley Ferl, aka the Crying Girl, was a pale-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed preteen from Riverside, California. She and her parents won tickets to the March 21, 2007, Idol dress rehearsal, and they got themselves some great seats; they were close enough to the stage that I could read her hand-drawn sign: MY DREAM IS TO MET SANJAYA.

As the contestants and I lined up onstage for our weekly introductions, I gave Ashley a little wave, and she immediately started crying. The producers noticed, and thought having her bawl during my performance would make for a great Idol moment, so they gave her tickets to the live show and hoped for the best. I decided to use this to my advantage. She would be a responsive soul to sing to, and I thought that her energy would help my energy.

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