Excerpt: 'Dancing to the Music in My Head'

Even though the Kinks tune was set in stone, there was still some confusion among the team, so when Idol host Ryan Seacrest introduced me that night, he said, "Well, singing either 'You Really Got Me' or 'I'm into Something Good,' here's Sanjaya Malakar." I prayed to have the energy to make it through the song, and then bolted onto the stage.

On a certain level, I didn't even care what the judges thought. This week I was doing it for myself. I was going to be free. If I was going to get cut, I wanted to at least be able to say that I put my heart into it. Anything that happened beyond that was out of my control.

From note one, I incorporated Peter Noone's suggestions and tried to channel the Kinks. I purposely oversang and sneered my way through the first verse, so I sounded as if I'd been drinking and smoking and not sleeping for weeks. (The fact that practically everybody on the show had a killer cold and a runny nose all week, myself included, made it that much easier to come across as throaty.) Since my hair was nice and loose, I flopped it around, not quite to the point of headbanging, but enough so that there was some noticeable movement. The audience was on their feet and clapping, far more enthusiastic about me than they'd been the entire season.

And the good news for the producers was that Ashley got more into it than they could've hoped for. She cried and cried and cried, and was having trouble catching her breath, so much trouble, in fact, that she wasn't able to clap in rhythm on two and four. And the cameras captured it for all eternity.

I ran around the stage almost as much as I did during dress rehearsal, and it affected my vocals, particularly my intonation, but I didn't care. That night was about performance. During the second verse, I took a chance: I walked onto the table behind the judges. I wasn't sure that that was the right move until Paula, who was bopping around in her chair, waggled her fingers right in front of my face. That jazzed me up. At least I had one of them on my side.

And then it was time to sing for Ashley. But being that the arrangement was only two minutes long, I had to do a quick walk-by. When I saw the tape later, I realized the producers were right: crying girls make for good television.

On the final verse, the entire band except for the drummer dropped out, so it was just me and the groove. I whispered the lines, hoping I sounded evil and mysterious. Then when the rest of the rhythm section came back in, I screamed the lyrics. I'm not sure if people liked it, but it sure felt good. And then I did my little jumps on the outro and, thankfully, managed to not land on my butt. The crowd's response was more muted than it had been in the past, probably because they didn't know what hit them. What was that about? Who was that kid yelling all over the place? Was that really our little, sweet, gentle Sanjaya? My guess was that they were totally confused. The Big Three, on the other hand, were another story. Randy gave a whoop. Paula gave a whoo. Simon cracked a teeny-tiny smile. It was the best reception I'd ever had from them.

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