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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 7:04 a.m., Thursday, March 15, 2007

Sanjaya surprises some after surviving 'Idol' cut

Advertiser news services

NEW YORK — Sanjaya Malakar, who lived in Hawai'i for four years, was among the group with the lowest vote tallies on Tuesday's "American Idol." But he was still safe from getting cut. Instead it was Brandon Rogers, who forgot the words to his song on Tuesday, who had a feeling he wouldn't last. He got confirmation Wednesday.

Rogers, a former backup singer from Los Angeles, became the first of the final dozen to be voted off the top-rated Fox network sing-off.

"I have no hard feelings," Rogers, 28, said before leaving the stage. "I kind of expected it."

Rogers said he committed a "cardinal sin" by stumbling with some of the lyrics of the Motown classic "You Can't Hurry Love." Judge Simon Cowell, who has routinely criticized Rogers for a lack of charisma, said his performance was dull and uninspired.

Malakar and Phil Stacey had the next-lowest vote tallies in the phone ballotting, which drew about 28 million calls and text messages.

Observers find it remarkable that 17-year-old Malakar, of Federal Way, Wash., has survived thus far. Though his rendition of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" was roundly panned by the judges, Cowell gave the "Idol" oddball credit for being what he called "brave."

Stacey, 29, from Jacksonville, Fla., sang "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me" to lukewarm reviews.

Wednesday's show also featured a performance by Diana Ross, who coached the hopefuls this week. She sang "More Today Than Yesterday," a classic love song from her latest CD, "I Love You."

"American Idol" continues to rule the ratings, attracting between 27 million and 37 million viewers per telecast this season.

The winner will be chosen in May.


Meanwhile, Those who made the cut last week to the top 12 went from mere amateurs, the equivalent of game show contestants, to professional TV performers this week. They became union members covered under contracts negotiated by the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

An agreement with "Idol's" producers, FremantleMedia North America and 19 Entertainment, when "Idol" began in 2002 recognized that "the nature of what they're doing in the show changes from the final 12 on," says AFTRA spokesman John Hinrichs.

"Prior to that time, they're just singing in a singing format," he says. "After that, they're doing more interactions and set bits," such as the video ads for Ford.

It's an important change in status for most of the singers. In the personal release that "Idol" requires when they audition, they must declare that they don't belong to AFTRA or another performing arts guild or, if they do, agree that their "Idol" performances are not professional appearances covered by a labor agreement.

That completely changes when they become one of the final 12: Then they must join AFTRA, which requires a one-time initiation fee of $1,300. Dues are based on annual AFTRA earnings: If they make less than $2,000, they pay a minimum of $63.90.


Starting this week, AFTRA's industrywide contracts required the producers to start paying the performers at least the minimum $921 each time they appear on a one-hour show. In addition, they receive residual payments when a show they're in as a finalist is aired again or is sold via DVDs or other media.

The producers must contribute to union-sponsored healthcare and retirement accounts.

It's tough for shows to avoid paying the singers.

"If they're not getting paid, they usually tell us, and we would be in contact with the show," Hinrichs says. "We have representatives who visit the show set on a weekly basis and talk to the members and make sure things are going OK."

"Idol" is mum about the subject. "We comply with the terms of our agreement with AFTRA," says FremantleMedia North America spokesman Manfred Westphal. "It is our policy to not discuss the financial or contractual arrangements we have with our performers."

The Associated Press and USA Today contributed to this report.