"I love Anoop. I will stop watching the show if he doesn’t get through tonight," reads a wall-post on one of the many Facebook groups dedicated to Anoop Desai. "I’ve thrown a party tonight and forced 30 of my friends to pledge their vote for him,” says an overwrought fan. "Noop Dog in the house," screams another.
Anoop Desai, for those who came in late, is the second Indian American to have broken into reality show American Idol’s Top 7. Two years ago, Sanjaya Malakar was voted out after reaching the same position. The only child of a biochemist mother and software engineer father, Desai, 22, grew up in North Carolina, and is known for being a superlative singer and an exceptional student. He’s also had the quintessential desi upbringing. “His parents would have the Clef Hangers (University of North Carolina’s music group) over for amazing Indian food. His mother even went with him for the audition,” says former college-mate Duncan McFadyen.
But when you see Anoop Desai — or Noop Dog as he’s better known — on screen for the first time, it’s hard to understand what all the fuss is about. Sure, the voice is great. But, with his no-fuss haircut, and slightly boring navy pullovers, he’s so much more geeky Indian-American engineer than national heartthrob.
But it’s exactly this wholesomeness that makes him so popular, says McFadyen, 26. “He’s a nice, likable guy and you can see that on television,” he continues. Desai also became a bit of a media darling when he attributed his decision to audition to his close friend Eve Carson, who was brutally murdered in March last year.
The 22-year-old, now a Masters student in cultural anthropology, is also known for his love of the social sciences. “When we would travel abroad as part of the Clef Hangers, he would be known as the guy with all the travel guides. He always wanted to know the culture and food of a country,” he adds.
While Desai’s predecessor, Malakar, was more in the news for his out-of-control fan following than his vocal abilities, Desai’s singing prowess, as all the judges unanimously agree, is “solid”. So his ability to win depends on managing to make his appeal even wider than it currently is.
“Well we’re doing everything we can. One time, I hooked two Blackberries onto the internet and managed to log in 1,500 votes in two hours,” says McFadyen.