NEW YORK – Until now, when asked her favorite male singers, Jordin Sparks topped the list with John Mayer and Justin Timberlake. But, the effervescent new "American Idol" champ said Wednesday, she's got another name to add: Sanjaya Malakar.
"He had so much guts," the 17-year-old "American Idol" winner told The Associated Press. "He had so much strength. He got a lot of criticism, but for him to go out on that stage and hold his head high ... I really look up to him for that. He's just an amazing kid."
The lanky Malakar, also 17, made a strong impression during the sixth season of the Fox competition, transforming from shy guy to media superstar in a span of weeks.
Sparks said "the point of the show ... is to keep who you like, who you want to see the next week. Sanjaya gave that to the people."
The two teens will sing with other finalists on the "American Idol" concert tour, which kicks off July 6 in Sunrise, Fla., and wraps up Sept. 23 in Manchester, N.H.
After that, Sparks says she intends to "hit the studio very hard" to finish work on her upcoming solo album, which "has to be out before Thanksgiving." Her main goal, she says, is to record "encouraging" tracks.
"I want people to roll down the windows and blast the music loud. ... It will be just a Jordin album and, hopefully, people will like it."