Malaya Tina Bandico Watson (born September 24, 1997) is an American singer from Southfield, Michigan, who finished in eighth place on the thirteenth season of American Idol.

Early life

She is a half Filipino American, half African-American, the daughter of Ronald Watson, a professional guitar player, and Marian Bandico Watson, who hails from Manila, Philippines and is a nurse. Malaya is a tuba player in Southfield High School marching band. She is an alumna of the Mosaic Youth Theater of Detroit, where she sang in Singsation and Hasting Street. She is also an alumna of the Michigan Opera Theatre Children's Chorus., where she starred in Carmen, Tosca, Pied Piper of Hamlin, The Very Last Green Thing' and The Nut Cracker.

Musical influences

She cites her two grandfathers and her father as her personal musical influences. She described her style in singing from Sly Stone and Beyoncé.


2014: American Idol

At 15, Watson auditioned in Detroit with Aretha Franklin's "Ain't No Way." She is the third youngest contestant in American Idol's history to reach the live finals after Lauren Alaina and Daniel Seavey.

After being deemed as a front-runner to win by judge Jennifer Lopez and fans, Watson was announced as the act with lowest number of votes for Top 8 reveal night. With the Judges save gone Malaya was eliminated from the competition. She sang "I Am Changing" as her farewell song. After her final performance Watson received a final standing ovation from all three judges.

Performances on American Idol

EpisodeThemeSong choiceOriginal artistOrderResult
AuditionAuditioner's Choice"Ain't No Way"Aretha FranklinN/AAdvanced
Hollywood Round, Part 1A Capella"Brand New Me"Alicia KeysN/AAdvanced
Hollywood Round, Part 2Group Performance"I Want You Back"
with Christina Collins, Olivia Diamond, and Queen Bulls
The Jackson 5N/AAdvanced
Hollywood Round, part 3Solo"I Believe"Fantasia BarrinoN/AAdvanced
Top 20 (10 Women)Personal Choice"Hard Times (No One Knows Better Than I)"Ray Charles10Advanced
Top 13This Is Me"Runaway Baby"Bruno Mars2Bottom 3
Top 12Home"Take Me to the King"Tamela Mann10Safe
Top 11Songs from the Movies"I Am Changing"Jennifer Holliday11Safe
Top 10Billboard Top 10"When I Was Your Man"Bruno Mars5Safe
Top 9I'm with the Band!"The Long and Winding Road"The Beatles4Safe
Top 8Back to the StartSolo "Ain't No Way"Aretha Franklin6Bottom 3
Duet "Lucky"
with Sam Woolf
Jason Mraz & Colbie Caillat8
Top 8Songs from the 1980sSolo "Through the Fire"Chaka Khan4Eliminated
Duet "I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)"
with CJ Harris
Aretha Franklin & George Michael8
  1. When Ryan Seacrest announced the results in this particular night, Watson was among the bottom 3, but was declared safe second, as Kristen O'Connor was eliminated.
  2. When Ryan Seacrest announced the results in this particular night, Watson was among the bottom 3, but was declared safe, as Sam Woolf was saved by the judges.
  3. Due to the judges using their one save on Sam Woolf, the top 8 remained intact for another week.

Post Idol

Watson took part in the American Idols LIVE! Tour 2014 from June 24 through August 24, 2014. Throughout the duration of tour and to date, she worked on her debut EP, My Diary, and her unnamed album.

Watson sang the National Anthem at the Detroit Lions versus New Orleans Saints game at Ford Field in Detroit, Michigan on October 19, 2014.


Digital singles

2014"When I Was Your Man"
"The Long and Winding Road"
"Ain't No Way"
"Through the Fire"