Reality Check: Hair-Raising Performances on 'American Idol'

Before we get down to discussing the singing, let's focus on what "Idol" viewers really want to know: What could Sanjaya possibly have been thinking?

This question isn't directed to his choice of song or use of his vocal cords, for a change, but rather at that seven-ponytailed fauxhawk he sported that made his previous insane hairstyles — ironed straight and curly, respectively — seem comparatively flattering.

Let me just say that the boy has clearly become some sort of hairdresser's plaything. Someone should take pity on him and leave his follicles alone.

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And when he taunted Simon with the fact that the short-haired Brit was jealous he couldn't pull off a fauxhawk of his own, that sweet, smiley Sanjaya-ness that has been charming a large segment of America seemed to be a distant memory.

I know he was trying to be cute and funny, but he sounded even more sullen than Ryan can when he and Simon lob those insults back and forth.

Everyone else performed well, particularly my (and everyone else's) girl, LaKisha. Belting out Donna Summer's "Last Dance," she came across not only as deeply talented but also, for once, adorably playful — kicking her sassy little boots and grooving in a way she never has.

In case we didn't love her enough, however, Ryan called attention to her work friends "from the bank" in the audience, reminding us all of her humble roots. The only thing missing was a picture of her and that precious daughter kissing and crying.

Gina also killed it by leaving out the rocker-girl shtick and instead singing "I'll Stand by You" so beautifully that I felt genuinely sorry for having doubted her before. And Phil, wearing a hat so the performance wasn't as visually upsetting as it sometimes can be, did an impressive job on "Every Breath You Take."

As for the others, I liked Chris Sligh better than the judges did, Haley about the same as usual (which is to say that I didn't) and Blake and Melinda a little less than I ever have.

I can't say I wasn't at least partially influenced by the sartorial decisions. Like Simon, I thought Melinda looked plain weird, and I found Blake's shirt, with its succession of thick and thin stripes jutting every which way, quite distracting.

Not as distracting, of course, as Sanjaya's fauxhawk. Then again, what is? Oh, that's right. His singing.

"American Idol" airs on FOX, which is owned by the parent company of

Anna David is a freelance writer. Her first novel, "Party Girl," is coming out in June 2007 from HarperCollins.

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