They saved the most controversial for last, and Sanjaya — a pot-stirrer if ever there was one — did not disappoint.
Not only did he debut a new look — curly hair and the thinnest moustache and goatee imaginable, making him seem like he had been sent from central casting to play a sleazy bad guy in a made-for-TV movie — but he also took the Latin theme for the week seriously by singing in Spanish.
Yes, it's true: Sanjaya pulled out every trick in the book and then some. But subscribing to the it-won't-sound-as-bad-if-it's-in-another-language philosophy not only caused guest mentor J-Lo to squeal about how much she loved him, but also got Simon to call the performance "not horrible" which, if we're grading on a scale based on Simon's other comments to the guy, is essentially an A+.
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Almost everyone else seemed to wilt — perhaps because all of their energy was directed toward pretending that Jennifer Lopez actually had something to teach them about singing (with the notable exception of Blake).
Blake's performance was great, but his song choice was even better. I mean, he picked not only the most pop song of the night but also one that happened to be Lopez's husband Marc Anthony's big hit, which is just one of those genius decisions akin to LaKisha singing "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" the week Jennifer Hudson won the Oscar for "Dreamgirls."
If selecting songs is a science, then I say that this week Blake, who sang Anthony's "I Need to Know," and Sanjaya should both be awarded PhDs.
Melinda may not have done as well with the song she selected, but even when she made a misstep — arguably her first of the competition — she bounced back with the best retort ever by claiming to be happy Simon got to say something bad since "he really wanted to."
LaKisha, meanwhile, gave off the distinctive whiff of a diva in her comeback to the judges. To be fair, Simon played a bit dirty by getting her to say she didn't agree with Paula's criticism and then slamming her with the shocking revelation that he actually thought Paula was right for once.
Still, I found LaKisha's honest attitude about her singing voice — "God blessed me with a talent" — refreshing, especially in the light of Melinda's gosh-you-really-think-I'm-good humility.
In short, I want Melinda and LaKisha to meld into one person, who can be both sure of herself and let criticism roll off her with aplomb.
But really, all I want is Sanjaya to grow out that mustache. Who knows? If he starts now, we could see a full beard by the end of the season.
Anna David is a freelance writer. Her first novel, "Party Girl," is coming out in June 2007 from HarperCollins.
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