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Sanjaya, at this point, is no laughing matter

We never thought he'd be able to top the faux-hawk, but there's Sanjaya in a towering triangular red bandanna, propped up by a fluffed-up mop of curls with tendrils escaping out the sides. He talk-sings Bonnie Raitt's "Something to Talk About," on the theory that he likes to give people just that.

After calling it "utterly horrendous" and "as bad as anything we see at the beginning of American Idol," Simon Cowell drops the gloves. He snaps, "I know this has been funny for a while, but based on the fact that we are supposed to be finding an American Idol, it was hideous." And when Simon isn't happy, nobody's happy.

>Helping hand: Martina McBride is a warm and smart guest coach. She's no shimmy-demonstrating J.Lo, but who is?

>Star power: The hit of the night is Jordin Sparks, who has improved so much in the past two weeks that she is looking more and more like a winner.

>Credible cowboy: Phil Stacey struts onstage in cowboy boots and kicks butt, from what Martina calls his "soulful lick" to his natural, relaxed moves. Randy Jackson is near-speechless, and he isn't alone. Phil says country is his genre. Did we know that before?

>Comfort zone: Blake manages to scrub "When the Stars Go Blue" of almost all country feeling. But the judges like him, except for Simon.

>Mismatch: Although Martina says LaKisha's version of "Jesus Take the Wheel" leaves her "verklempt," the emotion doesn't come through on stage.
Nasally: Chris sings through his nose on "Mayberry," then tells Simon that it's a style. Simon is astonished.

>No trouble here: Melinda rocks the house with "Trouble Is a Woman," and the judges love her sassy turn.

e-mail: aneville@buffnews.com

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