Goateed Sanjaya sings in Spanish and Simon says “it wasn’t horrible”

American Idol‘s producers saved Jordin, Blake, and Sanjaya for last on Latin night, and that was a good call: As Simon Cowell said at one point, the contestants offered just “okay performances … There’s nothing stunning.”

But those three stepped it up, and Sanjaya, wearing a new goatee, sang in Spanish and made out with the jib camera using his eyes–and left us with one of the most memorable performances, and not because it sucked. As Randy said, “You’re one of the smartest contestants I’ve ever met, dude. That was actually really good. It was!” Simon Cowell, too, liked it, sort of. “You sang like a 14-year-old, and I’m going to hate myself for this, it wasn’t horrible,” he said.

Jennifer Lopez, this week’s celebrity mentor, predicted that reaction, saying, “It’s a really good choice for him, and I think Simon might be impressed.” She, too, was thrilled with Sanjaya. “I have to tell you, he really, really impressed me,” she said.

With this, we see how Sanjaya might actually win: We expect so little from him, he can impress us with not very much. And his growth is much more impressive than Melinda’s consistency, especially when she falters, as she did last night, according to the judges.

In other news, Simon again told Haley that her looks were better than her singing. “I think you have a very good tactic at the moment, Haley,” he said. “Wear the least amount of clothes as possible. Because, look, and I’ll be honest with you, you can’t do well in this competition based on your voice, because there are much better singers.”

Earlier, Ryan Seacrest introduced J. Lo by saying, “she took time out of her busy rehearsal schedule to guide our top ocho as they try to capture a bit of the Latin flavor.” And to listen to Ryan Seacrest use a single Spanish word to show how hip and Latin American he truly is.

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.