Sanjaya easily advances on American Idol

Sanjaya Malakar, the talk of American Idol fan sites and blogs, advanced Wednesday to another round, as a bout with the flu forced crooner Tony Bennett to cancel a live performance on the hit show.

Rocker Gina Glocksen was sent packing from the group of nine finalists on the Fox television show, while Malakar, the 17-year-old whose finalist status has defied shaky performances and criticism from the judges, was easily voted through.

Malakar wasn't even among the bottom three vote-getters in this week's competition, in which contestants performed standards such as "Night and Day" and "Mack the Knife."

Bennett, 80, best known for his rendition of the ballad "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" and a multiple Grammy award winner, appeared on Tuesday's show in pretaped segments coaching the nine singers who made it to this week's round of the talent contest.

"Even legends can come down with the flu," said host Ryan Seacrest, announcing Bennett's absence. "And that's just what Tony has done."

Standing in for Bennett as the featured guest singer on the show was the young, Canadian-born jazz vocalist Michael Buble, singing "Call Me Irresponsible."

The tally that sent Glocksen, from Naperville, Illinois, off American Idol was the highest of the show's sixth season, with just under 33 million votes cast, Seacrest said.

Glocksen, whose performance singing the Charlie Chaplin classic "Smile" scored the fewest votes, vowed "I'll be seeing you on tour" before singing the song one more time as the credits rolled.

Haley Scarnato and Phil Stacey joined Glocksen in the bottom three, but survived to sing another week on the country's No. 1 television show.

But it was Malakar's fate that drew the greatest speculation.

In recent weeks, he has moved a 13-year-old girl to tears on national television, inspired a one-woman hunger strike, smiled through vicious comments from Idol judges, been the butt of late-night comedians' jokes and delivered almost as many different hair-dos as off-key notes.

Acerbic judge Simon Cowell quipped last month that he would quit if Malakar won the competition. This week he said he was going to "try a different tactic," saying simply, "incredible" after Malakar's rendition of "Cheek to Cheek."

Some say Malakar is riding his charms through the competition, but other diehard fans insist that if he is not eliminated, and soon, the show will have lost its credibility.

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