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'Idol' Down to Final 10; Stephanie Edwards Axed

Somehow, Sanjaya did it again.

This year’s most improbable “American Idol” survivor dodged the elimination bullet once again on Wednesday – maybe it was the “crying girl” who helped him out – on a night when voters sent home one of the season’s most promising singers, Stephanie Edwards.

With a reported 30 million votes cast, Edwards, 19, got the boot after her shaky performance of Dusty Springfield’s “You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” on Tuesday night’s British Invasion-themed evening of tunes. The end came after singing a song whose lyrics turned out to be ironically prophetic (“You don’t have to stay forever, I will understand”) and which inspired Paula to offer the faint praise, “I love what you’re wearing.” It seemed Edwards’ fate was sealed when Simon used the often fatal description of her performance as “cabaret,” saying it lacked the youthful energy and edge of her earlier singing .

First, though, viewers had to sit through painfully unhip performances from this week’s mentors, 1960s survivors Peter Noone (Herman’s Hermits) and Lulu, whose primetime exposure might have made some baby boomers think they were having a flashback to their teenage “Hullabaloo” days.

After weeks of the judges slagging the boys for their weak performances, Tuesday night’s strong showing seemed to indicate a turnaround for the guys, except for Chris Richardson, who ended up with Stephanie as elimination loomed.

Even though Paula described his performance of Gerry and the Pacemakers’ “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying” as “very sexy” and the judges agreed it was his best yet, Richardson faced the ax. But when the deciding moment came, he was safe and appeared to whisper some words of encouragement into Edwards’ ear that made her smile and laugh as she bucked up to watch the obligatory clip show of her journey on “Idol.”

Edwards’ elimination means that a handful of the season’s weakest and most uneven singers – Sanjaya, Haley Scarnato and “rocker” Gina Glocksen – have made it to the top 10 and will appear on the “Idol” tour that follows the crowning of the show’s new star.

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