‘American Idol’ Viewers Kiss Paris Bennett Goodbye

Katharine McPhee is the last female standing as field narrows to four.

“American Idol” won’t have Paris any more.

During Wednesday night’s cut, “Idol” viewers kissed 17-year-old Paris Bennett goodbye, thinning the contestant pool to four pop-star hopefuls. Three men and a lone woman, 21-year-old Californian Katharine McPhee, will continue to slug it out for this season’s title crown.

The soulful, pint-sized Bennett, who comes from fine R&B stock (Her grandmother Ann Nesby is the erstwhile lead vocalist for the 30-piece gospel choir Sounds of Blackness and a woman “Idol” judge Randy Jackson has hailed as “one of the best singers in the known world”) and was no stranger to the threat of elimination, was the show’s youngest contender and once considered one of the competition’s strongest vocalists.

But the voting public seemed to once again side with hard-to-please umpire Simon Cowell’s appraisal of Bennett’s funky take on Prince’s hit “Kiss,” which the judge disparaged as “screechy” and “annoying.”

“Idol” finalists sang two songs during Tuesday night’s broadcast: one from their birth year and another from any of Billboard‘s current charts (see ” ‘American Idol’ Recap: Katharine Scorches The Stage, Elliott Isn’t A Star” ). Bennett dazzled Cowell with her second performance — of Mary J. Blige’s “Be Without You” — which Jackson regarded as too “pitchy.”

Bennett received the fewest of the more than 45 million votes cast by viewers following Tuesday’s episode, host Ryan Seacrest revealed Wednesday night. Elliot Yamin, 27, from Richmond, Virginia, had the next-lowest vote total.

Cowell characterized Yamin’s performance of “On Broadway”
(originally recorded by the Drifters in 1963 but also a hit for George Benson in 1978) as “disjointed” Tuesday, and criticized the singer’s decision to tackle Michael Bublé’s “Home,” saying, “I’m not sure I would have chosen [a song with] the lyrics, ‘I want to go home.’ ”

Remaining contestants Yamin, McPhee, Chris Daughtry and Taylor Hicks were flown by private jet to Elvis Presley’s Graceland for private vocal sessions with Mariah Carey’s ex-husband, music industry heavyweight Tommy Mottola.

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