'American Idol' Voters End Elliott Yamin's Finale Hopes

Yamin yanked after close vote; McPhee, Hicks will battle for contest's crown.

Another "American Idol" challenger down, one more to go.

On May 24, America's fifth "Idol" will be christened, and with the eradication Wednesday night of 27-year-old Richmond, Virginia, native Elliott Yamin from the "Idol" running, the winner is either going to be Katharine McPhee — the comely 22-year-old Californian with the booming pipes — or 29-year-old Taylor Hicks — the soulful, affable Alabama denizen with the salt-and-pepper pelt.

But before the countdown to the show's season finale could begin, there was the matter of eliminating yet another pop star aspirant from the race. Someone had to go, and this week, that someone was Yamin.

For Yamin, this year's perpetual underdog, it was the end of a long and uncertain line; he received the lowest number of viewer votes this week — but he didn't lose by much. "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest reported that 50 million votes were cast this week, and that less than 1 percent separated the talent competition's three semifinalists; Yamin, who is 90 percent deaf in his right ear, received 33.06 percent of the votes, compared to the 33.26 percent and 33.68 percent cast for the remaining finalists.

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"It doesn't get any closer than that," Seacrest reflected.

Not long after Seacrest read off this week's results, the camera panned to "American Idol" judge Paula Abdul, Yamin's most ardent cheerleader; tears ran down her face, and the audience stood in unison, applauding Elliott's efforts. Yamin wept during the show's closing montage, which documented the soul singer's path through the contest, from his first auditions to his local-boy-makes-good Virginia homecoming last week.

Following his elimination, Yamin told Seacrest he felt "truly blessed" to have made it as far as he did in the competition, and said that he hopes "it doesn't stop here," indicating he won't soon give up on his dreams of becoming a recording artist.

On Tuesday's show, the three contestants performed three songs each, one of which they'd personally selected (see " 'American Idol Recap': Katharine Strikes Gold, Taylor Picks The Perfect Song"). Yamin's rendition of Ray Charles' "I Believe to My Soul" didn't score him many points with the show's judges, with perhaps his harshest critic, Simon Cowell, predicting his demise.

"Your songs are not going to carry you through to next week — that's the problem," Cowell said. "However, you are a great guy. You are a great singer. And whatever happens, you will make your mom very proud for what you've achieved for this competition."

Wednesday night's "American Idol" results episode set the stage for next week's season finale: a battle of the sexes pitting McPhee against Hicks in a two-way showdown set to unfold inside Hollywood's Kodak Theatre. "Idol" analysts seem to favor Hicks taking the top prize in next week's sing-off.

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