And then there were nine.
Being crowned the fifth "American Idol" winner just wasn't in the cards for Lisa Tucker — a reality that set in for the 16-year-old Anaheim, California, denizen at the conclusion of Wednesday night's elimination episode. It would appear that the show's faithful audience had concurred with judge Simon Cowell's assessment that Tucker's rendition of 2002 "Idol" champ Kelly Clarkson's "Because of You" left much to be desired.
Cowell seemed astounded by Tucker's abilities at the start of the competition, but panned her Tuesday night performance, calling it "painful" before adding that the ballad was "too big" for her pipes (see " 'American Idol' Recap: Paris Works Beyonce Song, Chris Digs Up Old Creed"). Even the always-positive Paula Abdul was unimpressed with Tucker's routine. Randy Jackson didn't mince words either, telling the "Idol" aspirant, "It really wasn't that good."
After three straight trips to the show's infamous bottom three, elimination caught up with the teen, who kept smiling through the news of her ouster. Tucker told host Ryan Seacrest that she stands by her song selection for the week's 21st century theme.
The hopes of 25-year-old Ace Young of Denver, and 21-year-old California girl Katharine McPhee are still alive as the two finalists were relegated to the bottom three but spared the heartbreak of rejection.
It marks the second time that Young, who performed Train's "Drops of Jupiter," wound up with one of the show's three lowest vote tallies. The ranking of favorite McPhee was more shocking. Cowell said she shined brighter than the rest of the crop Tuesday night with her take on Christina Aguilera's "The Voice Within," but admitted Wednesday that her performance wasn't as strong as he'd thought when he watched it back later. McPhee has evaded the bottom three for weeks, and when she was called to take her place among the lowest vote-getters, the audience on hand reacted with thunderous boos.
Wednesday's episode was kicked off with a live performance from Shakira, who teamed up with the Fugees' Wyclef Jean for "Hips Don't Lie," from her Oral Fixation, Vol 2.