The top-rated show's second elimination round of its fifth season bid goodbye to Brenna Gethers, Heather Cox, David Radford and Jose "Sway" Penala. The elimination rounds started with 24 performers; 16 are left.
Gethers, 25, received the lowest number of votes for the female contestants for her sassy rendition of "Last Dance," fulfilling jaundiced judge Simon Cowell's prediction that Thursday would be her "last chance."
"Get ready for my album," said the departing New Yorker.
Cowell also predicted correctly that Jonesville, N.C. Heather Cox, 22, would also get the boot for her lackluster performance of Mariah Carey's "Hero," which he deemed "a ghastly pageant moment."
Kellie Pickler of Albermarle, Bucky Covington of Rockingham, and Chris Daughtry of McLeansville, who was born in Roanoke Rapids, all survived the cut.
Radford, a 17-year-old from Crystal Lake, Ill., drew criticism from judge Randy Jackson, who said he was "bored" with his rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight." Radford, after being eliminated, gave his farewell performance surrounded by the other teary-eyed contestants.
Cowell took San Francisco native Penala, 28, to task for his "karaoke"-style interpretation of Stevie Wonder's "Overjoyed."
Besides the goodbyes, last night's show featured a visit by last season's winner Carrie Underwood, who performed her hit country song, "Jesus, Take the Wheel."
"American Idol" has continued to rule in the ratings, attracting about 30 million viewers per telecast this season.
Host Ryan Seacrest said on Thursday's telecast that the show received more than 42 million votes from its viewers.
The 24 contestants who made it to the elimination rounds were picked by Judges Cowell, Jackson and Paula Abdul from casting calls across the country.
Men and women have been competing separately since the show returned Jan. 17. That separation ends March 14 with the final 12 singers.
The show, now running three times a week, will return to a twice-weekly schedule for the elimination of the final dozen. The finale is slated for May 24.
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