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NEW YORK (Reuters) - America voted, and sent the exuberant Chikezie packing from the seventh season of the hit talent show "American Idol" on Wednesday.
The 22-year-old singer from Inglewood, California whose full name is Chikezie Eze, was eliminated after what the show's judges termed an "old-school," even "cheesy" performance of Luther Vandross' "If Only for One Night."
The other bottom three finishers after what host Ryan Seacrest said was a record nearly 30 million votes for a single show this season, were Syesha Mercado, who sang "If I Were Your Woman" and Jason Castro, who offered Sting's "Fragile."
This week's theme was "the year they were born," with the 10 finalists each choosing a song from their birth year.
Before his elimination, "Idol"'s blunt judge Simon Cowell told Chikezie he was in danger "because you chose the wrong song last night, and it wasn't original."
"Don't underestimate how smart the public are who watch this show," Cowell added.
Judge Randy Jackson said Chikezie's Tuesday night performance was "very old school. It wasn't hip and cool," while Cowell offered that "you sang it well" but added, "I thought the performance was very cheesy."
Wednesday's live broadcast also featured a performance by season two's third place finisher, Kimberley Locke, as well as current finalist Carly Smithson's firm, on-air denial of media reports on Wednesday that she is pregnant.
"Apparently I'm pregnant," she said. "But I'm not, no, I'm not."
"American Idol" pits singers against one another in a months-long competition. Past winners including Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have gone on to music stardom, as have some runnersup like Clay Aiken.
The weekly show draws nearly 30 million viewers, making it the most-watched program on U.S. television.
Other finalists include: Brooke White, 24; early fan favorite David Archuleta, 17; emerging "Idol" star David Cook, 25; Kristy Lee Cook, 24; Michael Johns, 29; and Ramiele Malubay, 20.
The winner of the show's seventh season will be announced during the live finale in May.
Editing by Todd Eastham