May 1, 2008 / 3:46 AM / in 10 years

Elimination brings "American Idol" to final four

NEW YORK (Reuters) - “American Idol” fans sent contestant Brooke White packing on Wednesday after her performance of two Neil Diamond tunes, leaving four contenders to battle it out on the hit talent show.

<p>(From left) David Archuleta, David Cook, Syesha Mercado and Jason Castro are seen in a combination file photo. REUTERS/File</p>

White, 24, from Mesa, Arizona, who now lives in Southern California, received the fewest of the more than 45 million votes cast, based on her performance of “I‘m a Believer” and “I Am ... I Said,” with famously blunt judge Simon Cowell saying he “really, really hated the first song.”

White’s elimination leaves Syesha Mercado, 21, as the only woman still competing to win the show’s seventh season. Mercado barely dodged elimination herself this week, scoring fewer votes than any of the other remaining finalists.

Still singing along with Mercado are Jason Castro, fan favorite David Archuleta and the increasingly popular, at least with the judges, David Cook.

Diamond appeared on the show singing “Pretty Amazing Grace” from his new album. Diamond said he was “very pleasantly surprised” by White’s version of “I Am ... I Said,” which he called “a difficult song to sing and make genuine.”

Still, he said the judges were “generally right on” in their evaluations of the finalists on Tuesday.

White seemed consigned to her fate before the announcement, telling host Ryan Seacrest, “We’ll stay as long as we can” when she and Mercado were pegged as the week’s lowest finishers, but told they had to wait for the verdict.

When Seacrest announced her fate, she nodded her head, saying, “Yep,” before breaking down in sobs. Her voice broke during an emotional sendoff, in which she reprised the song that got her booted from the show.

“American Idol” pits singers against one another in a months-long competition. Past winners such as Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have gone on to music stardom.

While the Fox network series remains America’s most-watched TV show, this has been its second straight season of declining ratings.

Nielsen data through mid-April showed “Idol‘s” Tuesday and Wednesday night viewership was averaging 28.9 million, down 8 percent from 31.3 million one year ago at the same point.

The show’s winner will be announced during the live finale in May.

Reuters/Nielsen

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