NEW YORK (Reuters) - The music of Mariah Carey spelled the downfall for "American Idol" finalist Kristy Lee Cook on Wednesday when the hit TV talent show's fans cast the fewest votes for her rendition of the pop diva's "Forever."
Cook, 24, from Selma, Oregon, was sent packing after a season-record total of nearly 36 million votes, based on the finalists' Tuesday performances of Carey tunes.
"Idol" judge Simon Cowell correctly predicted it would be Cook's week to go when host Ryan Seacrest announced that she, along with Syesha Mercado and Brooke White, made up the bottom three.
"Maybe Kristy, you know, your time's up this time, sweetheart," Cowell said.
Cowell had complained that Cook's version of "Forever" was "a little bit whiny," but added, "You managed with what you could" with a smart choice. Fellow judge Randy Jackson said he "didn't think that (performance) was amazing."
Carey, who performed "Bye Bye" on the show, said Cook's singing had given her chills.
With the field winnowing down, the producers tried to ramp up the live broadcast's suspense by dividing the seven finalists into two groups, without first saying which was safe and which faced elimination. The ploy went so far as to switch another finalist, David Cook, from one group to the other before it was revealed which group was which.
"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.
The weekly show draws some 30 million viewers, making it the most-watched program on U.S. television.
The other remaining finalists are early fan favorite David Archuleta, 17, Jason Castro, 20, and Carly Smithson, 24.
The winner of "American Idol's" seventh season will be announced during the live finale in May.