Mandisa gets the boot

            Mandisa gets the boot

Did it really
happen? Surprisingly, soul singer Mandisa—also known
as Man-"diva"—was voted off American
on Wednesday, proving that even judges' favorites
aren't safe in the tense sing-off. The singer had
become the target of controversy among gay viewers
after she made a reference to "lifestyle" in her
introduction to a gospel song and after The
cited her support of Christian author Beth
Moore, whose writings include homophobic references to
gays and lesbians and whose Web site includes links to
"ex-gay" organizations.

Mandisa's exit
narrowed the contestants to eight. The winner will be
crowned May 24.

Judge Simon
Cowell said on Tuesday's program that 29-year-old Mandisa's
rendition of Shania Twain's "Any Man of Mine" was "fun"
and "cutesy"—though he called the song choice
"horrible." Cowell once named Mandisa the
competition's best female singer. But he said on
Wednesday's show that success "comes down to song

Mandisa wiped
away tears as host Ryan Seacrest told her, "You've been
a great spirit on the show." Escaping viewer-elimination
were Elliot Yamin and Paris Bennett, who had the
next-lowest vote tallies.

Considered the
show's best male singer, Yamin, 27, chose the wrong song
for his soulful voice. Cowell described his take on Garth
Brooks's "If Tomorrow Never Comes" as "safe" and
"hesitant." "You're going to have to do better than
that," Cowell lectured.

Bennett, 17, had
crooned "How Do I Live" to mixed reviews from judges.
Cowell praised her performance as "excellent," but Randy
Jackson called it "a tough song" for her. Wednesday's
elimination show also featured a performance by guest
coach Kenny Rogers, who performed his single "I Can't
Unlove You" from his new album Water & Bridges.

More than three
years after its debut, American Idol continues
to be a ratings ruler. It has attracted 25 million to
33 million viewers a telecast this season. Seacrest said on
Wednesday's program that viewers called in "just
under" 35 million votes. (Erin Carlson, AP, with
additional reporting by The Advocate)

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