By Andrea Burzynski
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Mississippi's Skylar Laine got the boot from TV singing competition "American Idol" on Thursday, leaving the show with a rousing performance of country singer Miranda Lambert's "Gunpowder and Lead."
Laine, 18, who idolizes Lambert and aspires to be a country star herself, sang the song as fellow contestant Hollie Cavanagh, also among this week's bottom two singers, wiped away tears knowing it was her friend's final number.
On Wednesday's performance episode of the top-rated U.S. television show, judge Jennifer Lopez had praised Laine's energetic performance of Credence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son," and Randy Jackson exclaimed that she was "born to be on the stage."
But the panelists' comments for Laine's rendition of "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" were not universal. While Lopez enjoyed the singer's spin on the Dusty Springfield classic, mentor Jimmy Iovine thought it was one of her weakest performances of the season.
Still, Iovine had hoped Laine would remain in the contest because, he said, "she suits up and shows up every night." But his hopes were dashed by audience voters who choose the contestants that will remain.
Cavanagh, who had frequently found herself in the show's danger zone of being voted off, wowed the judges on Wednesday with her soaring energy and Tina Turner-like dance moves in her take on "River Deep Mountain High."
Contestants sang hits from the 1960s, followed by songs by British artists on Wednesday, and "Idol" got a visit from one it most famous past winners, country songstress Carrie Underwood on Thursday elimination episode.
Now a top country star, Underwood performed the title track from her album "Blown Away," which was released earlier this week. Coldplay sang their song "Paradise," and came back later in the show for an encore performance.
Four contestants remain on "Idol" heading toward the show's finale later this month.
"Idol", which first aired in on Fox in 2002, has launched the careers Kelly Clarkson, Adam Lambert and Jennifer Husdon, among others. Now in its 11th season, the show continues to be the most watched reality TV show in America, though it has received stiff competition from "The Voice" this year.
Audiences vote for their favorite performers by phone and text message each week as contestants are challenged by a variety of musical styles. The winning contestant receives a recording contract.
(Reporting By Andrea Burzynski; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)