NEW YORK An Elida, Ohio, resident who had made it to the final 24 on American Idol was booted Thursday as viewers had their first chance to vote in the top-rated talent contest s seventh season.
Garrett Haley, who sang Breaking Up is Hard to Do, was the first one booted.
Judge Simon Cowell said Tuesday that the Haley looked like he had been locked in his bedroom for a month and needed some fresh air.
I haven t gone tanning, so I m being myself, the 17-year-old said before exiting the stage.
Among the winners was Carly Smithson, who s in the midst of controversy over her professional past.
Smithson, 24, has made headlines for having a pre- Idol career: The Irish crooner recorded a debut album, 2001 s Ultimate High, for MCA Records. It flopped after the label spent more than $2 million trying to sell it.
The show s gimmick has always been to pluck talented young hopefuls from obscurity and make them into recording artists.
Besides Smithson, several of this year s semifinalists are not exactly rookies in the world of music. Kristy Lee Cook once had a deal with Arista Nashville, and rocker Robbie Carrico was part of the pop group Boyz N Girlz United.
If they hadn t already tried to make a name for themselves, then they don t deserve to be in (the) competition, said judge Paula Abdul, defending the contestants real-world experience.
Abdul added that Kelly Clarkson had pursued a recording career before her Idol win.
Besides Garrett, the others eliminated were Amy Davis, Joanne Borgella and Colton Berry.
Abdul told the telegenic Davis, 25, from Lowell, Ind., that she needed more experience. You re a beautiful, talented girl, she reassured.
Borgella, a 25-year-old plus-size model from Hoboken, N.J., failed to impress Cowell with her somewhat shrill rendition of I Say a Little Prayer.
It was a horrible song choice, and it wasn t a great performance, the acerbic judge said.
I know I sing better than that, responded Borgella.
Cowell was especially harsh toward the 18-year-old Berry: I would say get a good job, and enjoy singing. Because I don t think you ll make a successful career out of it.
Berry, from Staunton, Va., took the bad news in stride and closed the show with a spirited cover of Suspicious Minds.
Thursday s show also featured a presentation of the music video for Abdul s new single, Dance Like There s No Tomorrow. It drew a warm reception from the studio audience and a smile and kiss on the cheek from Cowell.
American Idol, now running three times a week, will return to a twice-weekly schedule March 11 for the elimination of the final dozen. The decision-making finale will be held in May.
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