Four saw the door as `American Idol' whittled its 24 semifinalists down to 20 last night (Feb. 22). Amy Krebs, Nicole Tranquillo, Paul Kim and Rudy Cardenas were cast off by viewers getting their firs

Four saw the door as `American Idol' whittled its 24 semifinalists down to 20 last night (Feb. 22). Amy Krebs, Nicole Tranquillo, Paul Kim and Rudy Cardenas were cast off by viewers getting their first chance to vote in the top-rated talent contest's sixth season.

The two dozen aspiring singers -- 12 men and 12 women -- who faced off this week had made it through the show's early auditions and last week's tense and tearful opening Hollywood rounds.

Kim, a 25-year-old from Saratoga, Calif., was the first one cut last night after failing to impress even Paula Abdul with his rendition of "Careless Whisper."

"It hurts, man," Kim told Ryan Seacrest. "It hurts."

The elimination of 22-year-old Krebs, who sang Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me," proves that it helps to stand out in the crowd. "She didn't sing that badly, she just didn't make an impression," noted Simon Cowell, who said Wednesday that the Federal Way, Wash., resident had "the personality of a candle."

Cowell also criticized Tranquillo, a 20-year-old from Philadelphia, for her "over-rehearsed" cover of Chaka Khan's "Stay." Abdul, though, had some kind words. "You're a brilliant vocalist," she told Tranquillo, who was holding back tears. "You really are."

Abdul was also a fan of Cardenas, 28, who is from Los Angeles. She praised his falsetto as "amazing," even though Cowell called him an "OK singer."

The show also featured a performance by third-season winner Fantasia Barrino, who announced she will star as Celie in the Oprah Winfrey-produced musical "The Color Purple" on Broadway. She will join the show April 10.

One bright, young hopeful to watch is LaKisha Jones, a 27-year-old single mother from Flint, Mich. "I'm very tempted to say to 23 people, `Book your plane ticket home,'" Cowell said on Wednesday's show, after her commanding take on "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going."

"American Idol," now running three times a week, will return to a twice-weekly schedule next month for the elimination of the final dozen. Men and women have been competing separately for the "Idol" title and a record contract, but a cross-gender sing-off featuring the last 12 performers will begin March 13. The decision-making finale will be held in May.


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