Fans tracking this season's top Christian singers on American Idol can now unwind knowing that each of the Gospel Music Association (GMA)-favored artists have made it past this week's vote and are among the top seven finalists.
San Antonio native Haley Scarnato, 24, was cut from the competition on Wednesday night's live results show after having a third straight week among the bottom vote-getters. Also alongside the Texan at the bottom of the poll were Chris Richardson, 22, and Liberty University student Phil Stacey, 29.
Stacey, a minister of music at First Coast Christian in Jacksonville, Fla., has been walking on thin ice this season, and had his third week in a row among the lowest vote tallies, four times all together.
"I feel good to be here," the Florida Christian told host Ryan Seascrest on the program. "I'm blessed."
Stacey, who performed the song "Maria Maria," received mixed signals from the three judges on Tuesday night after his live piece.
"Vocally I thought, with the exception at the end there, it was a real good vocal" critiqued 90s star Paula Abdul. "You turned out a really good vocal."
Idol's most frank judge, Simon Cowell, was not so impressed saying, "I thought it was all a bit lifeless, a bit flat. Your voice cracked towards the end. So there's nothing I can get particularly positive or excited about tonight to be honest with you."
Other GMA favorites Melinda Doolittle, 29, and Jordin Sparks, 17, had another easy pass this week, being among the top vote-getters.
Doolittle, who had received an unprecedented compliment from Cowell last week telling her that "we're [never] going to be able to criticize you," was given her first criticism in the competition.
"Well it had to happen Melinda... I didn't like it," explained the British judge after hearing Doolittle's rendition of "Sway." "I thought it was a bit lazy, a little bit wooden. I think you're better than that."
The three panelists gave Sparks contradicting opinions as well. Cowell felt her performance of "The Rhythm is Gonna Get You" was only OK while the other two applauded her energy.
"That was an absolute wonderful performance... absolutely great," commented judge Randy Jackson on Tuesday. "To see somebody at 17 – it doesn't matter what age you are – you got it because you got it. That was the 'yo' factor on blam!"
This week received a season record of 33 million total votes for the contestants. American Idol continues to lead television ratings, bringing in 26 to 37 million viewers per telecast this season.
This week's guest host was popular vocalist and actress Jennifer Lopez. Next Tuesday, the final seven participants will compete with country singer Martina McBride as their mentor. The live vote-off show will proceed the next day.
A winner will be announced in May.