'American Idol' Slices Down to 3 Finalists

LaKisha Jones, the 27-year-old from Fort Meade, Md., was the ninth finalist voted off from this season of American Idol after this past Wednesday's vote-off program.

Her boot from the competition will solidify her fourth place position on the show, and leaves only three contestants, two of whom have strong ties to the Gospel Music Association (GMA).

"I think LaKisha's going home," explained Idol's harshest judge, Simon Cowell, after it was revealed that either Jones or Blake Lewis, 25, was going home. "One of them's got to go! There's only two people up there!"

The Maryland native had a difficult time on this past week's program, which was the first chance for the finalists to sing two songs during the live performance night. She received unfavorable marks for both of her Bee Gee renditions, which was the theme of the event.

"LaKisha we haven't got much time," critiqued Cowell after the vocalist's second song. "It was better than the first song but still wasn't great. I think you and Blake are vulnerable tonight."

Jones began her singing career at the age of 5 and got her start in the church, where she learned to hone her voice. Although she is trained in classical music, she says that she has a passion for gospel music.

The two remaining GMA-favored contestants, Jordin Sparks, 17, and Melinda Doolittle, 29, unsurprisingly were the first singers to move into the semifinals this week. Both of them have never been among the bottom vote tallies, and have the highest chance of making it into the final two.

They also received the most positive comments from the judges this week among the shaky performances.

After Doolittle, a former Nashville backup singer, finished her first song of "Love You Inside and Out," the panelists judged that it was good but not spectacular. Following the second performance of "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart," they gave their praise, however.

"Alright so check it out. Second song, much better," announced judge Randy Jackson. "Great song, great vocal, beautiful ending. You're our resident pro. You know you got it going on…come on!"

"I think the second half of that song has put you into the semifinals," added Cowell.

Sparks, former Overall Spotlight Winner at the 2004 GMA Academy, had the reverse reaction with the judges, receiving a strong critique after her first song "To Love Somebody" and an OK judgment with the second, "Run to Me."

"You look so beautiful," commented Idol judge and former pop star Paula Abdul following the first piece. "And it's not sort of, kind of the best vocal. It is the best vocal so far tonight."

"Best song choice, best performance so far," complimented Cowell. "We're back in the competition."

Barry Gibb, former Bee Gee lead singer and this week's guest judge, also added that he has heard hundreds sing "To Love Somebody," but none of them "greater" than Sparks.

Doolittle and Sparks will go up against Lewis on next Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET, where one more will be eliminated on the following Wednesday night vote-off show.

According to host Ryan Seacrest, 45 million votes were cast this week to determine who would move on into the semifinals.