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Tampa's McGhee makes Idol finals

Melissa McGhee, 21, is one of twelve finalists to advance after Thursday night's "American Idol' show.

By SHARON FINK
Published March 9, 2006


American Idol judge Simon Cowell told Tampa's Melissa McGhee to book a plane ticket home after her performance Tuesday.

That's how poorly he thought she did.

Then the viewers voted. And enough of them disagreed that McGhee on Thursday night got a coveted spot among the competition's final 12 singers, the ones who get to record a song for an Idol CD and go on a national Idol tour even if they don't win the competition.

But McGhee, 21, was left hanging until the last possible moment.

First, Kinnik Sky, 28, of Duluth, Ga., was sent home after getting the fewest votes among the final eight women. Cowell had correctly predicted her exit after she butchered Alicia Keys' If I Ain't Got You on Tuesday, and judges Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul didn't disagree.

With seven women left, five others advanced before McGhee was given the remaining spot alloted to the final six women.

That made Ayla Brown, 17, of Wrentham, Mass., the other woman booted off the show. She did a shaky version of Natasha Bedingfield's Unwritten on Tuesday but got generally positive comments from the judge and was thought to have strong fan support to advance to the final 12.

Cowell has never been a McGhee fan. On previous shows, he told her he couldn't remember her and that she lacked the "it" factor needed for success in the music business. After she sang Heart's What About Love on Tuesday, he criticized her vocals. But Jackson and Abdul liked what McGhee did Tuesday.

The number of men also was cut to six Thursday. Ejected for getting the lowest number of votes among them was Will Makar, 17, of The Woodlands, Texas. His exit was a bit surprising at this point because he has one of pop music's timeless "it" factors: He's a cute boy with a nice voice. He sang James Taylor's How Sweet It Is (to Be Loved by You) when the men sang Wednesday, but Cowell didn't like it, and neither did Jackson.

Leaving with the second-lowest number of votes was Gedeon McKinney, 17, of Memphis, whose exit also was surprising. He sang When A Man Loves A Women and got a strong response from the audience and positive comments from judges.

For the two nights of competition this week, viewers cast a total of 46-million votes, Idol host Ryan Secrest said.

The final 12 give their first live TV performances in a two-hour show at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Viewers then will vote for their favorites and one will be eliminated each week. That result will be announced in a half-hour show at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday as Idol cuts back its number of weekly shows from three to two.