Teen power won out on "American Idol" as Katie Stevens claimed a place in the top 12 while a more experienced singer got the ax.
Stevens, 17, earned viewer support even though the show's judges were disappointed earlier this week by her performance of "Breakaway" that Randy Jackson likened to karaoke.
Lilly Scott, despite earning praise for her artistry on "I Fall to Pieces," was among the four contestants dropped Thursday. They included Alex Lambert of North Richland Hills, Texas; Todrick Hall of Arlington, Texas, and Katelyn Epperly of West Des Moines, Iowa.
Scott, who had been warned by Simon Cowell that her version of the country standard might be risky, stood onstage next to Stevens to hear which of them would be going home. Scott appeared stunned when her name was announced.
"I thought I did really well. I put my heart into every performance," said Scott, 20, of Littleton, Colo. "I just know there's an audience out there for me."
Judge Kara DioGuardi, comparing the two, acknowledged that Stevens of Middlebury, Conn., had the advantage of a more contemporary sound but didn't know herself as a performer yet, while Scott did.
It was no surprise that the judge's favorite from previous weeks, Michael "Big Mike" Lynche, made the cut.
Lynche, 26, of Astoria, N.Y., especially dazzled the panel Wednesday with his performance of "This Woman's Work," which brought DioGuardi to tears.
The other finalists are Crystal Bowersox, 24, of Toledo, Ohio; Siobhan Magnus, 20, of Marstons Mills, Mass.; Lacey Brown, 24, of Amarillo, Texas; Paige Miles, 24, of Houston; Didi Benami, 23, of Los Angeles; Andrew Garcia, 24, Moreno Valley, Calif., Casey James, 27, of Fort Worth, Texas; Tim Urban, 20, of Duncanville, Texas; Aaron Kelley, 16, of Sonestown, Pa., and Lee Dewyze, 23, of Mount Prospect, Ill.
Lambert, 19, who had trouble overcoming his shyness on stage, looked downcast and tearful when he learned his fate.
"There's a lot of things America hasn't seen me do yet," he said, adding, "I wish could just have broken out of my shell."
Judge Ellen DeGeneres gave him a verbal pat on the back.
"You're so good. Don't ever stop believing in yourself," she said.
Hall, however, looked on the bright side.
"This has been an awesome experience. I came here to prove that I'm not just a dancer, I can also sing. I think that I've done that," he said, earning encouragement from Jackson. "Fantastic, dude," the judge told him.
DioGuardi had criticized Epperly for "going through the motions" on her version of "I Feel the Earth Move" earlier this week. Cowell compared her performance to request night at a restaurant, but added that he did like her full, curly locks that evoked the song's composer, Carole King.
"I'm not stopping now. It's just a push actually, for me. I'll do more stuff," Epperly said Thursday.
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