And then there were four.
"American Idol" is down to four finalists after Skylar Laine was booted in this week's elimination.
The 18-year-old Mississippi native, who is heavily influenced by country star Miranda Lambert, was axed from the competition Thursday night after nearly 60 million votes came in to decide that Laine will not advance to the final four this season.
Carrie Underwood, the 2005 "Idol" champ, appeared on the show Thursday night, performing the title track from her new album "Blown Away," while Coldplay made the band's "Idol" debut, performing "Paradise" and "Every Teardrop Is a Waterfall" from their multiplatinum album "Mylo Xyloto."
Hollie Cavanagh was in the bottom two with Laine but made the cut, rounding out the top four with Joshua Ledet, Jessica Sanchez and Phillip Phillips.
USA Today writer and critic Brian Mansfield told ABCNews.com "the road to the finale goes through Phillip Phillips. Phillip is the guy to beat."
But it was Ledet who once again earned the judges' highest praises for his return to old school 1960s R&B with The Temptations "Ain't Too Proud to Beg" and later, when he closed out the night, with the Bee Gees' "To Love Somebody." After the judges clapped, Randy Jackson declared Ledet one of the best singers ever on "American Idol." Lopez went even further, calling him one of the best singers in all of music in the past 50 years.
The five remaining "Idol" contestants took on songs from the 1960s in the first round and Brit Pop in the second on Wednesday. Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band and "The Sopranos" fame joined Jimmy Lovine in mentoring the contestants this week.
While Mansfield has praised Laine for looking "a little bit stronger every week," she may have stumbled Wednesday with Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Fortunate Son" and Dusty Springfield's "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me."
Instead it was Cavanaugh who seemed to come out with the fighting spirit and whom Jackson declared "the dark horse." After she performed a high-octane version of Ike and Tina Turner's "River Deep Mountain High," and later dialed it down with Leona Lewis' "Bleeding Love," Jackson gushed, "For me, you're two-for-two tonight."
But Mansfield doesn't think Cavanaugh will go the distance to the final.
"Holly is the only one who has recurring intonation problems. It also, takes her a while to get comfortable with a new song and that's a problem on a show like 'Idol,'" Mansfield said.
Click through to see how the field stacks up.
|Front-Runner: Phillip Phillips|
"American Idol" has not always awarded originality, but this year Phillip Phillips, a 21-year-old pawnshop employee from Leesburg, Ga., has scored high marks with the judges and the audience precisely because he's unique. Before he made the top 13, Iovine said, "We desperately need originality on this show. I would sign this guy on the spot."
Phillips is the only finalist left who has never been in the bottom three, though judge Jennifer Lopez warned that the song he chose Wednesday, Dave Matthews' "The Stone," was too "obscure" and "too artsy" and could cost Phillips a win.
"Phillip doesn't listen to anybody and he's shown he's willing to die on the battlefield over a gray shirt," Mansfield said, referring to Phillips decision to wear not one, but two, gray shirts against designer Tommy Hilfiger's advice. "Eventually someone with an attitude like that is going to make a fatal mistake and there's going to be no one there to help him."
If Phillips ends up in the bottom three, Mansfield said, "It's anybody's game."
|Spoiler: Jessica Sanchez|
It has been a long time since a woman claimed the "American Idol" crown, but 16-year-old singing prodigy Jessica Sanchez has the best shot this year. The San Diego native, who is Filipina and Mexican-American, could become the first Asian and Hispanic 'Idol.'
"I think Jessica Sanchez stole the show from day one," Haley Reinhart, who placed third last season, told Ryan Seacrest Wednesday. "So, I really don't think anything is going to be able to stop her now. She's fantastic."
Since performing Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" and receiving a standing ovation from the judges, Sanchez has consistently delivered. From the start, "Idol" mentor Jimmy Iovine declared Sanchez "has talent from A to Z" and called her "the one to beat."
|Return of Soul: Joshua Ledet|
Iovine has called Joshua Ledet, the 19-year-old gospel singer from Westlake, La., "the real deal." Mansfield agrees that Ledet is one of the best singers in the competition, but his style isn't for everyone. Ledet doesn't fit into the smooth R&B crooner mold of past winner Ruben Studdard. He's more of a shouter like Otis Redding and Jackie Wilson. "Joshua is a very polarizing person," he said. "You either like the gospel shouting thing that he does or you don't." Just like voters were split over Deandre Brackensick's falsetto, Ledet's spirited singing might not take him all the way.