| NEW YORK
NEW YORK The judges could not save Matt Giraud again on Wednesday as "American Idol" fans eliminated the singer by casting the fewest votes for him this week based on his rendition of "My Funny Valentine."
Giraud, 23, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was on the brink of elimination two weeks ago but the show's four judges unanimously chose to use their once-per-season veto power to keep him in the competition. Last week, he avoided the bottom three.
But Giraud's rendition of the Rodgers and Hart classic during the show's standards week spelled the end despite Simon Cowell's description of his performance as "absolutely brilliant."
"I'll definitely remember being the cat with nine lives," Giraud said. "This is definitely not the last time you'll see me," he promised before launching a reprise of the performance that sent him packing.
"One of the best things we did this season was save you," judge Kara DioGuardi told him.
More than 47 million votes, a season high, were cast for the five finalists.
The other bottom-three finishers were Kris Allen and Adam Lambert. The placement of Lambert, a much-presumed -- including by Cowell -- front-runner for the finale, was especially surprising and marked the first time he was threatened with elimination.
The others finalists are Allison Iraheta and Danny Gokey. By coincidence both had birthdays in the past week as Iraheta, the last remaining female contender, turned 17. Gokey is now 29.
Highlights of Wednesday's live broadcast included performances by season five winner Taylor Hicks, as well as Natalie Cole and Oscar-winning actor and singer Jamie Foxx.
"American Idol" pits aspiring singers against one another in a series of competitions that focus on a musical theme each week. It is the most-watched television show in the United States, with more than 24 million viewers per episode broadcast by the Fox network, a unit of News Corp.
Past winners including Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, as well as runners-up such as Clay Aiken and Jennifer Hudson have gone on to lucrative careers in music as well as in film and on Broadway.
The winner of the show's eighth season will be announced during a live finale in May.
(Editing by Peter Cooney)