Stephen M. Silverman
March 30, 2006 08:00 AM

And now there are nine. Lisa Tucker, 16, was shown the door on American Idol Wednesday night, as voters apparently concurred with the judges that the Anaheim, Calif., teen should have left her Tuesday night ballad “Because of You” to its hitmaker, 2002 Idol winner Kelly Clarkson.

Judge Simon Cowell called Tucker’s rendition “painful” and the song “too big” for her voice.

“That’s okay,” Tucker said Wednesday, after show host Ryan Seacrest delivered the painful news. “This has been the experience of a lifetime, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Tucker had been in the bottom three for two previous weeks.

Perhaps the evening’s biggest shock was Los Angeles native Katharine McPhee’s second-to-last finish. McPhee, 21, has been tagged as a potential winner and the judges had described her Tuesday-night performance as one of the evening’s best.

Host Ryan Seacrest even asked the judges why Tucker and McPhee were in the bottom two, adding, “especially Katharine.” On whether the comment hurt her feelings, Tucker told PEOPLE on Thursday, “Not at all. It was her first time in the bottom, so I wasn’t surprised at all.”

Coming in with the third-fewest votes was Ace Young, 25, of Denver. The final Idol will be crowned May 24.

In other news of the program, judge Paula Abdul has signed on for another three years, FOX announced Wednesday.

The contestants “truly inspire and amaze me each week,” Abdul said in a statement. “Of course, I also look forward to putting Simon in his place for years to come.”

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