March 11, 2004 10:56 AM

“American Idol” took a bit of a break from its normal routine Tuesday night, presenting 12 “Wild Card” contestants who didn’t make the cut the first time around, despite some high marks from “AI” judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.

This way they still have a chance to join contestants John Stevens, Jasmine Trias, Amy Adams, Camile Velasco, Diana DeGarmo, Fantasia Barrino, LaToya London and Matt Rogers in the competition for the RCA recording contract.

But even before the show began, four of the second-chance contestants were given the boot based on what the judges saw during two days of rehearsals. This included Lisa Leuschner, Eric Yoder, Tiara Purifoy and Marque Lynch.

As for the Tuesday night’s performances, viewers were treated to Jon Peter Lewis singing Elvis’s “A Little Less Conversation” — and, not unexpectedly, Randy and Paula liked him. Simon deemed him awful.

Elizabeth LeTendre sang “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” much to Paula’s delight. But Randy called her delivery “pitchy,” while Simon decreed she didn’t have “it.”

Katie Webber sang “So Emotional,” with Randy and Paula giving thumbs down and Simon comparing her to Jessica Simpson: all package, no talent.

Famous past dud George Huff sang “Lean On Me” and won praise from all three judges, remarkably, Simon confessed Huff has an underdog quality that makes people root for him.

Suzy Vulaca sang “I Will Survive” — and was even told by Simon that she was “excellent.”

Heartthrob Matthew Metzger sang “When I See You Smile,” though only his looks got a smile from Paula. Randy didn’t think it went well, and Simon abstained.

Leah Labelle sang “Let’s Stay Together,” causing Paula to compare her to Mary J. Blige. An extra-harsh Simon though otherwise.

Jennifer Hudson sang “I Believe In You And Me,” winning praise for her voice from the trio, which otherwise hated her outfit.

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