March 11, 2004 10:00 AM

And now there are 12: Wednesday’s edition of FOX’s “American Idol” picked the last four finalists, thereby winnowing the overall competition down to a dozen starry-eyed singers eager to nab the $1 million RCA recording contract.

The four “wild card” candidates included Jon Peter Lewis, 24, of Idaho, who made the cut thanks to an audience vote. On Tuesday’s edition of the show, he had delivered a foot-tapping rendition of Elvis’s “A Little Less Conversation.” (Judge Randy Jackson and Paula liked him, while Simon Cowell deemed him awful.)

The remaining three finalists were picked by the show’s judges. Randy Jackson’s choice was Jennifer Hudson, 22, a cruise line singer from Chicago whose voice (she sang “I Believe In You And Me” on Tuesday) won praise from the judges, who otherwise hated her outfit.

Paula Abdul tabbed Leah LaBelle, 17, of Seattle, whose version of “Let’s Stay Together” had caused Paula to compare her to Mary J. Blige. (An extra-harsh Simon thought otherwise.)

And cranky Simon Cowell chose George Huff, 23, a music education major who has performed in many churches in Louisiana and whose underdog quality clearly appeals to Cowell.

The quartet joins previously selected finalists: Fantasia Barrino, 19, High Point, N.C.; Diana Degarmo, 16, Snellville, Ga.; Camile Velasco, 18, Haiku, Hawaii; Matthew Rogers, 25, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; La Toya London, 24, Hawthorne, Calif.; Amy Adams, 24, Bakersfield, Calif.; Jasmine Trias, 17, Mililani, Hawaii, and John Stevens, 16, East Amherst, N.Y.

All will perform March 16 at 8 p.m. in a two-hour live show. The top four finalists will be announced on May 5, with the series finale May 25-26.

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