American Idol Cuts Four Contenders

American Idol Cuts Four Contenders
Simon Cowell
Ray Mickshaw/WireImage

02/24/2005 AT 08:00 AM EST

After several weeks of showcasing some of the more interesting – if not exactly talented – tryouts for this season's American Idol, the show kicked into high gear this week as the first four out of 24 contestants were cut from the show Wednesday night.

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The show is airing three times a week, with the male contestants performing Monday and the women on Tuesday. On Wednesday, both groups get together as two men and two women are sent home. The pattern repeats itself for the next two weeks as the final 12 contestants are chosen.

The first to go on Wednesday's show was 19-year-old Melinda Lira, who looked a little bewildered as Ryan Seacrest told her she would be going home. "I'm shocked. I'm really shocked," she said. The judges said Lira's performance Tuesday was a little "pitchy," and that she simply did not perform up to the standard required of Idol contestants.

That refrain would repeat itself throughout the night, as Randy, Paula and Simon all said that this year's talent pool presented the strongest competition the reality talent show has offered yet.

"At this stage, you have to create a reason why people should vote for you, and you just didn't," Simon Cowell told Lira.

Her exit was followed by the first of the men to be cut, 18-year-old Jared Yates. On Monday, Simon had bashed many of the men's performances, despite the talent among them. On Wednesday night, Randy followed up with this critique for Yates: "You've gotta leave it all on the stage," which, the judge said, Yates had failed to do in his earlier performance.

The judges then returned to the women, where North Carolina's 22-year-old Sarah Mather, whose performance of "Get Ready" failed to wow voters, was the next contestant sent home. Paula blamed her lackluster showing on her song selection, and Simon actually had some kind words for the young singer: "It's absolutely not the end of your world. It was the song," he said.

One of the competition's older contestants, 27-year-old Judd Harris, was the final guy booted from the lineup.

Said judge Paula Abdul of making this season's first cuts, "I don't like this part of it. I can't stand Wednesdays."

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