American Idol

Erika Van Pelt: 'I Felt Shafted' by American Idol Judges

03/28/2012 at 03:45 PM EDT



Randy Jackson said she was one of the best singers in the competition.

But the American Idol judge and his costars, Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, weren't willing to save Erika Van Pelt from elimination last week.

Now, the DJ and singer from Rhode Island is voicing her opinion on her early departure, which she says took her by surprise.



"I definitely felt a little shafted by their decision not to save me," she tells PEOPLE, referring to the panel's ability to veto the audience's decision one time during the season. "It's one of those things that, in hindsight, I'm looking at it like they didn't want to use their save this early."

In her chat with PEOPLE, Erika cited Casey Abrams's elimination and subsequent save by the judges early on in season 10. Then, when frontrunner Pia Toscano also ended up in the bottom just weeks later, there was no opportunity to save her, and Toscano was sent home in what has become one of Idol's most shocking eliminations.

"I was not expecting to be the first of the top ten to go home – certainly. I'm not sure they were expecting it either," Erika says. "But I feel like even if they felt like I didn't deserve to go home, they just didn't want to waste that save in case America decided to do something really crazy."

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