'American Idol' Displays Feat of Clay

03/06/2003 AT 10:00 AM EST

Clay Aiken, 24, of Raleigh, N.C., sang Elton John's "Don't Let the Sun Go Down on Me" on this week's edition of "American Idol" -- and then waited and waited to hear his name called as a finalist in the wild-card round.

The waiting continued as judge Randy Jackson selected Kimberly Caldwell, 22, of Katy, Texas, to move on. She sang Carole King's "I Feel the Earth Move." (She also has been a winner on the syndicated "Star Search" and a finalist on the WB's "Pop Stars.")

Aiken wiggled his legs impatiently as judge Paula Abdul picked Trenyce (real name: Lashundra Cobbins), also 22, of Memphis, who sang Al Green's "Let's Stay Together."

And Aiken sat on the edge of his chair when judge Simon Cowell chose Carmen Rasmussen, 17, a high school senior from Bountiful, Utah, who sang LeAnn Rimes's "Can't Fight the Moonlight."

Cowell dropped his trademark scowl when he said of Rasmussen: "This person has a unique voice, and I think could do very well in this competition." He said he had reached that decision after seeing a tape of Tuesday's show.

And then, at the end of the show, Aiken heard some music to his ears. "His performance last night was the best of the series so far," the acerbic judge said of Aiken.

Aiken and the other 11 contestants will now move on.

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