Melinda Doolittle exits 'American Idol'

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--Across the board, music enthusiasts agreed Melinda Doolittle was the best singer in the "American Idol" competition this season, but she was voted off May 16, leaving Jordin Sparks and Blake Lewis as the final contestants on the Fox reality show.

Doolittle, a graduate of Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn., was a backup singer for several gospel music acts before joining American Idol. On her biography page on the show's website, Doolittle, 29, said one of her goals was to "represent Christ well," and she said it was her practice to pray before she performed.

Anna David, a columnist for FoxNews.com, expressed dismay at Doolittle's departure.

"The competition's greatest talent has officially exited the stage," David wrote May 17. "Yes, it's true: Melinda Doolittle, the former backup singer who essentially never missed a step throughout the entire season, got the fewest of the 60 million votes 'American Idol' fans cast this week."

David attributed Doolittle's dismissal to a massive fan base of text messaging teenagers who were drawn to the other two contestants, one of which is 17 years old.

Craig Berman, a contributor to MSNBC.com, wrote something similar in a commentary posted on the news organization's website.

"If there's one thing 'American Idol' has proven over the past two seasons, it's that the best contestant doesn't always win," Berman wrote. "... Melinda Doolittle was clearly the most talented of the remaining contestants, and also the most consistent. [Judge] Paula Abdul compared her weekly performances to a vocal master class. Doolittle evoked images of Whitney Houston, Tina Turner, and Gladys Knight at various points in the competition."

The night before she was voted off the show, judge Simon Cowell, not known for his compassion, said he expected to see Doolittle in the competition's finale.

"My commiserations to you, Melinda, because you are one heck of a singer," Cowell said as the votes were announced.

On May 11, Doolittle was in Nashville taping a portion of American Idol among her hometown fan base. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen was on hand to declare a statewide "Melinda Doolittle Day," and Belmont named a street in her honor: Melinda Doolittle Way.

Doolittle told The Tennessean newspaper the best part was "seeing people I could look in the eye and say 'Thank you' to."

Though Doolittle is no longer a contender on American Idol, Sparks, of Glendale, Ariz., also has a connection to the Christian music industry. She sang on two Michael W. Smith Christmas tours, The Tennessean reported.


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