To say that Leah LaBelle had her work cut out for her on this night would be putting it mildly . The 17-year-old Seattle schoolgirl had advanced to the Final 12 from the AI3 Wild Card Show by the grace of judge Paula Abdul, who put through LaBelle over highly-rated Suzy Vulaca and three other contestants. The Idolsphere rather forcefully disagreed with this decision, and many blamed LaBelle personally for the outcome. (Don't ask why or how this could be possible; we just report what we find.)
LaBelle clearly needed a knockout performance to advance, but this was a self-TKO. Her vocals, which had been solid on her two slower and more soulful pre-Finals numbers, failed her on the uptempo "Hangin' On." The more polite web reviewers noted that she was tinny in some places and noticeably off-pitch in others; what the less polite ones had to say we can't repeat here.
The judges minced no words. Randy told her bluntly, "That wasn't your best, and you know it." Simon, if possible, was even more direct: "Pack your suitcase. You are going home." And he was right.
When a performance receives a rating as low as 4, there's usually more at play than just poor singing. Such was the case here. LaBelle, through little fault of her own, had been cast on many websites as an early "villainess" of AI3 for reasons that go beyond Paula's controversial Wild Card selection; see her contestant page for the sordid details. Under this pressure, she turned in a very weak performance that would surely have rated out to 1-star, and quite possibly single digits, even for a typical contestant. Unfortunately for LaBelle, there were simply no positive factors working in her favor to keep the final rating out of the deepest nether regions.