McDonald's rendition of Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock and Roll" during movie-themed week proved the raspy-voiced singer's undoing, despite the judges' positive comments about his performance.
The 26-year-old Huntsville, Alabama singer, whose elimination was predicted by a number of bloggers, exited by fulfilling judge Jennifer Lopez's request that he sing "Maggie May."
Stefano Langone finished in the bottom three for a second consecutive week, where he was joined by Haley Reinhart, whose "Call Me" was judged to among the weakest performances.
Had Reinhart gone home, as many expected, Lauren Alaina would have been left as the only female with a shot at winning the "American Idol" title.
Four women -- including presumed front-runner Pia Toscano last week -- have so far been voted off this year by the public.
Their early exit prompted Lopez to say on Wednesday's performance night that she was "afraid to say anything about any of the girls because I don't want any of the girls to go home."
Thursday's show featured performances by the first "American Idol" winner, Kelly Clarkson, who sang a duet, "Don't You Wanna Stay," with Jason Aldean, and Rihanna, singing "California King Bed."
The seven remaining finalists are Casey Abrams, who last month scored the judges' once-per-season save, James Durbin, Scotty McCreery, Jacob Lusk, Langone, Alaina and Reinhart.
After bringing in Lopez and second new judge, rocker Steven Tyler, the nation's top-rated TV show has recovered this season from several years of flagging ratings, holding steady at about 25 million viewers.
The "American Idol" finale airs on the Fox network in May when viewers will choose the next "Idol" star, and he or she lands a recording contract.
Past winners include such Grammy-winning artists as Carrie Underwood, as well as Fantasia Barrino who has performed on Broadway, while even "losing" contestants such as Clay Aiken, Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson and Adam Lambert have become breakout stars in their own right.
(Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Jill Serjeant)