LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Danny Gokey was proclaimed the "Hero" of "American Idol."

Three of the show's four judges heaped praise on the 28-year-old church music director from Milwaukee on Tuesday, following his rendition of the Mariah Carey tune "Hero" at the end of the Fox singing competition's first performance show of season eight.

"You are the hero, man," said Kara DioGuardi. "You give us all hope. You were great."

Gokey was the last to perform in a group of 12 singers out of the top 36 semifinalists. The judges directed their harshest criticism at Stephen Fowler, Casey Carlson and Stevie Wright, who Simon Cowell said had "zero" chance of advancing to the next round. The top three vote-getters will be revealed during Wednesday's live episode.


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(This version CORRECTS APNewsNow. corrects to first performance show sted first show.)