John Stevens' prayers were answered last night on American Idol when

Ryan Seacrest uttered the words the embattled 16-year-old longed to hear: "The nightmare is over — you are free to go." (Or something like that.) The thick-skinned crooner's highly anticipated ouster follows last week's controversial results show, which found frontrunner Jennifer Hudson on the chopping block. The African-American diva's shock exit led Elton John to cry racism, but Idol meanie Simon Cowell dismissed those charges on Wednesday with "a definite no," predicting that Hudson's elimination would give the competition a much-needed shake-up. "There are a lot of passive viewers who complain about the results but don't pick up the phone," he says. "My gut feeling is we are going to attract 5 to 6 million new voters and the better singers now have a chance." What can I say — when he's right, he's right: Roughly 28 million votes were counted Tuesday night, a new record.