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Round of 7: The Great American Songbook - April 18

We're down to seven on the road-ak to the Kodak on American Idol. This week, our would-be stars have a shot at a challenging week... Singers and standards. And what better standard collection do we have than Rod Stewart's four-disc anthology "The Great American Songbook"?

Speaking of which, Mr. Stewart is helping out the Idols this week. "We had blues and jazz in the jazz era. And jazz eventually turned into swing music, and from that we got rock'n'roll, so it's all connected. I've always loved these songs. I was brought up on them. They're really in my blood."

He'll sing tomorrow live. Tonight, though, first up, Chris Daughtry, who says that people will be surprised at what he's doing. It's a bit of a departure, but "it means so much to me." The song? "What a Wonderful World." Rod calls it a vocal push.

What they say: Randy: "For everyone that thought there wasn't another side of Chris? You slayed them." Paula says that he is in it to win it. Simon takes credit for that performance. "I thought it was a great performance."

What we say: Surprisingly adept. He's pushing himself vocally, and it works. The only problem I can see is that his target audience may not buy the "softer side of Chris Daughtry." We all remember what happened with Pearl Jam's "Last Kiss". We haven't heard from Eddie and the boys since.

Some real time with Paris Bennett before she performs. She talks about her Easter basket. Paris says that she's comfortable with the theme, having been brought up with Ella and Billie. Rod says that she has a jazz background. And she'll play on that with "These Foolish Things." "For 17, she's astounding," Rod says.

What they say: Randy says that this was her greatest night ever. "This was a classy great performance." Paula says that this song reminds her of the first audition, saying that this kind of album would blow up for her. Simon: "You talk like a mouse, but you sing in this very adult way. I thought it was terrific."

What we say: Something funny about Paris enunciating. But that was a perfect Billie Holliday performance. Now when the heck are we going to hear a Paris Bennett performance? I mean, it was good, but I've seen Paris as Paris, and she does better with that.

What Randy says... about Simon: "I think he might be drunk."

Taylor Hicks gets some pre-show showtime from a show that airs on Saturday night, not taped. They can't say it. But it doesn't hurt Taylor any way. He thinks that Rod Stewart is another one of his idol. He sings "You Send Me" by Sam Cooke. Rod says that Taylor is very good at grabbing the audience by the balls.

What they say: Randy was blown away by everyone in their element. "You put your own self into the end, and it was hot." Paula says that he's finally in the zone to go the distance. "I think the Soul Patrol is probably on fire today!" Simon thought lame cabaret to start, but magic to finish.

What we say: He flubbed one lyric, but the rest of the performance is forgiveness enough. I think Taylor did enough tonight to send the Soul Patrol into a frenzy.

Three good performances... The competition is on. Elliott Yamin is next to tap into the Great American Songbook. He goes into "It Had to Be You". Elliott likes standards.

What they say: Randy called good song choice. Paula calls him "Michael Buble, with more soul." "In five seasons, I have never seen so many singers who are capable of winning this." Simon thought it was a good vocal, but the performance lacked personality.

What we say: Good song choice and good performance, but nothing we aren't acclimated to yet.

Next up, our little minx Kellie Pickler, a "little firecracker." "She's bubbly." She hopes to be bubbly on "Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered."

What they say: Randy asks her, "What am I going to say?" Kellie: "I butchered it!" Randy says it wasn't a good song choice. Paula liked the dress and the shoes and the beginning... but then delivers what has to be the biggest back-handed compliment I've ever heard. "I can't wait for your acting career." Simon: "It was a boring song. It didn't suit you. It could've been 'bewildered'."

What we say: I thought I never would say this... I completely agree with Kellie Pickler. From the skipping beat to the awful tone, it's case enough for elimination.

Ace Young is next with "That's All". This seems to be more of his speed. "These have been songs that have been sung by the best." Rod thinks that it was better than he did.

What they say: Randy liked the style, but had a bit of a problem with the bridge. "The false is money, dude." Paula likes "The whole new Ace". Simon: It wasn't bad. It was charming, but he echoed Randy's sentiments.

What we say: It was a bit safe. I mean, Ace had every opportunity to do something with this song... and he didn't, save for the end. And the ponytail? No.

Finally, we have the main beneficiary of this night, Katharine McPhee. She wants to do "I Only Have Eyes for You" or "The Way You Look You Tonight." She ends up singing... "Someone to Watch Over Me." "Katharine, I believe, was born to sing standards."

What they say: Randy: "This is your element. You love these kinds of song. You sailed on this. I loved it. It was excellent." Paula: "I feel like I'm falling in love with the essence of who you are." Simon: "You made the others look like good amateurs. You look like a returning pro."

What we say: I echo Rod. Fantastic.

So what does this mean?

A higher standard: Chris, Taylor, Katharine
Sub-standard: Elliott, Ace, Paris
Standards & Practices CLEARED this?: Kellie

Okay, by the time you read this, you'll have voted already. But we go to roundtable time on the other side of this link.

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