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Today is

Round of 5: Then and Now - May 2

Those who read GSNN know that I was born in the ripe year of 1980. Number 1 on the day that Charlie and Olivia Alexander produced my brother and me? "Rock With You" by Michael Jackson (thanks OzNet Music Chart!).

Number 1 this week? "Bad Day" by Daniel Powter. Which someone will hear tomorrow night.

Why this incessant rambling? Because that's what this week in Idoling is all about: Billboard Hits Now and Then. Now is today, then is (insert year of your birth here). But instead of playing with a giant light-up pie, we're playing with five people who want to be the next American Idol.

We start with the year they were born, and we start with Elliott Yamin. Born: 1978 in Richmond, VA (C-Note: a beautiful place if I do say so myself). We're going "On Broadway" with George Benson. And Ace is watching.

What they say: Randy says that it started rough, but caught on toward the middle. Paula agrees with Randy on the ending. Simon doesn't think it was his best. "I thought it was a best disjoined. I think you're very lucky you have two songs."

What we say: This is a particularly rangy song, and Elliott didn't really have it, so he gave a compensatory performance. You can absolutely hear him try to desperately make something out of nothing... Didn't work.

Paris Bennett is next, and Princess P is taking on Prince (who didn't really want anything to do with this show, ironically). The song is "Kiss" from 1988, when Paris made her debut before a crowd of frantic Rockford, IL nurses.

What they say: Randy likes to see her have fun. Paula likes the past era more. Simon: "Screechy and annoying."

What we say: This is Paris' money shot right here. It's big, it's bombastic, it's everything Paris is. And it's nothing like we've seen last couple of weeks. And her walk on the catwalk? That is the sign of a performer. And it's a long freaking time come.

Next, Chris Daughtry takes the stage with "Renegade" by Styx. He was born in, you guessed it, 1979. His parents say he was a performer from day one.

What they say: Randy: "America... We got a REAL hot one tonight!" Paula calls it outstanding. Simon says it was a million times better than Elliott or Paris.

What we say: After weeks of experimenting, Chris is back in his comfort zone, with hard rocking lyrics and a mic-stand walk. It's pretty commanding. And yes, this is a great song choice.

Next up, Katharine McPhee, who had a wardrobe malfunction last week when she lost a button (and probably gained more votes than anyone else that night). She was born in an Olympic city in an Olympic year, Los Angeles, 1984. She challenges a song that has been challenged by many an artist (and Montell Jordan still holds the record for best remake of it), Phil Collins' "Against All Odds (Take a Look At Me Now)".

What they say: Randy says that the key wasn't exactly right on. Paula wasn't that amused either. Simon: "Tonight, in parts, it was a mess. It kinda ran away from you."

What we say: Haunting. Albeit there was a bit of a shatter toward the end. And a sour note ON the end.

After Seacrest channels Meredith Vieira for a bit (was that his audition or something?), here's Taylor Hicks with Wild Cherry from 1976. Taylor started as a blonde back in Birmingham, AL, then became a brunette, then became Michael MacDonald. The song: "Play That Funky Music".

What they say: Randy thought it was a wild choice. "I felt like I was at a bar and I had a couple." Paula calls it authentic. Simon: "It was like a horrible horrible wedding performance!"

What we say: Taylor gave his Soul Patrol reason enough to start dialing. Again, this was more driven on performance and strength than by voice. Good job. But was it good enough? Let's go to the stats...

Born to Do It: Chris, Taylor
Born Yesterday: Elliott, Paris, Katharine

Next, songs from any of Billboard's Top 10s this week. Self-congratulatory moment: to date, AI contestants have comprised 90 of the top 10 hits. We're treated (?) to Carrie's "okay-we-picked-this-woman-why?" coronation performance of "Inside Your Heaven" from last year, Kelly's "A Moment Like This" from 2002, which became the subject of a Final Jeopardy! clue when it jumped 51 places to land at #1 in week 2 of its release.

By the way, Season 5 Encores, the AI5 CD, is coming May 23, one night before the next American Idol is crowned.

Right now, Elliott sings Michael Buble's "Home."

After Ryan stops Elliott from escaping, what they say: Randy liked the song choice. Paula likes his richness. Simon: "I'm not sure I would've chosen a lyric that said 'I want to go home tonight.'" He's worried that the song didn't have much of a hook.

What we say: Much better than his first performance. But didn't do much with it. Perhaps it was because of Buble. Hard to top Buble. Gordon and I are Buble-heads. We'll see what he has to say tomorrow. But it was nice. Not sure it was nice enough, though.

Next, Paris does Mary J. proud (we hope) with "Be Without You".

What they say: Randy said it was a big risk, but did her thing. Paula says that it was very difficult to catch Mary, but she loved it. Simon said that she did very well.

What we say: Not Mary J. Not even close. Breath control, a career killer.

Next up, Chris with Shine Down's "I Dare You".

What they say: Randy likes the song, but it was a bit alright. Paula didn't like the song either. Simon didn't like the song either, and says that Chris' voice is going. However, the first song redeemed him.

What we say: Good show, although whoever chose the fire backdrop should be fired. And yes, Chris, your voice is going. Fatigue is definitely starting to set in. If you don't control that, you'll be watching the final two from the audience.

Next up... oh god, this is my joint right here... Kat better not mess up KT Tunstall's "Black Forest & the Cherry Tree".

What they say: Randy: "Now THAT's more like the Katharine we know!" Paula: "This was a much better performance." Simon: "Taylor's lying down, you're on your knees. This is a strange show." Typical bloke, that Simon. He prefers THIS song to the last one...

What we say: ... And I don't blame him one bit. Congratulations, Kat. You didn't mess it up. It wasn't great by any means, but barring a hemorrhage from the Kellie ouster of last week, we should see you next week, which will make men aged 18-34 happy.

One more, it's Taylor Hicks with "Something" from the Beatles, which is actually on a compilation that's #9 this week, so it counts.

What they say: Randy thought it was a good song choice, but it was Beatles-lite. Paula says that he didn't oversing it. Simon calls him a very good singer.

What we say: Walk it off, Taylor. Walk it off. You did good.

Kelly Clarkson: Chris, Katharine, Taylor
William Hung: Elliott, Paris.

So here's the rundown. Chris is the man to beat tonight, with Katharine and Taylor fighting for the second-banana spot. Elliott and Paris... well, their fans know what they gotta do. But will they do it? Results in 24.


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