Born in the U.S.A.: Top 50 Stars of the 50 States

Virginia: Bruce Hornsby. The singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist has serenaded his home state in such descriptive songs as "The Red Plains," "The Valley Road" and "The Road Not Taken" (in which he sings of falling in love "with an Appalachian girl").

Courtesy of the Artist

Ask Billboard is updated every Friday. As always, submit your questions about Billboard charts, sales and airplay, as well as general music musings, to askbb@billboard.com. Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S.

THEY WRITE THE SONGS (AND SING THEM, TOO)

Dear Gary,

I read with interest your column inremain perfect, as I correctly guessed that Ashthon Jones and Karen Rodriguez would leave the "Idol" stage first and second, respectively).

I agree with you that Alaina and Toscano are ready to hit the studio now. I can envision Alaina recording country-tinged pop, since her voice is similar to Clarkson's and Underwood's, which the judges have noted. And, Toscano could provide adult contemporary radio with ballads in the vein of Celine Dion and Leona Lewis.

That's a great part of "Idol" this year: so many of the contestants already sound radio-ready. I'd add that Scotty McCreery and the right song could combine for a hit at country and that Paul McDonald would be a natural on adult pop and triple A radio, especially since his former band, the Grand Magnolias, has already charted on Heatseekers Albums, having taken its self-titled set to No. 16 two weeks ago.

Plus, Jacob Lusk would sound at home at adult R&B/gospel and James Durbin at pop/adult pop.

Abrams and Haley Reinhart also have unique, and strong, voices to succeed at radio, although it may be too soon to figure out whether Abrams is more rock than pop (which perhaps confused voters this week?) and whether Reinhart is country, pop or jazz. Maybe a bit of all three; nice to see the judges, at least, appreciate her versatility Wednesday with their strongest praise of her yet.

The true test, ultimately, will be each singer's songwriting chops (as well as stage presence) before we can get the best gauge of their prospects for career longevity.

In all, though, a fun season so far. (A bonus: Ryan Seacrest and the judges appeared to instill a ban on the word "pitchy" this week. Better late than never!)

As always, follow Billboard.com's complete coverage of the 10th season of "American Idol" and please feel free to share your opinions in the comments section below or by e-mailing askbb@billboard.com.

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