The “American Idol” audience has grown accustomed to singers resurrecting older unfamiliar songs hoping to gain an edge on the competition. They’ve also seen finalists put innovative, good, strange and often entertaining twists on familiar songs. But Top 5 finalist Haley Reinhart, with the help of mentor Jimmy Iovine and the blessing of Lady Gaga, really took a risk when she performed a previously unheard and unrecorded Lady Gaga penned song, “You And I.” But was it a risk worth taking?
On stage before the performance, Haley told “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest that Iovine had approached her with the song and suggested she perform it as her “Now” song for the week’s theme “Songs from Now and Then.” The 20-year-old Illinois singer said she was honored but didn’t want to “step on toes,” so she contacted Lady Gaga herself, who gave her personal blessing for Haley to peform the song. And if anyone was under the impression that Jimmy Iovine thinks Haley has something special, it was reinforced when he said after rehearsal, “She’s got it, and taking on this song is another way of showing she’s got it.”
The song had a bluesy feel to it (something not exactly familiar when it comes to Lady Gaga’s material), but that just might have been Haley Reinhart’s interpretation of it. With that raspy, smoky, torch singer style she has, Haley presented the song with power, building up from the slow beginning and going high, rocking out at the end. Well performed, she did the one thing with her vocals and presentation that she should have: Made certain that she wouldn’t be compared to Lady Gaga.
Still, the judges were mixed on what to think. Judge Jennifer Lopez said she liked the way Haley sounded but was unsure if singing an unfamiliar song was the right strategic move at this point in the competition.
“I’m not sure it’s that great of a song,” Randy says (disrespecting Lady Gaga, current Queen of Pop?). “I always think of you more in the Joss Stone way. … It’s so risky to come out and do something that no one’s familiar with.”
But judge Steven Tyler had no reservations. “I think you put all of Haley, your range, into it,” he said. He then added that when somebody can put all of themselves into an unknown song, it was a wonderful thing. “I think you’re one perfect song away from being the next American Idol.”
Gutsy? Daring? Risky? Crazy? Chancy? Or can’t Haley Reinhart catch a break from judges who have seemed to find something critical to say about almost every one of her performances? All of the above? Did Haley’s cover of “You And I” work? A bonus aspect of performing a previously unreleased song that the judges seemed to overlook is that previously unreleased and new songs are debuted on “American Idol” all the time by established artists, so the performance could have been viewed in that light: on the singing and on the song’s merits alone.
What really matters is: Was “You And I” good enough for Haley to transcend the Top 5 and continue in the competition? Haley Reinhart fans and “American Idol” viewers can find out when the results show names the Top 4 finalists on Thursday, May 5. Myrtle Beach fans of the show can catch the reveal on WFXB Fox TV.