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'American Idol' recap: What do the judges have against Haley?

MB1_9451 Am I the only one who's feeling a little "emo," to use Haley Reinhart's word, after Wednesday night's "Idol," in which the top four "Idol" contestants performed first a song that inspired them and then a song from the collection of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, on which they were mentored by Lady Gaga?

Because I really think the judges unfairly piled on Haley, while equally unjustly lavishing praise on a cringe-inducing performance by Scotty McCreery -- and I'm feeling a little put out about it.

After rightly admiring James Durbin's (OK, vaguely pandering) performance of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' " -- "You did it right," said Steven Tyler; "Great song, great job, great performance," said Jennifer Lopez; "The highest degree of difficulty and you did it!" said Randy Jackson, who actually played with Journey briefly back in the late '80s -- the judges pretty much yanked the carpet out from under Haley after she performed Michael Jackson's "Earth Song."

Haley started off slowly, and then growl-kicked into a higher gear as the song took off, singing with a passion that stirred and kinda stunned. Was it her best vocal performance on "Idol" ever? No, but it was emotionally inspired and inspiring -- ostensibly the point of the exercise and a quality the "Idol" judges praised when James performed Badfinger's "Without You" last week.

You knew things were not going to go well by the sound of Jennifer Lopez's voice when she took the mic to give Haley feedback over the applause. "So Haley, here's what I loved about that," she said, and did praise the feeling behind the song before expressing disapproval for Haley's song choice. OK, fair enough. But then Randy had at Haley, telling her the song was at the top of her range and "just not your vibe." Haley protested that it wasn't the top of her range and she "just felt it," but it did her little good. "I didn't like it," Randy summed up. "I thought you were screaming."

Haley -- eyes narrowed, mouth compressed -- did look like she was stifling a scream. Thank goodness for Steven who said, "Haley, what do you get from that? They're both wrong. That song showed me that you can .... The audience heard it and America will hear it. Don't believe them."

That would have been a fine place to let it go, and it's possible that Ryan Seacrest was trying to defend Haley by asking the judges, "What is she supposed to with that concoction of feedback?" But it just fired them up again.

Then, after all four of the contestants had sung -- Scotty the flag-waving Alan Jackson song “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning),” which includes the lyric "I know Jesus and I talk to God," a lyric he particularly seemed to feel; and Lauren Alaina the Martina McBride song "Anyway," which she said she could "really relate to" with "all the devastation in my hometown and the South from the tornadoes last week" -- Ryan called all the contestants back onstage and asked the judges who'd won the round and who had something to prove on the next round. Then they piled on poor Haley again. The first round was "a tie between Scotty, James and Lauren," Randy said, adding that Haley would have to " up her game next round."

Round 2 for Haley was like a replay from last week (though with the delightful addition of special guest mentor Lady Gaga, with whom Haley appeared to have a special bond). She stepped out on that stage with something to prove, and proved it, singing the heck out of Ben E. King's "I Who Have Nothing" and prompting a Standing O from the judges. But even then, they continued to harp on that first performance.

"Haley, Haley, Haley, this is why we can't take it easy on you," Jennifer said. "Look what you're capable of, baby. That was amazing. One of the best performances of the year."

Randy said Haley "came back" and "got mad" and "had a moment" then trotted out an "in it to win it," adding, "This is what you had to do and you did it," and concluding that it was one of Haley's "best vocals ever."

Steven, bless his heart, said, "This was a classic moment with classic Haley. You just Reinharted yourself to the middle of next week." You know something's amiss with a judging panel when Steven Tyler is the least erratic person on it.

Ryan compared the judges' feedback for Haley to a marriage, where "yes means no" and "no means yes."

MB1_9579 But if Haley is the judges' henpecked husband, Scotty is the mistress who has inexplicably stolen their hearts. (Except he's the prudiest mistress ever -- Lady Gaga made him want to kiss his cross? Seriously, dude, loosen up a little.)

I can understand liking his laid-back Alan Jackson number, which was sincerely delivered, but the judges' feedback was a little over the top, with Randy saying Scotty was "set for superstardom" and Jennifer telling Scotty she was "in love" with him and what he stood for and that he was "meant to do this." She added, "I'm glad that we're here to witness it, that's all."

OK, fine, but Scotty's song in the second round, a neutered version of the Coasters' "Young Blood," was an embarrassment. It was like watching Bowzer from Sha Na Na mug his way through a song about a vampire. In the Coasters' hands (video below), the song is flirty and sexy and suggestive, and maybe even a little raunchy. In Scotty's hands, it just came off as crazed. Totally not the right song choice for him -- and a bouncy, funny song was probably not a great "in it to win it," stakes-raising sort of choice either, if it comes to that.

But the judges have been blinded by their mutually agreed-upon love for Scotty (Jennifer and Randy have clearly compared notes and anointed Scotty a favorite; Steven's the only one who once noted that Scotty was a "puritan," which didn't upset Scotty nearly so much as Steven's intended compliment that he'd seen him "dance with the devil.")

"Dude, were you having a good time up there?" Randy softballed Scotty's way, then called Scotty a "seasoned professional." "I think we just saw both sides of a Scotty concert," he said.

Jennifer said Scotty had "hit his stride."

Again, let us be thankful for Steven, who said, "Dude, you made Gaga's yaya go lala." And also for Ryan, who naughtily asked Scotty if he noticed him flirting with Lady Gaga, making Scotty shift around and stammer.

So, OK, look. Bottom line: I think Scotty's fine, but not all that. And that Haley has been inequitably treated by the judges. And that Lauren and James deserve the praise that has been heaped upon them. (In fact, Lauren had a particularly good night, hitting some strong, powerful notes with that Martina McBride song and playfully going at Elvis Presley's "Trouble" -- Haley-style, in fact -- and working to find her peace with the word "evil" in a way I have a hard time imagining Scotty doing. But her finest moment may have been when she leaped to Haley's defense during a post-show backstage interview, saying the judges' criticism of Haley made her "a little ill," because "Haley has the best voice on this show.")

Haley, who was not my favorite at the outset, has shown consistent growth and humor and heart and dedication over these last few weeks, and there's every sign that she can contribute her upward trajectory. Steven's right: She sings "sexy." I hope voters put her in the top three with Lauren and James.

And Scotty? Look, I'm sure he'll be a terrific country star, just as they keep telling us, but over the weeks I've tired of the mugging and the pointing and the crazed looks into the camera. And I'm liking his man's-man, swaggery persona less and less. I didn't think he was nice about Lauren when Ryan asked on-camera if they were an item, while she generously said he was "kinda cute." And I was really turned off by his response to Lady Gaga on Wednesday night's show. (It seemed intolerant to me.)

I know Scotty fans will rip into me for this. (Bring it on!) But does anyone out there agree?


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-- Amy Reiter

Photos, from top: Haley Reinhart and Scotty McCreery perform for the "American Idol" judges. Credit: Michael Becker / Fox


Comments () | Archives (19)

Yes, I agree with everything you wrote. Scotty's fun and cute and entertaining and I like him. But he's no Haley. He's no Casey, for that matter. Haley did not deserve the pounding she got for that first song, which was, if not a home run, then at least a triple (whereas Scotty's songs were base hits, at best). So yeah, not sure what the judges (Randy, Jennifer) are thinking by ripping into Haley. They think she can take it, that she'll come back better/stronger next time (which she does). Don't they think the same about Scotty? Don't they think Scotty can "take it" and come back stronger/better? Randy said that Scotty's "set for superstardom"? All the more important, then, for Randy to critique him the way he's critiquing Haley, and not patronize him.

I agree 100% Amy! Scotty seems to be able to toss out any old performance with little to no criticism from the judges. While Haley gets a really hard time, particularly from Randy and Jennifer. Yes, it's true that her song choices for the first song in the last two weeks may not have been ideal, but her performances were really good. The criticism was pretty over the top, especially from Randy this week. Hopefully, America will vote her through to the top 3!

I feel like u just crawled right out of my head!! I love Haley and I have bout heard enough from all judges with ecception of steven. I am ready for scotty to go

I think your comments are dead-on. Great writeup.

I just don't get the constant Haley-bashing from Randy and Jennifer . . . It's their prerogative to judge as they see fit, but that's the thing -- they only judge Haley. Everyone else gets a pass for a sappy performance or lack luster stage presence. And I'm sorry, but the assignment was to sing a song that inspired them. It wasn't to sing another Adele song, but I guess that's what she has to do to get the judges to praise her performance.

I agree, Amy. 100%, straight down the line. Thank you.

I watched Idol last night & to be totally honest I didn't think it was her best performance either, but unfortunatly the judges have praised all contestants so much over the weeks, even when they were clearly pitchy, instead of criticising when needed. Now they don't accept critisism at all, Hailey took on a definate attitude..but they are all a product of the Judges making.
You can't expect them to be praised continually regardless of their perfomances and not get bigheaded and all because the judges don't like to critisise them... Can you say Diva in the making
It will not help them in the future as the Media & Record companies will not be so easy on them and that will be an even bigger shock to their ego's.
Scotty was dreadful by the way, and I think the best singers actually went out to early. Sorry just my opinion

I agree, Scotty is not a "hottie" and needs to go...like 3 weeks ago!

100%. Haley has come on strong, and her "House of the Rising Sun" last week and "I Who Have Nothing" this week were some of the best Idol performances ever. I fast forwarded through most of Scotty. He didn't even take Lady Gaga's great advice about singing into the mic and she was right -- you couldn't hear him as well when he turned it sideways.

Gaga may want to have that mole on her face checked.

Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez was way off base I don't know who they were listening to but I think they are so busy trying to promote Durbin they because unfair to Haley - and its a different in opinion - because I don't like Durbin's performances at all - at not time - I like how Steven defended Halely

Haley is far more talented than the rest.

I agree. I am so sick of heard about Scotty. Haley don't you let any of them make you feel bad. She is a great singer and I can't wait to buy her first album.

Scotty's leers into the camera is kinda repulsive and creepy. I don't get what's appealing about him. Yeah he has a good voice, but his performances makes me wanna cringe and look away in embarrassment. I hate the faces he pulls and I really really can't understand how that appeals to teenage girls. I'm 23, so it's not like it's been that long since I was at that age... can a few years really make that much difference that I can't even wrap my head around why people like him so much?

Haley and James are performers. Every week I look forward to see their interpetation of a song. When Haley sang House of the Rising Sun that was one of her best performances. As much as I like Lauren and Scotty, their performances are hum drum. We know what to expect. I would like to see Haley and James as the top two. They have talent in performing and singing that is exceptional.

After hearing Haley's first song, I was thinking "is she shouting or what??? and then came the criticisms from Randy thinking the same....I hate, hate, her attitude and just for that I want her OUT...sorry, I just think that her voice sounds like she has a cold and I don't like her voice...beautiful girl, but she has to "grow up" a little bit so she doesn't look like having a DIVA attitude...

Like the other comments have said, great write up. Haley by far has the most broad appeal in the competition. She actually has the chops and she has developed the attitude to become an actual pop star, which is surprisingly rare for Idol particpants. Scotty has totally turned me off, especially since he was rude to Lauren when asked if they were an item. You can tell he's worried about what his friends will think, or something along that line. Then, he treats Lady Gaga like some second rate harlot. I used to think he could be huge in the country genre, but now I'm starting to think he's not nearly humble enough to improve his act to reach that level. James has been a little less dynamic for me the last few weeks, and Lauren can be a bit pageanty sometimes. So really, Haley has been the best and most consistent performer lately, and she's had the harshest criticism. The judges better be careful or else Haley will be out like Pia.

Great summation! - Exactly on point. This season the judges have clearly become too biased - and may in fact have caused them to be more tone deaf when listen to some contestants over others.

This show is clearlys cripted - likely the producers have anointed their favorites and they expect the judges to shill for them week in and week out. Want proof? One need only to go to youtube and replay the live performances - who is praised week in and week out for mediocrity - pitchy, screaming, .... and no negatives.

As for Randy – really Dawg! You may share the name of the late great
Michael Jackson –– don’t make a comment about a song that is so blatantly wrong. To criticize Haley for that pick just was wrong. The Earth Song was not an obscure song – it’s been a hit world wide. Fair to say you didn’t like it. But for you and your lap dog J Lo to continue to attack her like you have each and every week is not proper. Some may have not approved of Haley talking back to Randy - but it truly took courage for her to do that.

Randy - you have truly become irrelevant – you have been rusting on your laurels for some time. Time to recuse yourself! Do it Randy - take the Journey (why continue to take credit for such a minor role?) and get out of town.

That should have read scripted


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