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'American Idol': Lady Gaga steals the show without being present, thanks to Jimmy Iovine

May 5, 2011 | 11:25 am


Lady Gaga took center stage on Wednesday’s “American Idol,” even though she didn’t make an appearance in the flesh.

With a theme of “Now and Then,” contestants were given the broad task of selecting a contemporary tune to showcase, as well as an older song.  And while two past “Idol” winners were selected (Jordin Sparks and Carrie Underwood), the hype was built around 20-year-old Haley Reinhart, who decided to cover one of the most contemporary artists out there: Gaga.

Tackling Gaga shouldn’t have come as a shock to anyone watching at home, given that the singer is one of the most successful artists in today’s pop market. It was Reinhart’s decision -- OK, really, it was Jimmy Iovine’s -- to cover an unreleased song, “You And I,” that had the judges -- and now the Net -- talking.

_PG20279 The ballad, which Gaga debuted at a  "Today" show performance in July, has become a fan favorite during the singer’s extensive Monster Ball Tour.  A studio version of "You and I" has yet to surface.

“It’s a powerful song that not everybody is going to be familiar with,” Iovine said during a taped package. “Taking on this song is just another way of showing that she’s got it.”

Reinhart said that she wanted to tackle the song because Gaga’s “got a really unique voice going for her” and that she didn’t feel right about doing it until she had spoken with Gaga and gotten  permission, which she managed to do.

Despite guest mentor Sheryl Crow’s assertion that Reinhart could have a “moment” by doing the “bold choice” of song, it didn’t go over well with the judges. At all.

“You had some good moments within the show. Although it was a cool idea to do an unreleased Lady Gaga track, I’m just not sure that’s the best advice Jimmy could have gave you at this point of the competition,” said Jennifer Lopez, who herself scored two Gaga tracks for her latest album, “Love?” “You have to showcase yourself to the best you can with songs that people are going to know and love.”

Randy Jackson wasn’t a fan either, telling Reinhart, “I’m not sure it’s that great of a song. I don’t know if it did you any favors.” Steven Tyler offered his usual phoned-in advice but told her she was only one perfect song away from taking the crown. Obviously, "You and I" wasn't it.

Reinhart was steadfast that she saw an opportunity to take a risk, and she did. It was the first time an unreleased song had ever been performed on the show. Covering “You and I” could have given Reinhart an edge: Though she opens herself up to being compared to Gaga’s “unique voice,” there isn’t a radio attachment to the song and she could potentially cash in and land votes from the singer’s dedicated fans,  who undoubtedly eat up all things Gaga, including the recent “Born This Way” themed episode of “Glee.” 

Reinhart won’t know whether the decision worked in her favor until Thursday night. But despite the outcome for the finalist, Gaga and Iovine are the true winners here. 

“You and I” is set to be included on her highly anticipated disc, “Born This Way,” which comes out in three weeks. The disc’s release comes just three days before “Idol’s” finale, on which Gaga is tapped to perform. 

And by the way, she is signed to Iovine’s Interscope Records. 

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

Photos: (Top) Image of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" video, courtesy of Interscope Records/Vevo.com. (Bottom) Haley ReinhartCredit: Michael Becker / Fox