Sunday, May 1, 2011

Haley Reinhart on American Idol: Will a Chicago native win American Idol two years in a row?

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Haley Reinhart, of Wheeling, has made it to the top 5 on this season of American Idol, and is one of only two females remaining in the competition. Haley has arguably been this season's underdog, both because of the audience preferring to vote male contestants through while ignoring awesome female singers (Pia Toscano!) and because it seems judges Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and Randy Jackson are often harsher on her than the other contestants, whose flat or off-key notes they ignore.

During the first few weeks of competition Haley received criticism for "not knowing who she is an artist," as she tackled songs by Alicia Keys, LeAnn Rimes, and Whitney Houston, singing them with her distinctive growl. I'm not sure what the judges expect on a show that has the contestants participating in theme weeks. I love the fact that Haley is versatile enough to sing R&B, soul, country, jazz, and rock. I think she brought those diverse influences to her performance of "Benny and the Jets" during Elton John week, which is one of my favorites from any singer this season. She started the song slow with only piano accompaniment and once she hit the chorus let loose with some very rockin' riffs.
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"Moanin'": Scat-Off between Haley and Casey! (Haley won.)
Apart from her singing, I admire Haley's fighting attitude on AI. When Haley was the only contestant to receive negative comments during Songs from the Movies week for her performance of Blondie's "Call Me," she came back the next night for the results show and not only redeemed herself but blew everyone away on the duet "Moanin'" with fellow contestant Casey Abrams. During that performance you could hear the softer jazzy side of her voice; she sounded like she stepped straight out of a 1940s jazz club or something. And, of course, her scatting was fun and just seemed effortless for her. Another highlight, even though she may have struggled with a few notes, was her cover of Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" for Songs of the 21st Century week. She definitely had guts to cover such a current song, and even though it's impossible to outsing Adele, I again enjoyed the jazzy throwback sound to Haley's voice, and thought she would sound great on the radio singing songs in that same style.

I think Haley deserves to make it to the Top 3, but that may be difficult with the large followings for contestants Scotty McCreery, James Durbin, and Lauren Alaina. Right now I think both Scotty and James are locks for two of the spots, which leaves the third spot to either Haley, Lauren, or Jacob Lusk, who I am guessing is the next to go. With Mount Prospect native Lee DeWyze winning AI last year, I think it would be amazing for another Chicago-area native to win the show this year. Go Haley!