Eyebrows were immediately raised on Wednesday's (May 4) "American Idol" when host Ryan Seacrest announced Haley Reinhart would be taking on an "unreleased Lady Gaga song."
Did Reinhart get early access to Born This Way? Was she sifting through Gaga's hard drive and pillaging for rare demos and B-sides? Not quite: Turned out she'd be taking on "You and I," which Gaga has been performing in concert on her Monster's Ball Tour stops for the better part of the last year and which she debuted last June at Elton John's White Tie and Tiara Ball fundraiser in England.
Reinhart was given the song by "Idol" mentor Jimmy Iovine, who heads up Gaga's record label and who thought Reinhart could put a nice spin on the song. Prior to the performance, Reinhart said she wanted to get Gaga's approval before going ahead with it, so that she didn't "step on anybody's toes." (Or maybe she just wanted to talk to Gaga.) Gaga gave her the green light, according to Reinhart.
"She was excited about it as well," Reinhart said. "And I was like, 'You know what? I'm gonna go for it.' "
While Reinhart rehearsed the song, guest mentor Sheryl Crow called her decision to take on a song that many might not know "super bold." But Iovine — who said Reinhart "laces" the song — was confident in his encouragement of Reinhart. "She's got it," he said "And taking on this song is just another way of showing you that she's got it."
Reinhart began her performance sprawled out on the stage's steps, aided only by a piano. She sang the song's opening line — "It's been a long time since I came around/ It's been a long time but I'm back in town" — with a bluesy, boozy swagger. By song's end, she was trading runs with a chorus of three backup singers and seemed to have the moment that Crow predicted she'd have with the song.
Then the judges piped in.
The look of concern was evident on Jennifer Lopez's face, and she began by softening the blow with a compliment: "I loved the way you sounded," she said, "especially at the end." But then she laid into Reinhart for taking on what she perceived as an unknown song, and even cut into Jimmy Iovine for recommending she do it. "I'm just not sure that was the best advice that Jimmy gave you," she chided, saying she should have taken on something that "showcased you in a better way."
Reinhart — who has thrice landed in the bottom three this season — looked dejected following Lopez's criticism, and then Randy Jackson weighed in, calling "You and I" "not that great a song." "I don't know if this whole thing did you any favors," he said.
However, Steven Tyler — who's not exactly the hardest-hitting member of the judges' panel — was positive in his review. "I loved it," he said, paraphrasing the T-shirt he wore that spelled LOVE in capital letters. "I love what you do." He went on to say Reinhart was "just one perfect song away from being an 'American Idol,' " and advised her to find that song.
Onstage, Seacrest asked Reinhart what she thought of her decision to take on "You and I." Mock-stroking her chin as if in deep thought, Reinhart questioned whether it was worth taking the risk, but ultimately seemed at peace with her decision. "Hey, it was an opportunity, and I took it," she said.
Meanwhile, others were quick to defend the singer online. Reacting to the judges' drubbing, "Idol" tweeter and expert MJ Santilli posted from @mjsbigblog, writing, "I can't effing believe this garbage... VOTING FOR HALEY TIL MY FINGERS BLEED."
What did you think of Haley's performance of "You and I"? Let us know in the comments!
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