Haley Reinhart Says ‘American Idol’ Judges ‘Just Wanted To Push My Buttons’

Third-place finisher also denies romance with Casey Abrams in call with reporters.

Though she had to endure the slings and arrows of the judges’ criticism from week to week, ousted “American Idol” third-place finisher Haley Reinhart said she tried not to get online and read what “Idol” blogs were saying about her to save herself from too much negativity.

Speaking to reporters on Friday (May 20), she did, however, say that she appreciated the online support she got from former “Idol” runner-up Adam Lambert, who she dubbed one of the most “spectacular” contestants in the show’s history.

A number of questions focused on her sometimes difficult relationship with the judges, which Reinhart said she tried not to sweat too much.

“It could go both ways,” she said of the flack she got versus the nearly universal plaudits for finalists Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina . “I believe their intention for it through this whole process was to push me along further. It was apparent that they liked to get me to where I could be at the top of my game and get me a little fired up inside so that I come out with something that they really, really did not expect.”

As confused as she was about why the judges seemed to pick on her, Reinhart said even fellow finalists like Alaina would come up to her and express bewilderment over the sometimes cutting remarks. “The only thing I can try to get out of that is that they really just wanted to push my buttons, push me as far as I could possibly [go to] get whatever they wanted to get out of me,” she said. “And that was most of the time fire that they wanted so that I would get all ‘arghhhh,’
aggravated, and try to take it out on the stage.”

Reinhart was proud of having taken risks early on in the season, at a time when many of her peers were playing it a bit safer. Yes, it might have hurt her initially — sending her to the bottom three four times — but eventually it seemed that America caught up and appreciated her sultry, bluesy vibe.

And while hitting the bottom as many times as she did might have eroded another singer’s confidence, Reinhart said it somehow gave her a sense of invincibility. “I don’t like to sell myself short and I believe in taking that all in stride. ‘I’ve been in [the bottom three] so many times and I’m still around. … I have to step my game up even more week to week.’ And it [paid] off.”

In addition to picking her Elton John cover of “Bennie and the Jets” as her favorite performance on the show, Reinhart reminisced about her first big gig, where she sang LeAnn Rimes’ “Blue” on her ninth birthday alongside her folks at a tattoo festival.

Talking about how much fun it was to hang with the two teenage contestants headed to next week’s finale, Reinhart described herself as a “goofball,” which prompted a question about why so much of the negative sentiment online in the wake of her ouster seemed to peg her as an aloof, haughty princess.

“Definitely,” she said when asked if America got the wrong impression of her on the show. “It’s easy to get depicted in different ways on the show. … The footage that was taken … usually I’m messing around with the camera guys, we’re all cracking up together. I like to have a good time. I’m usually always bubbly. It’s different to see what comes out.”

As for whether she was angry when host Ryan Seacrest announced the results on Thursday, Reinhart denied being mad, despite what appeared to be an annoyed, incredulous look on her face.

“Not at all, not angry. Of course everybody’s going to be surprised with the verdict,” she said. “But all in all I accepted it very quickly and I took it all with a grain of salt. … This is a good thing. This happened for a reason. And it only means that I’m going to start my career as a solo artist even sooner.”

Like pal Casey Abrams, Reinhart denied a romance between the two and said the rumors probably stemmed from the fact that they were musical confidants and got very close on the show. She said they had a “different kind of connection” than the rest of the cast and when the whispers about their alleged liaison started they just kind of went with it and laughed at the tabloid attention. “We have a really, really strong relationship, not dating,” she said. “But the musicality between us has been wonderful.”

Now that she can relax and think about her debut album, Reinhart said she’d love to do something that has a “sultry blues rock” feel, and then maybe circle back at some point to record her first love, jazz.

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