On last week's episode of "American Idol," season 10's third-place finisher, Haley Reinhart, returned to the "Idol" stage and quickly reminded everyone why she got as far as she did in the competition. The sultry singer gave a rousing performance of her new song "Free," the first single off her debut album, Listen Up!, out May 22.
"It was a family reunion in many ways," Reinhart told MTV News on Wednesday of returning to the show. "I felt great about doing my own thing onstage. It just shows how much hard work does pay off. This is it. 'American Idol' got me here ... this is what I worked for."
Reinhart set herself apart from the other contestants last season with her distinctive voice and bluesy sound, and she credits her individuality as the key to her success. During her return to "Idol," Reinhart shared that advice with this season's finalists.
"I got to meet up with them for a little bit. I let them know: 'You're doing a great job showing who you are,' " Reinhart said. "I think they really were in tune what was happening last season, everybody found their lane. I fought for who I was and I'm like, 'Stick with your gut and listen to all these different opinions, but take what you need and go from there.' "
Looking back at her time on "Idol," Reinhart can identify with the struggles some of the contestants are having with song choices and judges' remarks, especially during the early stages of the competition.
"In the beginning especially, I was doing all these different kinds of genres because that's who I am, and I think they were a little confused. I added soul to everything and that was my thing. If I could switch it up, make it my own by putting a bluesy spin on it ... that was me," Reinhart said. "You can't do your exact style song every single week. You just gotta keep going with the flow and find your niche."
So who has impressed Reinhart so far this season? "I caught it a lot in the beginning especially, and right when I saw Jessica Sanchez, I knew she was a force to be reckoned with," Reinhart revealed. "She's got it going on. So good luck to her and the rest of them — they have great voices."
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