Haley wows Idol judges with fierce comeback

Updated 5/5/2011 12:00 PM
  • Haley Reinhart, seen here performing last week, wowed the judges Wednesday with her rendition of "House of the Rising Sun."

    Haley Reinhart, seen here performing last week, wowed the judges Wednesday with her rendition of "House of the Rising Sun." Michael Becker/FOX

Redemption was sweet for Haley Reinhart Wednesday night.

But was it sweet enough?

Raked over the coals by the "American Idol" judges for choosing an obscure track for her first number, the Wheeling native roared back with a powerhouse cover that Randy Jackson dubbed the performance of the night.

"Now & Then" night got off to a sour start for Reinhart. She decided to go with an unreleased Lady Gaga song called "You and I" that producer and mentor Jimmy Iovine suggested might be a good fit despite the fact that it's known by about .02 percent of "Idol" voters.

The Wheeling native was solid enough vocally, though she struggled with the low parts of the song. The judges however, seemed little concerned with how she sounded and excoriated her choice.

"I'm not sure it's that great of a song," Jackson said. "I always think of you more in the Joss Stone way. ... It's so risky to come out and do something that no one's familiar with."

Conspiracy theorists have to wonder about the fairness of "mentor" Iovine basically instructing Reinhart to sing a song few people are familiar with, when the rest of her competition sang songs that were hits.

"I don't think Jimmy did you any favors with that song choice," Lopez said. "I'm not sure you want to do that."

Though Reinhart was visibly upset after her first performance, she managed to pull herself together to deliver one of the best performances of the season.

Her cover of The Animals' "House of the Rising Sun" started out in haunting a cappella style before building to a dramatic crescendo that allowed Reinhart to show just how powerful her voice truly is.

This time she brought the judges on their feet.

"The award tonight for the best performance of the night goes to Haley!" Jackson said. "You've grown by leaps and bounds."

"I don't know if you came out a little angry at us from before," Lopez said. "That song has never been sang like that before. Amazing."

But with Reinhart in the bottom three nearly every week, it's hard to know if the judges' praise for "House of the Rising Sun" will be enough to save her from elimination tonight -- especially when the other four Idols heard little criticism all night.

The results come in at 7 p.m. Thursday on Fox.