I’ve offered my opinions of the Idol contestants following each elimination episode this year and while I think all of the contestants remaining are great, it’s Haley who has shown the most growth over the course of this competition. (Spoiler alert: This article contains comments (and complaints) about tonight's performance episode of American Idol.) So not only did I disagree with Randy’s determination that the first round of performances was a tie between Scotty, Lauren and James, but I’m beyond disappointed that he’d single Haley Reinhart out as the one contestant who didn’t measure up.

I’m all for honest criticism but either there hasn’t been much of that this season, or the lack of criticism (constructive or otherwise) on the whole is due to the judges hearing something I'm not. It seems like performances that might have previously been described as “pitchy” have been given praise or else general nods of approval if nothing more. For some reason, the judges have had it out for Haley over the last couple of weeks and I can’t quite figure it out. Last week it was because she sang an unreleased Lady Gaga song. Never mind that she sang it well. The judges didn’t lavish her with praise for the control she showed in her voice or how well she actually performed the song. Her “House of the Rising Sun” performance redeemed her somewhat in the eyes of the judges but tonight, the criticism returned, with an vengeance.

I can’t imagine that Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” is an easy song to cover. In fact, with a song like that, I’m thinking you can either sing it or you can’t. Haley can sing it and she did it well. The arrangement suited her and she didn’t falter once. Randy criticized her for the screaming. Once again, this is where I question whether the judges are hearing the same thing I am. I like James. He has a strong voice and he’s extremely likable. With that said, he screams a lot. It’s part of his performing style and that’s fine. It’s been working for him so far. If memory serves, Randy hasn’t criticized James for screaming when he sings, so why the double-standard for Haley? She’s been showing her range, strength and control more and more week after week. A bit of belting in a song as emotional as the one she sang tonight seems fair enough.

The judges are entitled to their opinions and I’m all for that but what Randy did following the first round of performances tonight was a low blow, unnecessary and off-base. Randy stating that the “winner” of Round 1 is a tie between everyone but Haley just one commercial break away from Haley’s next performance was a ridiculous display of judging. Haley seemed visibly upset and maybe even a little bit angry by the verbal smack she received. Randy attempting to credit himself for helping give her the emotional edge to knock “I Who Have Nothing” out of the park didn’t help. If anything, the credit goes to her for keeping it together well enough to nail that song.

I’m not opposed to the judges being brutally honest if it means shining a light on a contestant’s weakness(es) and giving them advice on how to raise their game but singling Haley out the way Randy did tonight was poor form. On the bright side, this situation did inspire me to care enough to vote this week. Each of the final four contestants are solid and each bring their own style to the show this year. With that said, I’m voting for Haley and not just because she got a raw deal tonight. As I said, she’s shown the most growth and I think she has the most potential to take her career to the next level when this competition is said and done, regardless of whether or not she wins.


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