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'American Idol' contestant Haley Reinhart: A love letter to season 10's most under-appreciated singer

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Let me preface this by saying I was on the Haley Reinhart bandwagon long before she Benny and the Jettisoned her way into the judges’ hearts during last week’s American Idol. I love her gravelly voice. I love the fact that she looks like she expects to be in the bottom every week. (Hell, her favorite quote on Idol‘s website is “Que sera — whatever will be, will be.”) I love that she’s unpolished enough to perform with lipstick all over her teeth. I love that she looks like the pretty, but not bitchy girl you went to summer camp with… except when she flat-irons her hair and then looks like a kind of snobby paralegal. I even love that she can’t be put in a pre-packaged category like the other two remaining female contestants: Ballad-singing beauty Pia and Carrie Clarkson Lauren. But is Haley too unique for her own good?

Part of me thinks she won’t last beyond the next week or two because she’s neither a pretty, peppy pop star nor the object of a gazillion 12-year old girls’ affection. And despite the lipstick faux pas, she doesn’t even fill the “quirky contestant” slot that last season’s runner-up Crystal Bowersox dominated. She hasn’t been helped by singing popular songs (her Top 12 song, “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” was hideous) and the growling over-abuse will grow tired at some point. I loved her Top 11 (Part 1) performance of “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me,” but shouldn’t the growl be a spice and not a primary ingredient? And though Steven Tyler drooled, “You sing sexy!” last week, Haley is better than just a hottie in hot pants.

So what do you all think? Will Haley be just another casualty of the top 10, relegated to three solo lines during the season finale? What can she do to save herself? (Here’s hoping she continues her upward momentum on tonight’s show.) Or is my love completely misguided?

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