American Idol Haley
Credit: Michael Becker/Fox

It certainly seems like the producers are behind Haley Reinhart — the American Idol contestant has been given the pimp slot two times during the course of the finals. And the fans are behind her — the dark horse of season 10 has been awarded rallying cries of support online from fans of the singing reality show. Yet, the judges still can’t seem to get in Haley’s corner, regardless of her awe-inspiring vocals and interesting risks. So what’s the deal? What’s the judges’ beef with Haley?

Granted, I’m a bit biased. Always a fan of the underdog during Idol seasons past (Jason Castro, Constantine Maroulis, Kris Allen and Clay Aiken… yes, the last two were once underdogs during their respective seasons), I can’t help but be in Haley’s corner. But you have to admit that the judges’ criticism of Haley last night stung, especially considering she was following Jacob, a contestant who sang an incredibly painful, off-key rendition of Jordin Sparks’ and Chris Brown’s “No Air”… and was showered only with praise from J.Lo, who called Jacob one of the show’s best vocalists. Yes, Haley sang an unrecognizable song, Lady Gaga’s “You and I,” for her first number. But she sang it well. Better than well, actually. She sang it, in Steven Tyler’s words, beautifully. So why did the judges choose to critique the song and not Haley’s vocals?

Randy and J.Lo’s harsh words towards Haley only proved to highlight the flaw of the judging this season — their criticism encourages contestants to play it all too safe. (Scotty wouldn’t have been nearly as complacent during half the finals if he got some nudging to change things up from the panel.) Speaking with Ryan after the panel, Haley said that she’s now learned she shouldn’t take risks. Sad, considering without risk-taking, we wouldn’t have Kris Allen’s “Heartless,” Adam Lambert’s “Mad World,” Blake Lewis’ “You Give Love a Bad Name,” Bo Bice’s “In A Dream,” and pretty much any performance from David Cook. And, furthermore, their criticism of Haley for choosing an unknown song makes no sense: After all, we are expecting these Idol kids to release unknown songs in the future, right? Would the judges criticize Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” because it wasn’t already sung by Phil Collins? Should Carrie Underwood had released an entire album of Edwin McCain covers?

Yes, the judges made up for their “You and I” criticism for rightfully praising Haley’s “House of the Rising Sun.” But, still, after last night’s episode, Haley fans are starting to raise hell. Where’s the love for our little growling soul, when lesser singers like Jacob and Lauren get rewarded all the praise? And, more importantly, what’s the beef?

Follow Kate on Twitter @KateWardEW

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