SALT LAKE CITY — For placing third on “American Idol,” Haley Reinhart had to fight a surprising amount of criticism from the show’s judges.
Throughout “American Idol’s” 10th season — the Scotty McCreery year — Reinhart, then-20 years old, proved to be an old soul, putting an old-timey twist on Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets” and showcasing her growling vocals with a rendition of the Animals’ “House of the Rising Sun” that had all three judges on their feet.
But at the same time, two of those three judges often critiqued Reinhart for her song choices, including during the Top 5 week when she sang Lady Gaga’s “You and I” (the song hadn’t been released yet).
But it was Reinhart’s Top 4 performance that received the most criticism. Judge Jennifer Lopez questioned Reinhart’s choice to sing Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song,” while Randy Jackson told the singer, “You needed to be singing runs at the end. I felt like you were just screaming at the end the same note over and over.”
“I didn’t know I should even have changed that,” Reinhart retorted. “I thought it was beautiful the way it was.”
Reinhart found comfort in the words of Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, the third judge who told her, “Don’t listen to them. … They’re both wrong. … It wasn’t a hit song, but you sang it … (and) you nailed it with feeling.”
Eight years later, Reinhart said her “Amerian Idol” experience feels more like a “surreal dream.” But the 28-year-old singer from Chicago, who performs at Salt Lake's Urban Lounge on April 20, knows all of it — including the criticism — has helped get her to where she is now.
“(‘American Idol’) preps you for this roller coaster of a business,” she told the Deseret News. "We used to call it ‘star boot camp,’ all of us kids on the show. The lessons I’ve learned and taken with me will last a lifetime. … (And) the encouragement from somebody like Steven Tyler, … what I gained from him, and what I believe in more than anything, is be your truest self, your most authentic version of you.”
To that end, Reinhart chose to self-produce her fourth album, “Lo-Fi Soul,” which the singer released last month. Of all her albums, Reinhart said this is the one where she’s had the most creative control. “Lo-Fi Soul” includes newer music as well as songs Reinhart wrote many years ago — songs that received pushback from previous producers. But thanks to “American Idol,” the singer was already used to that kind of criticism.
“When you’re with a label, you might not always get the reaction you’re looking for,” she said. “I just didn’t get the reaction I wanted, so I was like, ‘I’m just gonna wait until it feels right.’ And that time is now because I’m independent and I’m doing it exactly how I want — even though I’d always pushed to do that. This album more than ever has been my full direction. I’ve had to really step up and be even more of a business lady than I already am, but it already feels that much more rewarding because of all the time and the hard work put into it.”
Since her days on “American Idol” and leading up to this newest album, Reinhart has received widespread attention for her work with Postmodern Jukebox — a music collective that reimagines contemporary songs with a vintage twist. Her jazzy interpretation of Radiohead’s “Creep” from 2015 has received more than 60 million views and remains one of PMJ’s most popular videos to date. Later that year, Reinhart’s popularity grew with her rendition of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” for an Extra Gum commercial. And just last year, she collaborated with “Jurassic Park” star Jeff Goldblum on his debut jazz album. Many of these projects have put Reinhart in the limelight, which is why the release of her self-produced album couldn’t have come at a better time.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of other people's projects, so I think it’s kind of my time now more than ever to capitalize on what I’m putting out,” she said. “You can help a lot of other people push their product, which is great and I’m humbled by that, but that’s also why I’ve taken a lot more time to focus on me … and kind of just take some of that ownership and credibility back.”
If you go …
What: S&S presents Haley Reinhart
When: Saturday, April 20, 6 p.m.
Where: Urban Lounge, 241 S. 500 East
How much: $22 in advance, $25 day of show