American Idol Top 30 Performances of All Time: No. 18, Haley Reinhart, “House of the Rising Sun”
There are some songs on American Idol that are done every season that never seem to resonate with the judges or fans.
“House of the Rising Sun” is one of those.
It’s not a catchy song. It’s not upbeat. It’s dark and dreary and has an edge of mysteriousness to it. If I were coaching a contestant, I’d tell them to avoid it at all costs.
Especially after what Haley Reinhardt did.
Her performance of The Animals’ song – later popularized by The Doors – had to be included on our Top 30 countdown. If you don’t believe me, watch the video. You might not remember it being as good as it was.
THE SITUATION: It was “Then and Now” Week on Season 10 of American Idol and Haley had already performed a strong version of Lady Gaga’s “You and I” and here she was, closing the night, and needed to close with something average to make it to the Top 4.
“House of the Rising Sun” is an Idol staple. It’s done every season either live or in Hollywood but it’s not exactly a go-to song if you’re trying to gain steam in the competition. Young people can’t identify with it and the older crowd compare it to the original or Doors’ version and hate it (hipsters love the shit out of it though).
Haley was in a good spot because everyone else was having quite the average week. She had already performed well in her opening number and House is a tough one to make sound bad. An average performance was going to give her the win for the night.
Instead, she went for it all and got everyone’s attention.
THE HIGHLIGHTS: The spooky start is brilliant. She goes all Bo Bice at the start, which is a huge risk because if she trips over a note, all anyone is going to remember is the poor girl on stage falling apart before the song got going. She nails it and as the band kicks in, we start getting the Haley growls.
The song couldn’t be done any better. The tone of her voice is perfect for a blues song and the growls, while hated by the judges most of the season, are ideal when doing a song like “House of the Rising Sun.”
Haley was kind of goofy cute, but her Bohemian style gives way to a little bit of sexiness during her performance; the sultry look she gives the camera as she sings “down in New Orleans” at the 1:41 mark? Hello.
She never gets carried away. Around the 2:00 mark it seems like she’s losing the song, perhaps getting overexcited, but she regains control and finishes brilliantly. She doesn’t chase huge notes because she knows she doesn’t have that voice; the raspy growl is such a huge advantage because there’s not a lot of people who can do that. She works it just right at the end and closes perfectly.
Randy calls it the best performance of the night. He was wrong.
It was the best performance of the entire season.
WHY IT’S HERE: Vocally, Haley was so far superior to Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina it’s actually embarrassing that she didn’t win. She lacked the one thing they had, and that was being a country artist. If you remember, this is the season when country fans ditched Nashville Stars (or whatever the show was called) and cranked up the Idol votes, changing the game forever.
There are songs that are untouchable on Idol (you’ll read about them once we get to the Top 10) and I’d genuinely add “House of the Rising Sun” to the list. Singing it anywhere in the ballpark of Haley Reinhart is going to be tough and if you can’t come close, you’re better off not trying it at all.
And if you sing an untouchable song, you definitely get on the list.
PREVIOUSLY: No. 19, Candice Glover, “Lovesong”
NEXT UP: The perfect final performance for the man with the same names