Why? How? Read on.
1) She Has Celebrity Support - Haley has the endorsement of the much-worshipped Lady Gaga, who let her sing the unreleased Born This Way track "You & I" two weeks ago and clearly bonded with her last week. Revered Idols Kelly Clarkson and Adam Lambert have also enthusiastically tweeted their support, and I've always hypothesized that once Haley's rumored love interest and occasional duet partner, fellow growly jazz Idol Casey Abrams, got cut, many of his votes would go to her. She also has at least one "Idol" big-wig in her corner: Universal Records' Jimmy Iovine, who arranged to have her sing "You & I" and has frequently praised her on the show. But perhaps most impressive is the fact that this week, after hearing her game-changing cover of the Animals' "House Of The Rising Sun," the members of Led Zeppelin contacted Haley and gave her permission to cover their songs this week. (She'll be doing "What Is & What Should Never Be.") Zeppelin have only ever granted one other "Idol" contestant, Season 8's Adam Lambert, such permission, so Haley's in mighty good company.
2) The Country Vote Will Be Split - I suspect "Idol" producer Nigel Lythgoe, who recently launched a country talent competition, "CMT's Next Superstar," once fancied the idea of an all-country Scotty/Lauren finale. And he may still get his wish. But the truth is, not everyone in America digs country music, so this means that non-country fans have only Haley as an option, while the country vote will be split. (Fans of old-school country & western are more likely to vote for Scotty, and pop-country fans will favor Lauren, though my guess is the unstoppable Scotty will prevail.) It's also possible that some of popular eliminated contestant James Durbin's votes will go to Haley, since she's the edgiest contestant left (no, she isn't Gaga-edgy, but at least she takes risks and flashes some leg on occasion).
3) America Loves Underdogs - Haley has experienced the steepest upward trajectory in "Idol" history, the ultimate underdog story arc, metamorphosing from bottom-three cannon fodder to girl-to-beat. A few weeks ago, most viewers (including myself) would have been shocked to imagine Haley making the top three; it was in fact a surprise when she even made the top 13 back in February. But since "House Of The Rising Sun," the rising Haley has had many pundits predicting that she actually has a chance of winning this whole thing. The fact that the judges have continued to berate her--over-criticizing her performances, while over-praising the others'--has only galvanized her sympathetic fanbase, who've rallied behind her and sent frontrunners like James and Casey home instead. Even Haley's feisty attitude last week, when she finally stood up for herself and sassed back to her biggest critic, Randy Jackson, worked in her favor. ("Idol" viewers usually prefer contestants to be humble, self-effacing, and perpetually polite.) Haley's hard work, from Season 9 reject to Season 10 top three finalist, has paid off, and that's a story America can get behind.
5) iTunes Numbers Don't Lie - Of the top 25 most popular "Idol" iTunes downloads this season (based on the number of iTunes song ratings and their star ratings), Haley has six of them, according to last week's figures, with "House Of The Rising Sun" at number one, "Bennie & The Jets" at number two, and "Rolling In The Deep" at number three. (Her "Blue," "I Who Have Nothing," and "Piece Of My Heart" are also on the list.) Scotty has three, and Lauren has only two. Of course, this information must be taken with a grain of salt, since the rejected James Durbin also has six songs on the list. But the fact that the top three tunes are all Haley tracks has to count for something.
7) She's Peaking At The Right Time - Lauren peaked way too early, then never quite lived up to the promise of her famous first audition. Scotty has been consistent throughout the competition, but we haven't seen a huge amount of growth from him. Haley, on the other hand, keeps getting better; her two "moment" performances have taken place during the past two weeks, and it's those performances that are fresh in voters' minds. Remember when Kris Allen sneaked into the finale at the last minute with his top three week performance of "Heartless"? Don't assume Haley won't pull off a similar feat this week.
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