They billed it as the Wild Card vs. the Wild Child, the "American Idol" Season 13 finale Tuesday evening pitting Jena Irene against Caleb Johnson. And in the final performance show of the season, they didn't waste any time. The producers had an hour to get in six songs, three for each contestant. And they did. By the end of the hour, it was clear who had won the sing-off, but did that mean they would win the title as well?
As Lyndsey Parker at Yahoo Music reported May 21, Caleb Johnson seemed to have everything going in his favor, including being a guy, being from the South, getting the better coronation song, and getting to sing in the pimp spot (even though Jena Irene won the coin toss -- she elected to go first). Parker noted that the judges gave round one to Caleb, round two to Jena, and let round three go without a call. But she thought Caleb took all three rounds.
Parker's critique was spot on in every way (except that round two, which was made up of encore performances, might have gone to Jena -- maybe). Caleb dominated the show with his presence, his showmanship, and his song choices (although to be fair, the two finalists didn't pick one of the songs: The first song was chosen by "American Idol" creator Simon Fuller).
From the opening vocal notes of Aerosmith's "Dream On," you could feel everything shift Caleb's way. And when the live crowd in Los Angeles' Nokia Theatre went nuts and Judge Jennifer Lopez turned and said that that performance might have did it, you felt it, too. Jena Irene's cover of Forence and The Machine's "Dog Days Are Over" was really sound but it just didn't hold up against the rock classic. (Still, kudos to Simon Fuller for choosing two great songs for the finalists. Judge Keith Urban gave him a nod and was so impressed he suggested Fuller start a singing competition show.)
The second round was a reprise of a previous performance. Both chose a song from the Top 4 performance show. Interestingly enough, both songs came from the show's third category of Make-Up Songs. Jena did Elvis Presley's "Can't Help Falling In Love" and Caleb performed Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed." But whereas Caleb's rendition lost none of its power and allure the second time around, Jena's did, if only slightly. Oh, it was well done ("absolutely beautiful," as Keith Urban put it) but the surprise of the rearrangement wasn't there.
The third round of songs were the coronations songs. Both chose songs with "American Idol" ties. Jena Irene chose "We Are One," an anthemic rocker that she sold to the live audience, even if those at home may not have been completely sold. The song was written by Anne Preven, Mitch Allan, and "Idol" Season 8 finalist Felicia Barton.
Caleb Johnson's song, "As Long As You Love Me," was written by The Darkness' Justin Hawkins. It's "Idol" connection? It was once offered to and turned down by Kelly Clarkson. But the Season 1 winner's pass was the Season 13 finalist's gain. He rocked the number like a pro.
So who deserves to be the next winner of "American Idol?"
If one were to take into consideration only the finale, Caleb Johnson would definitely have the edge. If one were to take in the entire season, it would be a much tougher call and the edge would most likely shift to Jena Irene. And then there is the prevailing opinion among professional oddsmakers -- since the Top 8 -- that Jena is the frontrunner. If social media is a guide, Jena has more followers on Twitter and on Facebook, so...
As much as it looks like Caleb has a shot at the Season 13 title, chances are he'll wind up runner-up. Besides, no real rocker has ever won "American Idol."
Besides naming the 2014 winner, the "American Idol" Season 13 two-hour results finale has a full slate of stars scheduled to perform, including Phillip Phillips, Jennifer Nettles, John Legend, Jason Mraz, Paramore, and the incomparable KISS.