"American Idol" named its thirteenth winner Wednesday evening in a star-studded extravaganza of music that featured the season's finalists, a notable line-up of music mega-stars, and a few surprises. Before it was over, Jennifer Lopez would perform twice, all the judges would sing together, and even Ryan Seacrest would lift his voice in song for the first time.
Yes. You did not mis-read. Ryan Seacrest performed. But more on that later...
Lyndsey Parker at Yahoo TV recounted the Season 13 finale May 21, noting that it was historic. In mentioning the winner, she talked of consistency in performance and staying out of the bottom on the results show. And if that isn't enough to clue you in to which of the two finalists -- Caleb Johnson or Jena Irene -- was crowned winner, then you'll have to endure a recap.
If you missed the Season 13 finale (and there is no real reason you should have, given what was on television as viewing alternatives), you just might have missed the best show of the season. It kicked off with possibly the most appropriate song of all: Queen's "We Will Rock You." Why appropriate? Because that's what was in store for the night. And that is exactly what Jena Irene and Caleb Johnson, the two finalists who dueled Tuesday night for America's votes to become the next American Idol, did throughout the season. And while Caleb rocked some Queen, Jena got ready to storm the stage with No Doubt's "Just A Girl."
Then it was one big number after another, starting with Sam Woolf and Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips. Sam did a verse from "Home" before Phillip stepped up to the microphone and launched into his current hit, "Raging Fire," a song off his just-released sophomore album.
Caleb Johnson performed with KISS, joining the famed rockers on a medley of "Love Gun" and "Shout It Out Loud," the latter possibly one of the greatest live songs of all time. No doubt fans on Team Caleb were a little worried. The last time KISS performed on "American Idol," Adam Lambert jammed with the band. And everyone knows what happened after that...
(A very cool aside: Caleb's huge little brother was called up on stage, his face painted a la KISS, to meet his favorite band.)
Jena Irene later performed with her favorite band, Paramore. She sang a few lines of "Decode" while behind the piano, then the band rocked "Ain't It Fun," their latest hit from their first No. 1 album, Paramore. The song has entered the Billboard Hot 100's Top 10 and has topped the Hot Rock Songs chart.
Alex Preston, who unfortunately was eliminated just one spot away from the finale, got to perform with his personal idol, Jason Mraz. They performed a new Mraz tune, "Love Someone."
The show also featured duets with major recording artists like Aloe Blacc, John Legend, Darius Rucker, and Jennifer Nettles.
Lady Antebellum performed their latest hit "Bartender" without a finalist intrusion. Jennifer Lopez debuted her latest song, "First Love," the same way -- except it was sexy. In fact, it was so sexy Fox Television will undoubtedly receive complaints about allowing such a performance on a show being a family show.
Still, the best part of the show came in two parts and had nothing to do with the finalists. The judges -- Keith Urban, Harry Connick Jr, and Jennifer Lopez -- and mentor Randy Jackson all performed a medley of Cyndi Lauper's "True Colors" and Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way," a truly awesome performance that showcased Lopez's vocals, Connick's keyboard skills, and Urban's ability to simply shred a guitar. The second awesome performance came when, in a trip down memory lane, host Ryan Seacrest performed "Right Here Waiting" with Richard Marx. (To explain: Ryan's first concert was a Richard Marx show.) But where the first was awesome in every way, the latter was awesome in that Ryan showed the most horrific vocal stylings ever (where's Simon Cowell when you need him?), presenting to the world the very reason why he has never performed on the show in thirteen seasons.
Finally, after two hours, Ryan was given the envelope with the results of the voting -- the name of the winner of Season 13 of "American Idol." As Caleb Johnson and Jena Irene stood with arms around each other, he made the announcement...
Caleb looked completely shocked. Jena, who has been the frontrunner in the competiton for weeks (according to professional oddsmakers), looked genuinely pleased that he won, hugging the big guy.
When Ryan introduced the latest American Idol and stepped away for Caleb to perform the coronation song, the big guy lost it. Trying not to cry or simply overwhelmed, the North Carolina rocker let Ricky Minor and the band play on, missing the first lines of his winner's song, "As Long As You Love Me." The other finalists came to his rescue, mobbing him at stage center. Still, the song wasn't a total wash. He was able to sing part of the song before the credits rolled.
For those keeping score, Caleb was the third "American Idol" winner from North Carolina. It was also his third go-round as an "Idol" hopeful. As with last year's winner, Candice Glover, the third time turned out to be a charm.
"American Idol" returns for Season 14 in January 2015. The trio of judges are expected to return, as is Ryan Seacrest as the show's host.