The Finale of “American Idol” took place May 20, 2014, with the first female wild card pick, Jena Irene, competing in the finals against long-time front-runner, Caleb Johnson.
It has appeared for some time that Caleb merely needs to stay healthy and not forget the words (as he did in one previous memorable “American Idol” tryout) to win the entire competition.
Jena started off the evening, singing “Dog Days Are Over,” which Keith Urban pronounced “a great song choice” for the dark-haired songstress. Urban added, “The way that you owned that stage is so good. It’s the sign of a real pro. You took it home, baby!” Jennifer Lopez remarked that it was “electric in here right now” and Harry Connick, Jr., said “Fantastic! Great choice! Great job!” The song choice for the first of three performances was made for each performer by Simon Fuller, (creator of the program_, who was pictured seated in the audience with his wife.
Caleb fought back with Aerosmith’s “Dream On!” The judges were wowed, especially when the ailing singer hit the high notes. One remarked Caleb had “channeled” Steven Tyler. (This comment about his vocal health a reminder of the doctor’s appearance at last week’s show talking about his “bruised’ vocal cords.) Even Harry Connick, who prefers ballads, said, “Phenomenal! A really great job!” Connick then went on to say he would have liked to have seen the intensity shown at the end be evident at the beginning. Keith Urban, however, disagreed with Harry, praising the way Caleb started out softly and “arced” or ramped up the intensity in his vocal rendering of the Aerosmith hit. Jennifer Lopez said each perforer must “carpe diem” and added (to Caleb), “That’s what you just did. That may have just done that right there.” I took her comment to mean that she thinks Caleb Johnson will win (which has seemed evident for some time, especially since Jena was actually in the bottom 3 one week.)
For their second song, each was allowed to select one they had performed previously. Jena Irene sang Elvis’ “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You,” which had earned her a kiss from Judge Jennifer Lopez after her first performance, two weeks’ prior. Caleb chose to sing “Maybe I’m Amazed,” a Paul McCartney tune. He was cautioned by the judges to really feel the emotion that McCartney put into his song, written for Paul’s first wife, Linda McCartney.
Then came the Final Song and each contestant sang a song composed for them.
As was the case with Phillip Phillips 2 years ago, Caleb’s song (“As Long As You Love Me”) was vastly superior to Jena Irene’s song, “We Are One.” Both did a nice job with what was given them to sing, but, just as Philip Phillips’ rendition of “Home” is literally everywhere today, expect to hear Caleb Johnson’s rocking star turn dominate this competition.
I totally disagree with Harry Connick’s verbal comparison of the Jena Irene/Caleb Johnson final match as being Mohammad Ali (Jena) versus Joe Frazier (Caleb). I understand that Judge Connick was trying to suggest that Jena Irene was more a finesse ballad singer (in the more mature tradition that he represents), while Caleb is a power singer known for rock n’ roll extravaganzas, complete with flashing lights and microphone stand bashing, but it was a bit of a “diss” to Caleb’s obvious talent. (Didn’t most fight fans prefer Ali to Frazier? Isn’ t Ali the heavyweight champ that everyone remembers? Joe Frazier, while a great fighter and a worthy competitor for Muhammad Ali, does not represent the greatness that Ali did, so the comparison was poorly chosen.
The winner will be announced on Thursday. The smart money is on Caleb.