I can count on one hand the number of “American Idol” seasons where I thought both finalists deserved to be crowned the winner — Season 7 (David vs. David), Season 12 (Candice vs. Kree) and now Season 13. Both Caleb Johnson and Jena Irene are fabulous singers and I wish they could both win.
But they cannot, so let’s find out how they each did for the finals. It’s interesting that Jena won the coin toss and chose to go first. Bold move, indeed.
1. Jena Irene, “Dog Days Are Over,” Florence + The Machine
This is a good choice for her, though she’s hard to hear on the verse. I can’t tell if it’s because its’ a shade too low for her or if it’s a sound levels problem — or it could be nerves — but either way, once she hits the chorus Jena finds her stride and works it out. It’s not my favorite of Jena’s performances because there’s just something magical about her when she’s at the piano and she loses a bit of that magic when she’s not, but this was a solid start.
2. Caleb Johnson, “Dream On,” Aerosmith
Thank goodness it’s one of Aerosmith’s songs that is actually good, none of that “Don’t Wanna Miss a Thing” nonsense. This is a perfect choice for Caleb and he comes out guns blazing on it. There are no nerves here. He sounds like he should be fronting a rock band, and I hope he goes on to do that because he’d be perfect for it. He goes for the high stuff and …… holy crap. Wow, you kind of expect Caleb’s throat to explode right there on stage. He nails it.
Jena did a good job, but Round 1 clearly goes to Caleb.
3. Jena Irene, “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” Elvis
I’m so glad Jena chose this one for her favorite song of the season. In case you missed it (or don’t watch), Christina Grimmie performed this on “The Voice” last night and both ladies have done an excellent job with it this TV season. In fact, Keith Urban even references “The Voice” performance (without actually saying the name of the show, like it’s Voldemort or something) by saying that Jena inspired Christina to perform this song. Well, maybe. But I like both versions.
Anyway, Jena does a beautiful job again, but it’s not quite as special as the first time because, obviously, we just saw her do this two weeks ago. Still, this was a huge step up from her first song tonight. This was the way to go for Round 2.
4. Caleb Johnson, “Maybe I’m Amazed,” Paul McCartney
I’m a little surprised that Caleb chose this one, but maybe he’s bookending the night with two rock songs and wanted to be a little more soulful and romantic in the middle. Though no sooner do I type that and Caleb is making the song a little more rock ‘n roll than the first time he performed it, if memory serves. Either way, he does a nice job with it because Caleb is a talented singer, but it’s definitely not as electric as his first song, nor is it as good as Jena’s second song, so Round 2 goes to Jena.
5. Jena Irene, “We Are One,” winner’s single
It really is remarkable that she’s a wild card pick and singing in the finals. The only other person to do that is Clay Aiken. Anyway, there are two things to judge here: Jena’s performance and the song itself. As far as the song goes, I don’t love it. It’s OK, but it’s a little bland until the very end where Jena can really let loose. It’s too bad they didn’t give her something for piano.
Vocally she gave it all she’s got. Jena has a beautiful voice, but I just don’t think it’ll be enough to topple Caleb.
6. Caleb Johnson, “As Long as You Love Me,” winner’s single
Well, Caleb’s winner’s single is 1000x better song than the one Jena got stuck with. That’s a shame, hardly seems fair — as if he needs more help, right? But I’m only lightly ribbing, I love Caleb’s voice, he’s extremely talented and deserves to win. He gives this his all, though you can tell his voice still isn’t quite right after last week. But Caleb left it all out there on stage tonight and you can’t ask for anything more than that.
Round 3 goes to Caleb and I’m fairly certain he’s going to win. But both singers can be very proud of themselves. I look forward to their albums.
Who is getting your vote, “Idol” fans?