‘American Idol’ finale: Did Caleb Johnson or Jena Irene claim victory?


Caleb Johnson, winner of “American Idol.” (Michael Becker/Fox)

See, everyone? Hard work does pay off: If you audition for “American Idol” enough times, eventually you will be named the winner, land a record deal and have confetti rain down on you after a two-hour finale that feels like a really long Ford commercial.

That’s a long way of saying that 23-year-old Caleb Johnson was crowned the winner of “American Idol” Season 13. Johnson, a rock singer from North Carolina, is not new to the “Idol” world — he auditioned in Seasons 10 and 11 and got through a few rounds, but never made it far enough.

Jena Irene (Michael Becker/Fox)
Jena Irene (Michael Becker/Fox)

That all changed on Wednesday night. One year after Candice Glover snapped the show’s five-year male winning streak, Johnson is the new “Idol” champion. It was quite a close race; many predicted that the runner-up, 17-year-old powerhouse Jena Irene, would take home the prize. But all is fine — Jena’s still a senior in high school and has more important things to worry about. After all, she has prom coming up; according Ryan Seacrest, she’s bringing Caleb as her date.

“This is a guy that has worked so hard and wanted it so badly, and that’s all paid off tonight,” Seacrest announced to the crowd. Caleb looked shocked: “I can’t even — I can’t even talk right now,” he stammered. “This is crazy…Thank you so much.”

While we’re on the subject, why oh why do the “Idol” producers insist on having the winner sing coronation songs at the end of the finale when they’re on the verge of tears? Sometimes you get a dramatic moments, but mostly you just get uncomfortable dead air. Caleb was way too emotional to sing, so as the band played his new single (“As Long As You Love Me,” and no, not the Backstreet Boys song) Caleb ignored his microphone and got wrapped up in a group hug by his fellow contestants. He eventually got a few lines out, but then spotted his family in the audience and ran over to hug them.

After announcing Johnson’s debut album will be released on Aug. 12, Seacrest signed off as the judges (Harry Connick Jr., Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez) waved goodbye from the “lucky 13th” season. Definitely lucky in the sense that the judges actually liked each other and the show wasn’t horribly uncomfortable to watch this time; not so much in terms of ratings. In fact, Tuesday night’s performance episode only attracted 6.6 million people, the lowest-rated “Idol” episode in history.

Anyway, Johnson received his life-changing news in the last five minutes of a two-hour extravaganza which, in addition to lots of plugs for a certain car company, was essentially a concert with various singers promoting their material. However, they were required perform with an “Idol” contestant — except, of course, J-Lo who got the stage and an impressively skimpy costume all to herself for her single “First Love.” Country trio Lady Antebellum also landed a moment alone with bouncy new single “Bartender.”

Oh, and all the judges (and mentor Randy Jackson…what is he still doing here?) got together for a performance at the end, which was admittedly pretty adorable: Keith on guitar, Jackson on bass, Connick Jr. on piano, and J-Lo literally on the piano with a microphone singing Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” (She switched to tambourine when they segued into Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way.”)

Otherwise, it was all duets. Here’s the list:

Phillip Phillips and Sam Woolf, “Home” / “Raging Fire”

Jennifer Nettles and Jessica Meuse, “That Girl” / “Wrecking Ball”

KISS and Caleb Johnson, “Love Gun” / “Shout It Out loud”

Aloe Blacc and “Idol” guys, “The Man”

Demi Lovato and “Idol” girls,”Don’t Really Care” / “Neon Lights”

Paramore and Jena Irene, “Decode” / “Ain’t It Fun”

John Legend and Malaya Watson, “You and I” / “All of Me”

Jason Mraz and Alex Preston, “Love Someone”

Ryan Seacrest and Richard Marx, “Right Here Waiting For You” (Seacrest was peer pressured into singing a few lyrics with Marx; it’s apparently the first concert he ever attended as a kid. Fun fact, Marx is also good friends and writes a lot of songs with Keith Urban.)

Darius Rucker and Dexter Roberts and C.J. Harris, “True Believers” / “Alright”

RELATED READING:

‘American Idol’ relies on a new mix of judges for a sweeter — and more successful — show

‘American Idol’ judges: A timeline (Mariah Carey, do you know what you’re in for?)

Emily Yahr is an entertainment reporter and pop culture blogger for the Style section. She joined the Post in May 2008, a week before she graduated from the University of Maryland, and worked on Lisa de Moraes' TV Column and blog.
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Emily Yahr | May 22