Wednesday, May 21, 2014

American Idol 13: Top 2

Another year, another season.

We’ve gone from so many to so few and finally have arrived at a showdown between Jena Irene and Caleb Johnson. They're completely different artists, but they both have an undeniable stage presence and strong vocal chops. Indeed, I really enjoyed the Finale and probably one of the most memorable Final performance episodes. The contestants seem like great people and I hope, whoever takes the title, goes on to great success.

Anyway, without further nonsense, I'll get to the rankings..

ROUND 1: Simon Fuller's Choice

Jena Irene
Dog Days Are Over
Caleb clearly got the better choice in this round. His song choice was epic, and somehow Dog Days Are Over just felt like intermission music. Now, I can’t really blame Jena for that - she didn't pick it - because, truth be told, I thought his performance was actually pretty strong. Yes, her pitch wavered a bit during the verses with those lower notes, but when she the chorus, her voice soared especially during the key change, which provided an interesting climactic moment. 7.5

Caleb Johnson
Dream On
He started this song out a tad wobbly and it was just basically an outstanding karaoke version of Dream On, but as a whole, this was undeniably a solid triple for Caleb Johnson that put him right at the top of the game. His vocals were mostly impressive, that high note was superb, and there's power to his delivery. Good job! 8.5

VERDICT: Caleb Johnson won this round based on a more consistent vocals and THAT note.

ROUND 2: Reprise

Jena Irene
Can't Help Falling In Love
For her reprisal, Jena chose one of her breakout performances, Can't Help Falling In Love, which seemed to work very well for her despite being too recent. She didn't make any adjustments, but this was still beautiful. In fact, this was possibly one of the most beautifully sung peformances of the season. The dynamics, breath control, tone, phrasing, vocal runs. Everything came together in a perfect storm. Oh, and Keith Urban's shade towards The Voice's Christina Grimmie covering the song yesterday was delicious. Ha! 9.5

Caleb Johnson
Maybe I'm Amazed
This was one of his finest moments on the show, and like Jena, this was pretty recent that it didn't feel brand new. Vocally, he nailed this song again and it was pretty awesome. But we're already aware that Caleb could do incredible things with his voice, and what's lacking is his ability to connect with the material. This performance made it clear that he hasn’t made the distinction yet between singing things loudly and singing things importantly. 8

VERDICT: Jena Irene. Any other answer is wrong. Haha.

ROUND 3: Single
Jena Irene
We Are One
Out of the two coronation singles, Jena's We Are One wins hands down. It does exactly what it needs to do. It establishes an identity for the singer and gives the voters a clear idea of what Jena Irene will be like as a professional recording artist. This was also less drivel with an upbeat anthem and a more commercially accessible material. Her voice soars. Yeah, there are some tired vocal moments in there, but she’s so enveloped in the single it really doesn’t take away from the performance. 8

Caleb Johnson
As Long As You Love Me 
To be fair, As Long As You Love Me sounded fantastic on record and a driving hook that's a lot more catchy than We Are One, but Caleb's vocals here was a bit uneven. Was he singing a half step lower on this song? He started wonderfully, but somehow lost his steam towards the end. I don't know. 7.5

VERDICT: Jena Irene.


  1. Can't Help Falling In Love
Jena Irene

2. Dream On
Caleb Johnson

3. Maybe I'm Amazed
Caleb Johnson

4. We Are One
Jena Irene

5. Dog Days Are Over
Jena Irene

6. As Long As You Love Me
Caleb Johnson


1. Jena Irene
Jena is the better all-around singer and performer in the Finale. She simply is. She’s got power, control, creativity, connection, and it all feels effortless. Plus, she looked like she was having fun. She was fabulous on Can't Help Falling In Love and despite falling short with Dog Days Are Over, I still think her single had more potential.

2. Caleb Johnson
Don’t get me wrong. Caleb’s got most of what I enumerated with Jena in spades too, but he doesn’t seem able to translate them other than his strong vocals. Dream On and Maybe I'm Amazed were vocally fantastic, but that's about it.

Prediction will be on another post! 


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