It’ll be an absolute powerhouse rock-off between Jena Irene and Caleb Johnson tonight in the first part of American Idol’s season 13 finale (8 p.m. ET on Fox).
From the beginning of the competition, both finalists have been commended for their big performances and even bigger vocal power and range. Now that they are the last man and woman standing, you can expect the finale to be a “big, over-the-top rock ‘n roll extravaganza,” according to Johnson. But just how did a teenager from Michigan and a guy who auditioned two times already for the show make it to the finale? We talked to Jena and Caleb the day before the big night and took a walk down memory lane.
Jena claimed that she was “scared sh–less” during her first audition in front of the judges, singing Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” “I was so scared. I mean, walking into a room full of cameras that you don’t see on TV and then three celebrity judges who are extremely successful and that’s what you aspire to be, I didn’t know what to do. I think from that point I blacked out!” For Caleb, it was the lucky third time auditioning for the show that finally got him all the way. “I had auditioned for Scotty [McCreery] and Phillip [Phillips]’s seasons, and even though I made it to Hollywood both times, subsequently I was sent home before the live shows. But I kept making it farther each time, and I just kind of fell in love with the whole intensity of the show, so I decided to try again.” Can’t get much farther than the end!
Hollywood Week Final Judgements
When Caleb finally did make it through to the live shows, it was years of hard work leading up to that moment. “If you want something bad enough, you have to work extremely hard and take all the pitfalls that come with it,” Caleb said. “Everyone has a place and a time, and thank God this is mine.” For Jena, however, her heartbreak almost came early on in the competition when she only made the finals through the judges’ wild-card pick. “I wasn’t voted in by America, which is fine, but I had to prove myself that I can be a finalist and that I can be a front-runner in this competition, and that took a lot of courage from me, so my confidence level has definitely been boosted quite a lot throughout this whole experience. Thank you, American Idol!”
Jena proved her musical maturity went far past her age with her first performance of Radiohead’s “Creep.” While accompanying herself on the piano, Jena showed for the first time that not only does she have a killer voice, she has killer control over it as well. For Caleb, his top seven performance of the Kings of Leon hit “Family Tree” showed that he could be just as contemporary as his competitors after a couple of weeks of similar ’80s rock-style showings. But just because they both like to rock out in big performances, Caleb and Jena still see differences in themselves. “Even though people say we are both rockers,” Jena says, “we’re different in terms of the way we perform and the way we sing and the styles of music we like.”
That Moment We Won’t Forget
Once again, Jena showed that sometimes sitting down by the piano can be the most powerful way to go. After her stunning rendition of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” not only did Jena get J.Lo on her feet but on to the stage to give her an immediate kiss afterward. And of course just last week after battling bronchitis and a vocal hemorrhage, Caleb destroyed “Dazed and Confused” by Led Zepplin for the second time this season, only this time he destroyed pretty much everything else in sight too. As for his health, Caleb says his voice still isn’t 100 percent back, but hopes to return in full health by tonight. And if not? “The doctors have some great drugs waiting for me.”
One thing that’s been clear all season long and will continue into the finale is the lack of any dirty competition or rivalry between the contestants, especially the final two. “To be completely honest, we really don’t care who wins,” Caleb said. “We just want to give the best possible performances and moments both nights and make it a memorable season.” Well, no matter who wins, it will definitely have been a memorable season for at least the people behind the scenes. “Even production complimented us, saying that this is the best group of kids that they’ve had, that everyone is so nice,” Caleb says. “They said usually at this point, they either become really arrogant or just…crazy.”
Part One of the American Idol finale airs tonight on Fox at 8 p.m. ET.