Caleb Johnson: Every Last Ounce of Energy Saved for Final Performance

It was Caleb Johnson’s last song for the vote on last night’s American Idol. And he was determined to go in style. He had been battling bronchitis and strained vocal chords, but he didn’t let that stop him from “leaving every last ounce of energy on that stage”. He gave a performance of a lifetime. A performance that brought judges to their feet way before the song ended, moving and dancing. By the end, Randy Jackson was on his feet, his eyes shining and a big smile on his face. Jennifer was even trying to push old stick-on-the-seat Harry up, but he didn’t budge.

Camera’s tried to catch it all, from Caleb’s pounding of the mic stand on the floor, to the audience screaming and chanting his name. Jennifer Lopez couldn’t stand still and Keith Urban just wanted to throw something. These guys were hyped and so was the entire theater. Not to mention our Alabama part of the viewing audience. With the screaming going on at our house it’s a wonder someone hadn’t called the cops. But, maaan, was it ever fun. Keith declared that if ever there was a complete moment of miraculous healing, this was it. Jennifer called it a true Idol moment, and Harry Connick, Jr. thought it was awesome and absolutely fantastic. But he still wouldn’t stand up.

I think this Asheville, North Carolina, persistent contestant, who has tried out for Idol twice before, deserves his accolades. And, personally, I think he’s Season 13’s American Idol, barring another setback like last night.

This was a night with three rounds of singing from three choices of songs. (1) was Randy Jackson’s picks, (2) judges’ picks, (3) hometown picks. Caleb did well on his first two, though the first was not particularly outstanding. Randy’s choice for Caleb was “Never Tear Us Apart” by INXS. Keith admired Randy’s great call on the song and loved hearing Caleb’s touch of blues/soul. Harry commended Randy’s choice because it forced Caleb’s voice to “walk within confines”. Randy himself enjoyed hearing Caleb’s falsetto, and Jennifer made the statement that “on your worst night you are better than most on their best”. So, I suppose that was a polite way of saying it wasn’t his best, but still great.

The judges picked “Demons” by Imagine Dragon for Caleb, which landed him a little higher in the judges’ ratings, and probably the voters, too. Keith was definitely hearing things last night, suggesting shades of Steve Perry in Caleb’s voice. But I can see it. Jennifer said he quit trying for range and went with emotion about midway of the performance. Harry just began hitting contestants with how they saw themselves as singers and performers in the future, which kind of caught some of them off-balance.

Keith Urban had half his mind on his wife, Nicole Kidman, who was enjoying the Cannes Film Festival without him. He propped her very current red-carpet picture up on the panel table When Seacrest asked who she was wearing (meaning the designer), he unwittingly replied, “Unfortunately, not me,” which naturally brought down the house and even caught the chuckling Seacrest flatfooted. The slightly blushing Keith tried to hide behind the desk by pulling out junk from underneath. But it still didn’t work, as the cameras mercilessly followed him with his hand over his face and still laughing at his own slip of the tongue.

Alex Preston was number two in the three-round line-up, and I was just re-thinking my call that the competition would come down to Jena and Caleb. After Alex’s first two songs, I really thought it could be him rather than Jena. His first song, chosen by Randy, was “Pompeii” by Bastille, where he switched from guitar to one big drum. It sounded great, though he lost his connection with the mic for a second or two. Harry said Randy gave him a young, hip song, and with a couple more rehearsals would have been even better. Jennifer thought he “created a moment” and was somewhat of a different Alex. Keith noted some shaky bits, but thought the instrument change was the coolest moment. Randy called it a dope performance and said the drum was Alex’s idea.

But Alex brought the judges to their feet on his second performance of “Stay” by Rihanna, a song chosen for him by the judges. Jennifer said it was beautiful and “all yours”. Harry called it really strong, then went into probing about his future performances. — Harry, (I’m thinking), we’re just trying to get these kids through their present performances. Okay? — Keith thought Alex made artistic choices and his arrangement was killah. “The audience responded,” Keith said, “and Jennifer got bumps, or . . . what does she call them?” — GOOSIES, he was told. — After all this time they couldn’t believe he didn’t know that. But, hey, the guy was missing his wife. Cut him some slack on the goosies, huh? A husband can do worse than miss his wife.

But his last song, “Story of My Life” by One Direction, chosen by his hometown of Mt. Vernon, New Hampshire, put Alex back into third place for me. It was just kind of so-so, and the big, rolling background didn’t help. It was too overpowering for a guy who has a problem coming out of his shell. The judges were less than enthused, Keith commenting that Alex had come down a little from his great performance of “Stay”. I was hoping for better from Alex.

Jena’s greatest performance was her last. North Farmington, Michigan, High School chose “Creep” by Radiohead for their Idol and brought her a standing O from the judges. These are repeat performances and Harry thought it was even better than her first one. I thought so, too. It was beautiful. Keith, for the umpteenth time, mentioned how much she had grown in her musical talent and stage presence. Jennifer called her brilliant and hard to beat. Being the last song of the night, and Jena looking beautiful and singing beautifully, I think it shoved some deciding votes her way.

Her first song, Randy’s choice, was “Titanium” by David Guetta, and started off too low for her. It was a struggle to get out of that pit, though she hit some stride later. Harry called it high risk, high reward. Keith thought she had great balance between performing, singing, fun, and conviction. Jennifer called it best, saying it was a difficult song to sing, and a little shaky and stiff. Of course, they had Jena held between earth and sky at the beginning, with a little decorative rope to keep her from taking a header off the towering platform. I can see shaky and stiff. Randy said the beginning was a little slow and a little low. — So. Not a stellar performance.

The judges were a little tepid on her second performance of “Heart Attack” by Demi Lovato, garnering a less than energetic “nice job” from Harry. Keith did his usual comment of “great range, and crazy”, and Jennifer thought it was a great song for her. — I did not. I thought it was worse than the first one, starting with notes too low in order to build up to the high notes, which were a little screechy. I have only enjoyed Jena’s mid-range songs, which have been few and far between.

Throughout the evening, American Idol was celebrating its 500th episode, with past Idol winners and hit performers poking their heads in to say congrats. Kris Allen even held up a cupcake with a lighted candle. At the end, however, all the top 13 contestants helped roll out a huge cake to celebrate the big 500th anniversary. Congratulations American Idol. You’re not what you were, but I look forward to each year, anyway, hoping for better.

Also, I was right. Slapout, Alabama, did not forget their Idol, Jessica Meuse, who was eliminated last week. They had a big parade and celebration for her, AND it aired on Idol last night. Jessica is super busy flying from one TV show to another for interviews, and being present with her 12 other buds and contestants for last onstage appearances on Idol. and gearing up for the grand tour. They all will sing next week with celebrities.

Oh, and by the way — the big finale will air Tuesday and Wednesday instead of Wednesday and Thursday next week. Let’s mark our calendars and not miss it. Okay?

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10 thoughts on “Caleb Johnson: Every Last Ounce of Energy Saved for Final Performance

  1. There were definitely some standouts last night, but I was unenthused with many of the song choices.

    ~Jena – I agree with all you said, but she knocked it out of the park and redeemed herself with that stunning repeat performance of the song “Creep.” I flat out don’t like “Titanium” and “Heart Attack” as songs so that may have negatively influenced me, too.

    ~Alex – “Stay” was far and away his best performance. I thought “Pompeii” was, well…just weird. I liked “Story of my LIfe” OK, but “Stay” was a MUCH better song for Alex. I really don’t think he has a chance of winning against the power-house couple of Jena and Caleb.

    ~ And that brings me to Caleb. My heart broke for him. How terrible to be SOOO close to the finish and suffer a hemorrhage in a vocal chord. It was obvious that he didn’t feel well and lacked his usual effervescence. I rather liked his more subdued first two songs, but he went all out — hemorrhage be damned — on Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused.” It was a killer performance if ever there was one. I could hear his voice problem in all three songs, but it simply didn’t matter. What a trooper he is and I hope his vocal health is fully restored by next week’s finale.

    Keith Urban is more adorable than a box of puppies. He’s always a delight to see and hear. And he said on “Ellen” that he’ll be back next season. \o/

    Here’s something funny. Every week Keith’s manager gives him a word that he has to fit into his conversation on the show as a joke between the two of them. So Ellen decided to do the same thing. She had a bowl of paper slips and whatever was written on the slip Keith pulled out of the bowl was something he had to say on the show this week. If he did, one of her sponsors would give $100,000 to her animal charity, The Gentle Farm. The slip he chose had the words “parrot breath.” They had a great laugh over it, but sure enough, Keith said it last night. Remember when he pulled the foam cover off his microphone and commented to Jennifer and Harry about how bad it smelled? He then said, “It smells like parrot breath.” I totally cracked up when I heard him. I adore Ellen and she finds a ton of ways to do good. And ALL of her guests are such good sports.

    • I absolutely cracked up on the “parrot breath”. That was one of the items I was going to write about in the blog, but there’s so much i sometimes leave something out that I fully intended to say. I jump back and forth in my notes so it’s bound to happen. I always want to write about the biggest stuff first and weave the rest of it in. I dropped a stitch this time.

      I’m so glad you shared that about the “mystery words”. That clears up a whole lot of weird words and phrases coming out of Keith’s mouth. I love it.

      Mike and I laughed out loud over your Keith analogy. More adorable than a box of puppies. You can’t GET any more adorable than that.

      Did you get my email message? Hope to start keeping up better. You know SYTYCD is just around the corner.

      I read another blog where the writer didn’t like “Titanium”. I’ve never heard it except on Idol. I don’t do radio much. I pick stuff off the net that I might like to listen to, or hear songs on programs like Idol or Dance, or what you send my way. I love beautiful music, but I want choices. And I don’t do IPhones or whatever they’re called that you load songs onto.

      When I’m driving I’m more likely to enjoy the solitude than listen to music, though I do that, too.

  2. “Mike and I laughed out loud over your Keith analogy. More adorable than a box of puppies. You can’t GET any more adorable than that.”

    Well, there’s just something cute and cuddley about keith, at least I think so.

    “Did you get my email message?”

    Yes, sorry I haven’t replied. Seems like the more time I spend on line and the faster I type, the more behind I get. *sigh*

    “You know SYTYCD is just around the corner.”

    Yes, I do and I’m really looking forward to it. I read today that they’re going back to only one winner. Apparently viewers begged them to have a male and female winner, but the producers felt it didn’t work last season. I thought it did. I have no idea why they think it didn’t work.

    I download music I hear and like from a slew of different sources. I listen to it while I’m on the computer, most of the time, and by uploading from the computer to my iPod, I can take it with me while I’m excercising or gardening. I don’t do a lot of driving anymore, but when I do, there’s a great golden oldies pop station I usually listen to.

  3. I just watched Jena’s “Creep” again and I think it’s definitely one of the best performances by anyone this season. And I have to disagree with you about her high notes. If she didn’t have such a nice vibrato on her high notes, the yes, I’d feel she’s screeching, but the vibrato saves it for me.

    Actually, the reason I’m commenting again is to mention something I keep thinking of, but keep forgetting to say. Have you ever noticed how Keith so often sings along with the contestants and seems to know ALL the lyrics? He’s a country artist, basically, and I don’t see how he finds the time to listen to ALL this pop music so often that he knows the lyrics. Amazing.

    • Yes, I have noticed that. He seems to know the words to everything they sing and is familiar with all the artists. That man keeps his ear to the ground.

      Jena’s high notes on Creep worked for me. I just played it for Tammy who was in and out a few minutes ago. I had not noticed what a great moon we have tonight, big and orange. Tammy could see it from her house, but we’ve got too many trees on our hill blocking it out. We had to stumble around the driveway looking for a viewpoint. Finally found one and Mike took pictures.

      • I can see the moon here from my living room windows. It’s big, but doesn’t look orange here in NH.

        Keith must eat, live and breathe music.

      • Atmospherical differences, probably. It didn’t stay orange long. We had to go get Mike and by the time he got the camera and his rear end out there it wasn’t quite as pretty as when I first saw it. Hope his pictures turn out.

        Just think. We’re looking at the same moon, just through different atmospheres. Ha:) Southern atmosphere and northern atmosphere. Also, I’m always amazed at how far north NH is.

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