AMERICAN IDOL Preview: IDOL Needs a Mount Rushmore Champion
Tonight American Idol airs the competition half of its Season XIII Finale at 8pm on FOX. Old-school rocker Caleb Johnson squares off against the dynamic 17-year-old, Jena Irene. As those of you whom have been following my recaps all season know, this is the duo whom I have long believed deserved the season's final two spots. While last week my allegiance to Caleb wavered, with his horrific vocally "damaged" performance coming on the heels of his offensive post show rant, he still has had a far more consistent and professional season than Alex has, so it is ultimately right that he is here alongside Jena, destined to be the Bo Bice to her Carrie Underwood.
No matter what happens in tonight's performances, Jena not only deserves to be crowned this season's champ, but IDOL needs her to be crowned this season's champ. It is no secret that the once indomitable singing competition has taken an unceremonious dive in the ratings in recent years. While the show's total numbers are respectable in this proliferated entertainment environment, if the show is ever to reclaim even a piece to its previous status as a cultural touchstone, it needs to again produce a star that reminds America of the show's power.
While I believe Alex Preston, who was eliminated in third place last week, will have a solid music career, he is not the type of entertainer that inspires legions of screaming fans. Likewise, Caleb doesn't fit the traditional superstar mold. Though he told Harry Connick Jr. last week that his album will be comprised of original rock tunes, Caleb seems to be stuck in a previous decade. His performances, his wardrobe, his hair all seem to be holding on to the era where classic rock was king. While IDOL has produced a number of rock stars throughout the years (Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert in particular), they all have had a much more modern sensibility to them. As evidence, on Wednesday night's results show, while Alex will be playing with Jason Mraz and Jena with Paramore, Caleb will be singing with "the hottest band in the land" KISS.
Therefore, that leaves Jena, the high school senior, to carry the season XIII torch of relevancy. Throughout the season she has been inventive, daring, and interesting, even though she hasn't always been as pitch perfect as Caleb has been. She has thrived across many different genres; pop, rock, electronic, and has even proven capable of writing her own material.
Additionally, she has an extremely comfortable, natural stage-presence that many of this year's competitors struggled to find. If she is able to work with writers that can pen songs that fit her unique vocal quality and range, I think that she has the potential to become a big star, in the mold of Demi Lovato or (dare I say it) Miley Cyrus. She is the kind of well-rounded performer that IDOL needs to give the show some much needed industry cred, and to remind America that it is the only competition show that creates superstars.
As I wrote earlier this season, The Voice starts its seasons with a far superior talent pool to that of IDOL, but whether it is because of its shortened competition period, or its focus on the coaches rather than the talent, there never appears to be much growth from the performers. Jena, on the other hand, has improved by leaps and bounds from the time the judges saved her during the Wild Card round to tonight's finale.
So tonight, while I am feverishly typing my recap (which you should all come back and read), I will be rooting for Jena; not just because I think she deserves to win, but because I love AMERICAN IDOL, and to survive, the show needs a champion it can be proud of, a champion that can one day can earn a spot on the IDOL Mount Rushmore alongside Kelly and Carrie.
Do you agree with me that Jena deserves to stand alongside IDOL greats? Or do you want to see Caleb bathed in confetti on Wednesday night? Let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter @BWWMatt.