'American Idol' Frontrunner Jena Irene Isn't Country But She's Season 13's Carrie Underwood
We know she's a little bit rock 'n' roll, but American Idol showed us Jena Irene can be a little bit country, too. On last week's Idol, each member of the top six sang one country and one rock song, and Irene crooned Season 4 winner and now country mega-star Carrie Underwood's 2007 hit "So Small."
Though Irene put her own brooding pop spin on the song, replacing slide guitar with a string section, we totally had a flashback to Season 4 when Underwood graced the Idol stage. The Idol winner herself was even impressed with Irene's and Caleb Johnson's performances (he sang Underwood's 2010 single "Undo It"): Underwood tweeted her admiration for the contestants' renditions.
But the comparisons between the two songstresses don't end with belting out "So Small." Irene has been the unofficial frontrunner for at least a few weeks now. She's so on top of her game that Idol judge Jennifer Lopez even told her she "could win this whole thing" after last week's performance of "Barracuda." And while Johnson may be inching on that could-be victory, for our money, Irene is definitely Season 13's Underwood. Need proof? Here are a few reasons why Irene and Underwood are totally in sync:
They Love Heart & Ann Wilson
Irene's pick for a rock song last week was "Barracuda," the iconic tune from the classic rock band Heart. One of Underwood's best Idol performances was "Alone," an epic power ballad that Heart also made famous in 1987. These two have certainly done Heart's lead singer Ann Wilson proud.
They Started Their Music Careers Before They Graduated High School
Earlier this season, Irene performed "Unbreakable Me," an original song she wrote before the competition. Long before that, Irene fronted the band Infinity Hour when she was only 12 years old and released another original song, "Free," on iTunes in 2010. Though Underwood was 21 when she auditioned for Idol, her music career could've started a lot earlier when she almost signed a deal with Capitol Records at age 14, but the contract fell through at the last minute when management changed, according to The Guardian.
They Competed Against Long-Haired Rockers
Irene's main competition right now is her bestie Johnson, who's just as recognizable for his soulful voice as his long locks. Underwood beat out a rocker with an impressive mane to win the title of our American Idol, Bo Bice.
On the road to stardom, it's not unusual for some people to become divas. But during their Idol days, Irene and Underwood had that girl-next-door charm. Irene always looks like she's having the best time on stage, and with her adorable Michigan accent and giant grin, it seems like she just wants to be everyone's friend. As a farm girl from Checotah, Oklahoma, Underwood was one of the sweetest Idol contestants ever. She held and pet a cat the first time we met her on Idol, after all. Even though she's grown to become one of the biggest stars in music today, every time she returns to Idol, she still seems so humble.
They Were Frontrunners
Last week, Idol judge Jennifer Lopez said Irene has a good chance of getting to the finale. That was just one more added to a pile of accolades Irene has received all season from the judges. Back in Season 4, we also thought Underwood had a good shot at taking home the top prize early on. Then-Idol judge Simon Cowell not only predicted Underwood would win but also that she would be the Idol alum to sell the most records. If Irene makes it all the way, she certainly has a lot to look forward to.
Image: Michael Becker/FOX