'American Idol' Caleb Johnson's "As Long As You Love Me" vs. Jena Irene's "We Are One" — LISTEN

On Thursday night, American Idol fans had to say goodbye to adorably awkward singer-songwriter Alex Preston and say hello to Idol Season 13’s top two: Jena Irene and Caleb Johnson. In reality, this is the finale showdown many Idol prognosticators saw coming, so Thursday night’s elimination wasn’t exactly a shock. What was kind of a shock, however, was that both Irene and Johnson’s “coronation” songs were released to iTunes at midnight. What a nice little surprise.

In terms of quality, Idol coronation songs have a tendency to be pretty hit-or-miss. Past hits include the charmingly cheesy “A Moment Like This” (Kelly Clarkson), “I Believe” (Fantasia Barrino), and more recently, smash hit, “Home” (Phillip Phillips). Past misses include the embarrassing “Do I Make You Proud” (Taylor Hicks) and “I Love You This Big” (Scotty McCreery). (Season 12’s winner Candice Glover was saddled with the bland, “I Am Beautiful.” It wasn’t terrible, just boring.)

So how do these two new coronation songs stack up? Let’s pit them head-to-head and see which one comes out on top.

If Irene is crowned the winner of American Idol next week, her first single will be the pulsating, “We Are One.” Written and produced by Anne Preven (Lea Michele’s “Louder”), Mitch Allan (Demi Lovato’s “Heart Attack”) and former Idol contestant Felicia Barton, “We Are One” really pops — it’s so much more bright, vibrant, and up-tempo than your typical Idol coronation ballad. The song features a driving beat and a bold, triumphant chorus.

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If Johnson is crowned the winner of American Idol next week, his first single will be the rockin’, “As Long As You Love Me.” Written by Justin Hawkins, lead singer and guitarist of rock band The Darkness, “As Long as You Love Me” really showcases Johnson’s impressive vocal range. Again, it’s really unlike any other Idol coronation song I’ve heard before. The song features a toe-tappin’ tempo and a whole lot of electric guitar. (I was relieved to discover that it is not a Justin Bieber cover.) 

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Now that you’ve had a chance to hear both songs, let the battle begin!

Round 1: Lyrics

Irene’s “We Are One"

Chorus:

I guess they don’t know us, we turn cities to dust

I see the world disappear

We are one here

I see fire in your eyes, never felt so alive

I see the world disappear

We are one here

Most embarrassing lyric: “Mining for diamonds, I stumbled on gold…”

Johnson’s “As Long As You Love Me”

Chorus:

As long as you love me

You don’t have to do the things I do, yeah

As long as you love me

You don’t always have to be so cruel

As long as you love me

We don’t have to be together 24/7

As long as you love me, I’m in heaven

Most embarrassing lyric: “We were looking for love in the same place, infected with the same disease…”

Verdict: “We Are One” boasts the better chorus, and it’s most embarrassing lyric is just slightly less embarrassing than “As Long As You Love Me’s” use of the word “infected” (which sends a gross shiver down my spine).


Advantage: “We Are One”

Round 2: Vocals

Irene’s “We Are One”

Irene’s powerful voice really shines on “We Are One’s” chorus, but overall, her vocal performance is a little one-note: it’s all very loud, very shout-y.

Johnson’s “As Long As You Love Me”

Johnson’s voice was made for this kind of retro rock track, and he displays a ton of vocal variation.

Verdict: I love Irene’s voice, but Johnson’s vocals on “As Long As You Love Me” are so much more dynamic and interesting to listen to.


Advantage: “As Long As You Love Me”

Round 3: Hit Factor

Irene’s “We Are One”

It all boils down to one simple question: could you imagine hearing this song on the radio? Absolutely. “We Are One” is modern and uplifting, and it would’ve fit nicely on Demi Lovato’s last album, Demi (that’s a compliment!). I think the song would appeal to multiple radio formats, and it really only takes one listen for the chorus to get stuck in your head. This could definitely be a hit!

Johnson’s “As Long As You Love Me”

Could you imagine hearing this song on the radio? Maybe on an alternative rock station, but I don’t think “As Long As You Love Me” would be able to crossover to mainstream pop radio or other formats. In other words, I don’t think it could be a hit.

Verdict: This one’s easy — “We Are One” has a much broader appeal than “As Long As You Love Me.”


Winner: “We Are One”!

It’s true, in my opinion, “We Are One” is the better coronation song, but I’m sure others will disagree with me — and that’s totally fine. I will say this: Johnson really stayed true to the style of singing he’s been doing on Idol week after week with “As Long As You Love Me,” and that’s admirable. He didn’t wimp out in the homestretch and decide to record a super radio-friendly pop-rock track or anything like that — that’s just not his thing, and he knows it. Unfortunately, staying true to yourself doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve got a hit.

No matter who wins Season 13 of American Idol next week, I just hope that both Irene and Johnson will be able to enjoy long, successful careers. Seriously! I’m tired of seeing American Idol winners fade away before they’ve really had a chance to shine.

Images: FOX

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