'American Idol' Finalist Caleb Johnson's Performances Could Win Him The Title
This guy is not your average American Idol finalist; in some sense, yes, he is a White Boy With Guitar, and it doesn't get much more American Idol than that. But Idol hopeful Caleb Johnson's guitar is electric, his pants are flared, and his style is pure rock and roll. (And I will simply never get over him saying that his goal in the house was to lose a few pounds so he could rock harder. Ignoring Caleb's missteps since, that was the perfect first peek at his charm.) Did the judges see a solid cover band career in Caleb's future when he first auditioned? Certainly. Did they think he would make it to the Top 2? Most likely not, but if nothing else, Caleb is proof that persistence and hard work pay off, finally making it through to the live performances in his third try at the American Idol audition process.
Unfortunately, when a contestant is so solely devoted to one genre of music — and that genre is not country — it can be difficult for him or her to find a large enough fan base. But Caleb's natural talent and tour de force stage performances have proven him to be a rocker to be loved by more than just rock and roll connoisseurs, bringing the pitch-perfect sounds of his edgy, soulful vocals to young audiences, middle-aged moms, and Harry Connick Jr.'s, alike. Let's take a look at how the Asheville, NC native gave rock a fresh spin on American Idol in some of his best performances, leading him right up up to the Top 2.
The Audition Moment
As previously mentioned, Caleb Johnson just missed making it past Hollywood in two former American Idol seasons; that might make some performers a little gun shy come time for their third audition, but not Caleb. He put it all on the line, performing an original song, "Into the Void," and earning an easy round of yeses from the judges and a little foreshadowing from the rocker himself: "This is gonna be awesome."
The Surprise Moment
By the time Caleb made it to the Top 13, we had a pretty good understanding of what kind of artist he wanted to be: the guy likes to rock, and we like to watch him do it. But were we going to be able to watch him cover '80s songs for the next 39 hours of television we had coming our way over 12 weeks? Probably not; and luckily, Caleb knew he was capable of far more than that before we did. On the dreaded "Movie Night," Caleb brought out a dramatic, laser-focused version of Adele's "Skyfall" (from Skyfall, duh) that no one saw coming. And totally killed it.
The More-Than-A-Cover Moment
The very nature of American Idol is singing cover after cover... after cover. Usually the judges will tell contestants to "make it their own," or "add a little [insert contestant's name here]." But there's only so much of that you can do with a classic rock song that's reliant on the original melody to, well... rock. Luckily, Caleb proved in his Top 9 performance of Led Zepplin's "Dazed and Confused" that sometimes a classic cover can be just as original as a re-working, as long as you insert your own [Caleb] spirit. It's a little presumptuous, sure, but Caleb's confidence in risky song choices is one of his most promising qualities.
The Rockstar Moment
You can't have a Best of Caleb compilation without mentioning the Black Crowes' "Sting Me" performance that drove the judges absolutely bonkers. In the middle of an already rocking show — and the actual "Rock" themed show — Caleb dropped his mic, dived for the pick-up, and got back to mixing it up with the backup singers without missing a beat. For Caleb, every performance is really a performance: a showcase of exactly what he can do as an artist, and what we can expect to carry over when he's performing his own music one day. (Hint: It's a lot of howls!)
The Game-Changing Moment(s)
A true rocker can rock anything, and in the Top 4, Caleb still had a lot to prove. Even with the "Skyfall" interlude, we'd mostly gotten head-banging, note-defying covers. Any rocker on this show runs the risk of just sounding like the excellently convincing lead singer of a cover band... the Adam Lamberts are few and far between. But Caleb proved that making a song his own is all about that patented Caleb-heart-and-soul, when he put his spin on Paul McCartney's "Maybe I'm Amazed," and not a moment too soon.
But it's still all about the tradition with this guy, and he sent that reminder out loud and clear when he reprised his Top 8 performance of "Dazed and Confused" as requested by his hometown of Asheville, and just went to damn town on it. There was howling, there was sexual Jennifer Lopez dancing, and, of course, the all important destruction of that totally-not-rock-and-roll mic stand.
Start saving your money for tickets to The Caleb Show now... just make sure to keep a wide berth of the stage.