American Idol has named its lucky Season 13 winner.
On Wednesday's two-hour finale of the Fox reality singing competition, the finalists had the opportunity to sing with some of their biggest idols in a star-studded extravaganza. Who found their musical soul mates? And more importantly, was Wild Card pick Jena or rocker Caleb crowned the winner? Read on for our breakdown of the night's performances or skip to the bottom for the results.
American Idol finale recap: Who performed best?
Caleb and Jena kick off the evening by trading off songs — switching from Queen and No Doubt — before going full duet on "It's Only Love." Only then do judges Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban arrive. Not only does Keith rock a full suit and tie, but Harsh Harry is nowhere to be found now that the judgment phase is over. We see him crack a smile and even dance! Red-letter day, people.
Sam and Season 11 champ Phillip Phillips
Song(s): "Home" and then "Raging Fire"
The performance: You know it's the finale because Sam busts out an extra nice hat. He starts off with "Home," which always gives us DIY dreams, before Phil takes over. It's a good match, and let's hope that Phil's performance charisma rubs off on Sam. (Find out why Phil is "scared to death" about his second album here.)
Jessica and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles
Song(s): "That Girl" and Miley Cyrus' "Wrecking Ball"
The performance: Nettles does a rousing version of "That Girl" before Jessica (now with more blue in her hair) joins her on stage for the Miley tribute to angst and nudity. Their voices have that similar husky edge and work well.
Song(s): "First Love"
The performance: J.Lo is wearing what looks like blue macrame and fringe fetish gear. We're getting exhausted watching her. Not only does she know how to move — she even jumps on top of the judges table --but it must be taxing fighting off that wind machine. And yes, there is twerking to be had.
Caleb and KISS
Song: "Love Gun" and "Shout It Out Loud"
The performance: Aw, no face paint, Caleb? The wailing, the pyrotechnics, the headbanging, the busted guitars. This was a barn burner, my friends. Caleb can die happy now. Well, maybe he'll wait for results first. And isn't that sweet? Caleb's "little" brother Houston, who does paint his face a la Gene Simmons, gets to meet KISS on stage. Houston can die happy now.
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Idol boys and Aloe Blacc
Song(s): "The Man"
The performance: While repetitive, it's a catchy song and suits a group performance well. However... we hate to be nit-picky, but is C.J. flat again?! It's jarring.
During the interlude, Jena and Caleb get sweet new Ford Mustangs. To make this experience less about raking it in and more about giving back, each finalist invites their mentors to attend the Idol finale... and they each get cars too. (Ford Fusions, not Mustangs this time.) Huzzah? Back to the music!
Idol girls and Demi Lovato
Song(s): "Don't Really Care" and "Neon Lights"
The performance: Yes, we know that Demi has been angling to join Idol now that X Factor is over, and frankly, she's a good fit. She delivers her own single before the girls join her. (Remember Kristen and Emily? Neither do we.) We can see them as a girl group ... except for Jessica. Majesty looks cute as usual, but her voice sounds hoarse. This doesn't have the same energy as the guys' group performance somehow. "Neon Lights" is a poor song choice.
Jena and Paramore
Song(s): "Decode" and "Ain't It Fun"
The performance: Jena is back at the piano, which is definitely one of her strengths. Girl can wail. We'd like to see her cover Tori Amos sometime, but we digress. Paramore and Jena pair up ... and we're underwhelmed. Instead of this upbeat song, we would've preferred something more dramatic with soaring vocals. But perhaps they want to promote a party atmosphere? All the giant yellow beach balls give that impression.
Malaya and John Legend
Song: "You and I" and "All of Me"
The performance: John does his thing first and oozes romance. Let's just say we're surprised that MK isn't the one singing "All of Me" with him, since that was one of her best songs on the show. Come to think of it... we didn't see her tonight. Where is she?! (Ah, Twitter tells us that she is ill.) Malaya does a great job, though. She loses the glasses and her usual quirk-monster ways. She's such a strong performer, and we feel that just a few more years of experience will make all the difference.
Alex and Jason Mraz
Song(s): "Love Someone"
The performance: Jason's voice is just miles better than Alex's, but their styles — even down to their twitchy legs — match up well. It's a nice quiet moment in such a "high-octane finale" (Ryan Seacrest's words, not ours).
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Ryan Seacrest and Richard Marx
Song(s): "Right Here Waiting"
The performance: Um, we actually have to give our host a little credit. He really can't sing, but he gamely cheeses it up and holds out that shaky note as well as he can. "I apologize," he says afterwards. Hat tip to Richard Marx as well for letting his classic song get mangled.
C.J., Dexter and Darius Rucker
Song: "True Believers" and Alright
The performance: The groove and vocal qualities work well, but the Alabama boys feel more like backup singers to us and less like collaborators. We would've liked this to be more high energy. Or perhaps we've hit a wall. The energy must be better live at the Nokia Theatre. Hmm, why didn't they include Ben on this one?
The performance: First of all, Jena and Caleb singing a few bars of "Need You Now" is such a tease! We want more! But Lady Antebellum needs to promote their new song "Bartender." Sample lyrics: "What I'm really needing now/ is a double shot of Crown." This is our type of song! Break out the old fashioneds!
Randy Jackson, J.Lo, Harry and Keith
Song(s): "True Colors" and "Go Your Own Way"
The performance: Since J.Lo is perched atop Harry's piano (in her third wardrobe change of the night), her breath work is better and she does a decent job on the Cyndi Lauper tune (yes, color us surprised) before they start to rock out to Fleetwood Mac. This actually isn't bad. Yo, dawg, no Journey?
And finally it's time for the moment of truth. The judges are torn. We wonder how close the vote is. The winner is... Caleb! We admit that we didn't see his potential at first since he appeared to be more of a cover artist, but his ballads in particular changed our minds. He definitely has more depth than we initially thought, and he certainly has the singing chops.
"This is crazy," he says before taking the mic from Ryan and screaming out, "Yo, make some noise!" in tribute to his runner-up Jena. But he doesn't actually sing at first because he's too busy hugging all of his Idol pals. Eventually he sings himself out with his winner's single as the confetti falls. Congrats, Caleb!
Are you happy with the results? Did the right singer win? Which of the night's collaborations was your favorite?
American Idol has named its lucky Season 13 winner.
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