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Every season, The Hollywood Reporter’s Idol Worship team fights for why each of the American Idol top 3 singers should win it all. See below for why Caleb Johnson should win, and find out why Jena Irene and Alex Preston each have a chance at the championship.
This day was bound to arrive. Call it destiny or the stars aligning but Caleb Johnson belongs here — on the American Idol stage, in the top three, heading to his hometown of Asheville, North Carolina for a hero’s welcome. Fifteen weeks of competition has only strengthened Caleb’s chops and his resolve, and you could say the same of this Idol Worshipper’s support.
How do I love thee, Caleb? Let me count the ways …
1. He’s proof positive that persistence pays off. Two previous attempts to make it to Hollywood stopped him short of the top 24, but the third time was the charm for Johnson, who nailed his season-13 audition — with an original song, no less. It was the first sign of a fearless finalist who became a near-instant frontrunner. To date, he’s never been in the bottom three.
2. He’s the epitome of “calm under pressure.” From his earliest days on season 13, Johnson has maintained an almost Zen-like demeanor, both onstage and off. In fact, as the competition has heated up, Johnson has only gotten cooler in his handling of the stress that comes with weekly exposure on a national television show. No rest? No problem, says this 23-year-old who shows zero sign of slowing down.
3. He can take criticism. When it comes to the judges’ comments, Johnson handles the critiques with the confidence of a pro, and while he slipped somewhat a couple weeks back — calling Idol’s more vocal fans “retards” — humility seems to have returned to the frontrunner, naysayers be damned.
4. He can rock like nobody’s business. Whether it’s Paul McCartney’s seminal “Maybe I’m Amazed” or the Journey power ballad “Faithfully,” Johnson’s song picks are not only a perfect fit for his voice, but some choices have been just plain inspired. To wit: Whitesnake’s “Still of the Night,” Led Zeppelin’s “Dazed and Confused” and the Black Crowes’ classic “Sting Me, which prompted judge Jennifer Lopez to declare, “That was some real rock ‘n’ roll stuff right there!” No joke, J. Lo.
5. He has career potential. Pop artists come and go, trends have names like EDM and emo, but one genre that never gets old is Southern rock — the definition of the Asheville, North Carolina native. Is there a Bonnaroo performance in his future? Quite possibly (and he wouldn’t be the first Idol to do so), along with potential touring slots opening for the likes of Kings of Leon or Imagine Dragons.
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