From time to time, a contestant on American Idol takes a huge risk by picking a well known song by a larger-than-life band, hoping that the notoriety of the tune, combined with their own unique sound or approach will win brownie points with judges, while tickling the ears of fans across the country, prompting them to float some votes in their direction. Sometimes this backfires, and ends up winning the contestant a ticket back home, while others pull it off and end up being the last man (or woman) standing with a recording contract. Caleb Johnson, one of the top nine on the current season of American Idol managed to get the “led” out and blow past his competition Wednesday night by successfully pulling off a cover of Dazed and Confused by rock and roll legends Led Zeppelin.
Johnson has consistently wowed the crowds and judges with his combination of powerhouse vocals and front man stage presence, demonstrating he’s not just a great singer, but a killer entertainer as well. Emotionally connecting with the lyrics, the music, and the audience are key factors in achieving long-term success when it comes to a career in music, and Johnson seems to be naturally gifted in all three areas. He carries himself with confidence, soaks up the feedback given to him by the judges, and takes his craft seriously, which shows in the high caliber of his performances.
While this crop of American Idol contestants is strong, featuring a lot of talent, none of them seem as confident in their abilities as Johnson, a confidence on full display during his Led Zeppelin cover, which is why he blows past his competition time and again during the live performances. A few of the contestants, take Sam Woolf for example, have great vocal abilities, but their stage presence is as lively as a ballroom dance at the county morgue. Someone strapping a guitar around their neck and standing rigidly like a corpse is not going to be enough to entertain a crowd and convince them that spending their hard earned dollars for a concert ticket was worth the investment.
American Idol judges, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, and Harry Connick Jr., have all stressed the need to be a well-rounded entertainer to the contestants, but some seem to be struggling with the proper application of the advice. The very weakness of most of the contestants is Johnson’s strength, which gives him an even greater edge, and makes him a pretty strong contender to win the whole contest. Lopez was thrilled with Johnson’s performance, telling the future rock front man that he sold himself successfully as the sexy lead singer of a real band, which is a critical component to have if a musician wants to break into the rock genre.
Johnson has a natural enthusiasm and energy when he performs, and the band seemed to be in complete synchronicity with him during the performance, as they were feeding off each other to bring one of the most electrifying numbers of the season so far. After last night it is clear that the other contestants have their work cut out for them if they want to try and catch up with him. If his competition continues to ignore advice given by the judges, Caleb Johnson will not need to bust out any more Led Zeppelin covers, as he will simply coast across the finish line off of what he has already accomplished in the few short weeks since the season started.
Opinion by Michael Cantrell