'American Idol' showdown: Caleb Johnson vs. Jena Irene

(L-R) Caleb Johnson and Jena Irene.

(L-R) Caleb Johnson and Jena Irene.

Jane Stevenson, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:23 PM ET

And then there were two.

After 75,000 singers auditioned, followed by weeks of performances and eliminations over the last three months, American Idol’s Season 13 winner will be crowned Wednesday night at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles.

And this year it all boils down to the battle of the big voices.

Will it be retro-rock screamer Caleb Johnson, 23, from the south or large-lunged pianist Jena Irene, 17, from the north? (In a cute twist, Jena asked Caleb to her prom.)

Individually, they get the opportunity to sing with two of their biggest influences - Caleb with veteran classic rockers KISS and Jena with female-fronted emo-pop act Paramore - on their final performances on Tuesday night.

But it’s a tough call on who will emerge the final victor during the results show Wednesday with big improvements from both singers since the beginning - particularly Jena who unbelievably was once in the bottom three.

If cornered, I give Caleb the edge for consistently being the singer to beat week in, week out.

As judge Jennifer Lopez said last week as Caleb struggled with various ailments including a bruised vocal cord and still sung the hell out of INXS’ Never Tear Us Apart, and Led Zeppelin’s Dazed and Confused (destroying his mic stand for emphasis at the end of the latter): “You on your worst night are better than people on their best night.”

“The amount of good vibes right now is just palpable,” said Caleb on his home visit to Asheville, N.C., last week where we also got to meet his goofy younger brother Houston who summed up his big brother’s talents thusly: “You suck.”

And to see Caleb jump into Houston’s arms on the Idol stage when KISS was unveiled as the act he would collaborate with was just unbridled goody bromance at its best.

“This experience coming home has been incredible and it’s just ignited the fire even more,” said Caleb, who first auditioned for Idol in seasons 10 and 11.

Jena, meanwhile, is the first wild card contestant to make it to the final two since Clay Aiken in season two. (And he just won the Democratic nomination for Congress in North Carolina!)

Her final performances were uneven, with the best of the trio of songs being Radiohead’s Creep, but up until last week she just kept getting better and better the straighter her naturally curly hair got.

After her hometown visit to Farmington Hills, Mich., last week a teary Jena said: “The fact that I had such an impact on the community. I want to win for them now. I’m going to try.”

May the best singer win.

And hey, even if they don’t, other non-winners have gone onto big music careers even without getting the Idol crown.

Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert, or Chris Daughtry anyone?

Twitter: @JaneCStevenson

jane.stevenson@sunmedia.ca


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