American Idol performers are a close-knit family, or so it would seem. The show's 500th episode, which aired Wednesday, featured clips from past winners and notable contestants. Now it's come to light that former contenders for the crown get pitched some of the same tunes that current Idol hopefuls end up recording.
Case in point: Idol finalist Caleb Johnson's debut single "As Long As You Love Me" was offered to Kelly Clarkson a couple of years ago. Songwriter Justin Hawkins confirmed the song's origins to Yahoo Music, telling the website:
"Yes, it's the same song. The song was considered by Kelly, but ultimately 'unexploited,' as we say in songwriting world. I was asked to modify the lyric for Caleb[.]"
Those lyrics required modification more than once. When offered to Clarkson -- the season one Idol champion -- two lines of the song were an obvious mismatch for her unless she was considering a new fashion statement:
"Do you love me for my money or my uniform, or do you only love me for my mustache?"
Given Kelly's lack of upper lip hair, the lyric probably would have been changed if she had chosen to record the song.
Johnson, it should be noted, is also clean-shaven. The recurring Idol hopeful -- he auditioned in Seasons 10 and 11 before making it to the end of Season 13 -- removed the mustache line from his version. Either Johnson or Jena Irene will become the Idol winner next week.
Caleb's recording was just released on iTunes, in advance of next week's finale. His hometown newspaper, the Asheville Citizen-Times, gave ink to news of the song. The paper also acknowledged Hawkins' songwriting heft: he's previously written songs for Meat Loaf.
As Long As You Love Me made the Idol rounds worldwide. South African Idol 2011 runner-up Mark Haze also recorded the song, and kept in the reference to facial hair.
MTV News classifies Caleb's version of "As Long As You Love Me" as a "straight-up rocker." Johnson is noted for his classic rock voice and powerful pipes, or to put it more bluntly in the words of The Hollywood Reporter music editor Shirley Halperin, "He can rock like nobody's business."
The fact that these two American Idol contenders, Clarkson and Johnson, had the opportunity to interpret the same song perhaps shows their broad range and talent, since they have such different music styles. Halperin, touting Johnson as her pick to win Idol next week, said, "Johnson's song picks are not only a perfect fit for his voice, but some choices have been just plain inspired."
Inspired song choices are important for all American Idol competitors, in every season.