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American Idol
Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick, Jr. of "American Idol" | Fox
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Harry Connick, Jr.
Harry Connick, Jr.

This week, we learned three things for certain about “American Idol.” It’s coming back for a 14th season, Harry Connick, Jr. has confirmed that he’s coming back as judge, and the first rocker “Idol” winner was crowned.

After a season where judges Keith Urban and Jennifer Lopez returned and Harry Connick, Jr. breathed a breath of fresh air into a show that was seemingly becoming stale, it was the contestants, including winner Caleb Johnson, who stole the show this year by delivering powerful and near perfect vocals week after week. Johnson did what Chris Daughtry couldn’t do in Season 5, which was bring home the victory for the rockers.

After watching almost every season since day one of the first season, this year’s “American Idol” was, in my opinion, fun. The top 12 contestants were quirky, with their braces, pompadours, coke bottle glasses, tattoos, big hair bows and folded pant legs. They listened as the judges, especially Connick, offered smart criticism that they applied to their next performances. They weren’t mocked or ridiculed. They were treated as aspiring artists, as singers who were hungry to win a singing competition, not fodder for jokes or humiliation.­

What did Connick think of his judging duties this year? “I’ve had a blast,” he said in a recent press call. “It’s been an amazing journey and it’s been great to be with Keith and Jen. Keith is an immensely talented, fun guy, and Jen is as lovely as you would hope.”

Connick thought that this year’s race could have gone to any of the top three contestants, including Jena Irene and Alex Preston.  “They were so different, and that’s what makes for an amazing competition. Caleb is a big, dynamic performer with a big voice. There’s a mystique about Jena. She was a sleeper early on, and we couldn’t have predicted how this would’ve happened.

During this week’s finale, Connick was the subject of a quiz. The question? Was Harry watching a good or bad performance based on his poker face? The answer was a good performance, but Connick admits that it’s his job to judge, so he remains focused. “I thought carefully about what it means to be a judge, and it means to be specific,” he says. “That doesn’t mean that I’m not moved by some of the performances, but ultimately, there’s a respect that goes to the performers to be on an even keel and not jump around like crazy.”

Winning “American Idol” doesn’t guarantee success, but Caleb Johnson is going to have a tremendous career. Jena Irene might have come in second, but she’ll be a strong contender on the pop charts down the road, as well. The “American Idol” tour starts June 24th in Binghamton, New York. For more information, visit AmericanIdol.com.

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