American Idol winner Caleb Johnson calls first single 'utter crap,' alleges he received no record label support
American Idol has been a star-making vehicle for the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert, and even attempted political figure Clay Aiken. Others have not been so lucky. For every Chris Daughtry, there are five Trent Harmons during the show's 20 season run.
Now, one of those forgotten performers from the competition is speaking out about his struggle to get his music career off the ground after concluding his run on the long-running series. Season 13 winner Caleb Johnson has revealed that the song the show's producers gave him to sing upon claiming his victory was "a cheesy piece of crap" and he felt unsupported by his label Interscope Records.
The track, "As Long as You Love Me," written by Justin Hawkins, frontman of the British rock band, The Darkness, still haunts Johnson.
"I knew that, by de facto, if you won you had to sing the song, and the song was just utter crap," Johnson told Insider. "Like, it was just the worst song ever."
Johnson even complained to the team behind the show and record company at the time of his win in 2014, but claims his lack of love for the uptempo pop/rock tune was ignored.
"I pitched a fit about it to the management company and all this stuff," he added. "And they were like, look at this as kind of a graduation present or something."
The tune also proved to be a "nightmare" to perform live on his subsequent tour with his fellow contestants, so much so that it was scrapped from the lineup.
"We did at the beginning, but they switched it. They switched it about halfway because it just wasn't working," he said. "It was not working, and it was a nightmare."
The 31-year-old also has harsh words for the team tasked with marketing his album putting "absolutely no support behind the record."
"The label wouldn't release the single, there was no single that came out after the record was done. There was no music video. There was nothing," he added.
Johnson auditioned for the show four times before climbing to the top spot, winning over audiences with his powerhouse renditions of hits from Aeorsmith, Paul McCartney, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and The Rolling Stones.
At the time of his win, Johnson enthusiastically told EW of his plans for his forthcoming album, seemingly unaware of the difficult experience ahead of him.
"I really want this record to be an amazing experience," he shared. "I want it to be a full deal, that front to back every song is awesome and tells a cohesive story and it culminates me stylistically and vocally and have all these facets to it. I'm a rock singer, but I love soul, I love blues, and I love theatrical stuff too, like theatrical rock like Queen and Meat Loaf. But I want this to be deep and heavy and soulful and convicted and have a lot of depth to it and hit people right in the gut when they hear it."
Looking back on it now, he says he's "really bummed" he even won the show. Unsurprisingly, he is no longer an artist at Interscope and has formed the group Caleb Johnson and the Ramblin' Saints. Their debut album, Born from Southern Ground, was released in 2019.
In case you're wondering, or simply forgot, here's the song for you to judge for yourself. Not to be confused with the beloved Backstreet Boys hit from 1997, As Long as You Love Me appeared on Johnson's debut album Testify.
These days, he's on the road and sticking to the classics.
Representatives for American Idol and Interscope did not immediately respond to EW's request for comment.