‘American Idol’s Season 13 Winner Caleb Johnson Says His Debut Single Is ‘Utter Crap’

by Samantha Whidden

Nearly a decade after winning the 13th season of “American Idol,” Caleb Johnson reveals his true thoughts on his debut single, “As Long As You Love Me.”

While speaking to Business Insider before the 20th anniversary of “American Idol,” Johnson stated that he was actually “really bummed” about coming in first place because that meant he was going to sing the track, which was written by Justin Hawkins. 

“I knew that, by de facto, if you won you had to sing the song,” the “American Idol” winner recalled. “And the song was just utter crap. Like it was just the worst song ever.”

Johnson also said that he fought with the “American Idol” producers prior to the finale about the song. However, they refused to make any changes. “I pitched a fit about it to the management company and all this stuff. And they were like, look at this as kind of a graduation present or something.”

To add insult to injury, Johnson revealed that the song was actually recycled from another “Idol” finalist. “Idols South Africa” runner-up Mark Haze recorded and released Hawkins’ “As Long As You Love Me” for his debut album in 2012. 

“How is that even possible that somebody else releases the same song in another country?” Johnson asked. 

‘American Idol’ Winner Caleb Johnson Managed to Get His Debut Song Eventually Dropped While on Tour

Luckily for Caleb Johnson, the “American Idol” winner got his wish of getting rid of “As Long As You Love Me” while on tour with fellow finalists. “We did at the beginning,” Johnson explained about performing the song on tour. “But they switched it. They switched it about halfway because it just wasn’t working. It was not working, and it was a nightmare.”

Johnson noted that while touring, he had to record his debut album. However, he said the “Idol” label, 19 Recordings, did absolutely nothing to support his 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.”

Despite the debut song’s distaste and the lack of support from 19 Recordings, Johnson still showed “American Idol” love during the show’s 20th season finale. “In honor of the ‘American Idol’ finale tonight here’s a throwback of me winning that thank back in 2014,” he wrote on Instagram. “Had an absolute blast! A lot of great memories!!”

He released his album “Testify” in 2014 with Interscope Records. He ended up leaving Interscope and forming a new group, Caleb Johnson and the Ramblin’ Saints, and released another album in 2019. Since “American Idol,” Johnson has even toured with various bands, including KISS, Black Stone Cherry, and Trans Siberian Orchestra.