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Ahead of the 20th anniversary of “American Idol,” Season 13 champion Caleb Johnson reflected on his coronation song, “As Long as You Love Me,” written by Justin Hawkins. Calling it a “cheesy piece of crap,” he recounted how he tried to fight the show’s producers on performing it.
“I knew that, by de facto, if you won you had to sing the song, and the song was just utter crap. Like, it was just the worst song ever,” he said in a recent interview with Insider, adding that he was “really bummed” by the circumstance.
The rock singer said he “pitched a fit about it to the management company and all this stuff,” but was told to view the winning single “as kind of a graduation present or something.” Johnson grew even more frustrated when he found out that the song was recycled from another “Idol” contestant two years prior. In 2012, “Idols South Africa” runner-up Mark Haze recorded and released a version of “As Long as You Love Me” for his debut album, and in 2014, Johnson was given the same song with slightly different lyrics.
Johnson went on to perform the song for the post-“Idol” summer tour, where he was joined by other finalists. However, it was eventually dropped, he said. “We did [it] at the beginning, but they switched it. They switched it about halfway because it just wasn’t working. It was not working, and it was a nightmare.”
During the “Idol” tour, Johnson also worked on recording his debut album, which he said the competition series’ label, 19 Recordings, “put absolutely no support behind.”
“The label wouldn’t release the single,” he said. “There was no single that came out after the record was done. There was no music video. There was nothing.”
“As Long as You Love Me” charted at No. 42 on the Hot Rock/Alternative Songs chart, where it remained for a week. In its own ranking of “Idol” coronation tracks, Insider said that Johnson’s vocals “just aren’t suited” to the song. The tune also failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming the first in the show’s history to do so.