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Interview:
Jena Irene is happy with second-place "Idol" finish
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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Her home town may want a recount, but Farmington Hills' Jena Irene says she's perfectly happy being "American Idol's" Season 13 runner-up.

"I'm just extremely excited I got this far," the 17-year-old North Farmington High School singer said by telephone from Los Angeles Thursday morning after a relatively short night of sleep following the show's finale, where she finished second to Tennessee rocker -- and Irene's upcoming prom date -- Caleb Johnson.

"To be honest with you, I knew Caleb was going to win," Irene said. "I knew it deep down, and he deserved it, 100 percent. He's such an amazing performer. I do aspire to be like him. He takes risks. He doesn't care what he does; he just does things in the moment. I'm extremely happy for him.

"And I can't wait to see what happens to me."

Good things are certainly ahead for Irene (nee Asciutto), who was one of four "Idol" finalists with Michigan ties (including Southfield teen Malaya Watson) and the first Wild Card contestant to make it all the way to the "Idol" finals since Clay Aiken in Season 2. Her original song from the show, "We Are One," has been released digitally, and she'll be part of the American Idols Live~! tour that kicks off June 24 in Binghamton, N.Y., and plays its third date on June 27 at Caesars Windsor.

She will presumably be recording an album, too, although Irene said she's waiting for word on whether 19 Entertainment, "Idol's" producer, plans to pick up its option. "Hopefully, cross your fingers, it happens," she said. "As soon as I get the yes, OK, I'll be working with a bunch of people and writing with a bunch of people. That'll be so great."

So, she added, was performing with Paramore, her favorite group, during Wednesday's "Idol" finale. "That was such an insane feeling, 'cause I love them so much," Irene gushed. "I still can't believe it happened.

"(Wednesday) night was just amazing. There was no pressure anymore. Whatever the votes were, they were, and there was nothing I could do to change it. So it was all about having fun for me."

Irene's fun will be at home in the near future. North Farmington's prom takes place on May 28, and she really is taking the 23-year-old Johnson. "It was just, like, a joke early on in the season, and it just turned into the real thing," Irene explained. "Once we got to the top four, I was like, 'Wait, are we actually going, 'cause I don't have a date yet.' And he was like, 'Yeah, let's go,' so it became real."

Irene plans to walk with her class during North Farmington's graduation ceremony on June 8 and said she's been in communication with Western Michigan University about her plans moving forward. "I've been talking to them throughout the ('Idol') season," Irene said. "I'll probably do some online stuff with them, but I'm going to really be focused on what's ahead.

"I'm extremely excited I got this far. It's really been an awesome start to my career."



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