American Idol Winner Caleb Johnson Bemoans His Winning Single as a 'Cheesy Piece of Crap'

·3 min read
American Idol Season 13 Winner Caleb Johnson performs at the 25th National Memorial Day Concert at U.S. Capitol, West Lawn on May 25, 2014 in Washington, DC.
American Idol Season 13 Winner Caleb Johnson performs at the 25th National Memorial Day Concert at U.S. Capitol, West Lawn on May 25, 2014 in Washington, DC.

Paul Morigi/Getty

One American Idol anthem isn't music to Caleb Johnson's ears.

Eight years after winning season 13 of the hit singing competition, and on the eve of the reality show's 20th anniversary, the 31-year-old artist called his coronation song a "cheesy piece of crap" in conversation with Insider. Johnson sang "As Long as You Love Me" by The Darkness frontman Justin Hawkins, after beating fellow finalist Jena Irene Asciutto on the life-changing night.

"I knew that, by de facto, if you won you had to sing the song, and the song was just utter crap," Johnson told the outlet, in an interview published Monday. "Like it was just the worst song ever."

Trying to change the plan, he said that he spoke with management officials in advance, who allegedly told him to "'look at this as kind of a graduation present or something.' "

Johnson said he also felt frustrated when he learned that Mark Haze, who was the Idols South Africa runner-up in 2012, recorded and released a version of "As Long as You Love Me" for his debut album that year.

RELATED: Carrie Underwood Shares Diary Entry from Night She Won American Idol: 'Where Does the Time Go?'

Caleb Johnson
Caleb Johnson

Kevin Winter/Getty

"How is that even possible that somebody else releases the same song in another country?" Johnson wondered in his Insider interview.

And when the Idol winner went on tour with the stars of season 13 top performers, the song was eventually dropped from the setlist.

"We did [it] at the beginning, but they switched it. They switched it about halfway because it just wasn't working," he added of the track. "It was not working, and it was a nightmare."

RELATED: Caleb Johnson Hated Singing America's Song Choice

Reps for American Idol did not immediately respond to PEOPLE's request for comment.

Johnson's confession is not the first time he was asked to sing something on Idol that he wasn't in tune with.

Back in 2014, during his time on TV, he could hardly hide his distaste for the Aerosmith track he was given when viewers sent in specific song requests.

"I hate that song," Johnson told PEOPLE at the time after his performance of "I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing." "I don't know why [America chose it]. I guess it was because it was a rock ballad."

Singer Caleb Johnson attends FOX's "American Idol" Finale For The Farewell Season at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California.
Singer Caleb Johnson attends FOX's "American Idol" Finale For The Farewell Season at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California.

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty

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Still, Johnson chose to smile through his performance and did an adequate – if not particularly passionate – job.

"I kind of thought, 'I'll just do the best I can and get through it as best as possible and try and make it as believable as possible,' " he told reporters. "It was dramatic and had all the candles behind me, so I really like that aspect. But other than that, I hated that song."

Johnson is a little worried, though, that his lack of passion for the song could hurt him in the voting.

"Thank God I had the other song," he said of getting to perform Whitesnake's "Still of the Night" later in the evening. "If not, I would be going home."

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