“I’ve always felt too small in a world so large to make a difference,” sang senior Criston Anderson in the opening line of his performance with Caleb Powers Saturday night at The Next Big Thing.
However, the two-song show was anything but small. Anderson and Powers easily won over both the judges and the audience with their big-hearted vocals and eloquent stage presence. At the end of the night, no one was surprised to hear “Criston and Caleb” had earned this year’s title of The Next Big Thing.
Award-winning recording artist and celebrity judge Brittany Hargest admitted she was blown away by the duo’s performance.
“Your vocals were just a rush of buttery goodness,” Hargest told the pair. “You were born to do this. You were my favorite of the night.”
The rest of the judges’ panel also only had good things to say to Anderson and Powers. Manager of national promotions for Centricity Music, Jon Cell, said the show had saved the best for last and asked if the two wanted to come back to Nashville with him.
Public service director and on-air personality for 101.1 KLRC Kalynn Hanson told the pair she wanted to play both their songs, Free and I Wanna be Like You on the radio. And Director of Worship Ministries Jen Edwards simply asked, “Why don’t I know you?”
However, it was the crowd’s reaction that proved Anderson and Powers had stolen the show. The audience laughed, clapped and cheered along with the soulful melody and happy beat. And during the interlude, Anderson connected with the audience with his eloquent, heart-filled message. After the final note was strung, the duo was the only performance to receive a standing ovation from the 600 audience members in attendance.
Audience resonance was important, too, as the members texted in their vote at the end of the competition. In the end, the audience vote accounted for one-third of the final say, along with the judges’ scores.
Despite the compliments and huge recognition, the band could only respond with humility. Both stated they were so thankful for this opportunity and the people surrounding them.
“The first thing I thought was that God was working through us,” Powers said. “He is allowing our hearts to be in a position to work through us.”
Anderson added that he hoped this opportunity would open doors.
“It’s always been my dream,” he said. “I would love to do music full time.”
Blue director and mastermind behind The Next Big Thing, Matthias Roberts, said he was so happy to see Anderson and Powers win.
“Everyone worked hard and deserved to win, but it was so cool to see Criston and Caleb take it away,” he said.