Controversies Heat Up The Competition (and Worry Fans) of “American Idol”


Image via USA Today

Ryan Gorneault, Entertainment Editor

“American Idol” has been America’s premier singing competition since it began airing in 2002 and has consistently shocked and entertained record amounts of viewers for 19 seasons. Producers have always found a way to freshen up the show (and create controversy for publicity’s sake), whether through judging panel shakeups or new twists. However, this past week has effectively been one of the most hectic in the show’s history.

The April 19th, 2021 episode of “American Idol” saw ten of last season’s competitors return to the show, all singing for a spot in this season’s top ten. This angered fans who believed their reintroduction to the show was unfair to this current season’s contestants. Last season’s production had to be shut down due to COVID-19 protocols, with the rest of the show emanating from each contestant’s homes. “American Idol” producers decided to make it up for those past contestants by bringing some of them back to perform on stage.

“When it became apparent that things were going to be a bit better this year and that we were going to be able to return to the Television City studio with the big lights, we thought about last year’s contestants,” explained Trish Kinane, executive producer of the show. “…they never had the proper Idol experience. Some people really come alive on that big stage.”

Of course, much of the recent “American Idol” controversy happened off stage as well. After contestant Wyatt Pike mysteriously left the show for personal reasons, fans of the show began theorizing why. Some assume he left because he got into a physical altercation with judge and Country music superstar Luke Bryan (which also explained Bryan’s absence from a recent episode of the show). Bryan did not comment on the rumors but previously stated that his absence was due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. Meanwhile, his wife verified this in a joking comment on TikTok, stating, “Trust me, he has covid. I kinda wish there was a fight. I’m sick of taking care of kids alone and sanitizing. I’m peeing Lysol!” Pike released his new single, “Friday Nights,” shortly after he departed from the show.

On top of all of that, Cecil Ray Baker, a contestant who had been eliminated on the April 11th episode of “American Idol,” was recently arrested for breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s home and hitting her for not allowing her to see the child he believed was his. He was released on bond later that day.

Controversy aside, this season might be the most talent-filled in “American Idol” history. Among the frontrunners to win the whole thing are 19-year-old “once in a generation” talent Alyssa Wray, 20-year-old Grace Kinstler, who is already being compared to season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson, and 24-year-old Chayce Beckham, who judge Katy Perry fully expects to make it to this season’s top 5.

New episodes of “American Idol” will continue airing every Sunday and Monday at 8:00 PM EST starting on May 2nd. Contestants will sing their favorite Disney songs, hoping that their performances are good enough to get them into this season’s top 10. This is all happening on ABC.