The ‘American Idol’ Judges’ Fakeouts Are Getting Old

Jill O'Rourke
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April Fools’ Day seems like the perfect time to talk about a particularly annoying habit of the American Idol judges. If you watched Sunday night’s Final Judgment episode of the show, you may have noticed a trend in how Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan told contestants they had made it into the Top 20 — by first making them think they were eliminated.


These fakeouts didn’t happen once or twice. In that case, it would still be annoying, but forgivable. It adds drama, gets an emotional response out of contestants, and may keep more gullible viewers guessing. But instead, the judges did this for almost every single contestant who made it through in a three-hour episode.

How Many Different Ways Can They Mess With People?

It started with the first contestant of the night, Alyssa Raghu. “Honestly, we don’t see a Top 20 with you … not in it,” Katy told her. Later, Luke Bryan spoke solemnly to Logan Johnson about how they often have to tell people “tough news,” then added, “Fortunately, you’re not one of those.”

Perhaps the most confusing delivery of the news came when Lionel Richie told Uché, “With great debate and with great discussion, we’re gonna let you go home … but we’ll see you back here for our Top 20.” The confused look on Uché’s face actually made Luke laugh.


“What are you doing, tricking everybody?” Katy asked Lionel, as if she hadn’t been doing the same thing all day.

Fakeouts Are Nothing New On American Idol

American Idol has been doing this kind of thing for years. Search “american idol fakeout” on Twitter and you’ll see people complaining all the way back in 2010.

Sometimes, those fakeouts go from predictable to just plain mean. Last season, for example, Katy Perry tried to make a group of contestants believe that one of them had to volunteer to go home.


“We have room for three more people. Out of you girls, I need one person to volunteer to not go on to the next round,” she told them. When Crystal Alicea tearfully offered to leave, Katy told her, “Oh, sweetie, don’t cry! You’re all going through!”

Playing With Contestants’ Emotions Is Just Cruel

As we’ve seen time and again, this show is already stressful enough for these contestants. During Hollywood Week in particular, contestants are clearly exhausted. This year, contestant Nate Walker even went to the hospital and was forced to sing a full solo with a lost voice.

That’s why Luke Bryan’s prank on a room full of contestants last week didn’t go over well with fans. The judges broke hopefuls up into three rooms to deliver their fates. In the third and final room, Luke acted like they were about to send everyone home.

“I am sorry to let you guys know that your time here in Hollywood is over,” he told them. At least one contestant was in tears over the decision, until Luke followed it up with, “‘Cause you’re going to Hawaii!”

“Was that mean? You know I gotta mess with ’em,” Luke tweeted afterward. Do you gotta, Luke? Because a lot of viewers took issue with how you treated an already emotional group of young singers.

As Good Housekeeping pointed out, fans on Twitter called the prank “not funny” and “so wrong.” One viewer wrote, “Don’t mess with their feelings like that!!!” Another compared Luke to the Grinch.

These Fakeouts Just Aren’t Necessary

When you watch other TV talent shows like The Voice or America’s Got Talent, you don’t usually see these kinds of gimmicks — certainly not as frequently as multiple times per episode.

The shows definitely drag out decisions and attempt to leave viewers in suspense. But when they deliver the news, they don’t usually try to confuse people. American Idol might think they’re making exciting TV, but the ratings show that maybe viewers prefer a more sincere competition.

For the past few weeks, American Idol and The Voice have shared a timeslot on Monday nights. Although both shows did well in the ratings last week, The Voice came out on top with 9 million viewers compared to American Idol‘s 6.45 million.

It just goes to show that all the drama isn’t necessary to build a show that people want to watch. The judges have also shown that they can be straightforward and kind when delivering news. Obviously, they don’t fake out people who are being eliminated, as that would be unforgivably cruel.

But they also showed sincerity in letting Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon know that he made it through to the Top 20. In his audition, he shared that his pastor father didn’t accept him when he came out as gay. After his Top 40 performance, Katy spoke to him about her own experience in a religious family.

“I just want to say, from one pastor’s kid to another, that I see you, and I love you, and I accept you, and I’m so proud of you,” she said. “I’m just excited that you’re gonna continue the journey with us in the Top 20.”

Was that so hard? It made for an emotional moment, without trying to trick or confuse anyone. The judges have people’s dreams in their hands. They should try to be gentler with them.

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