‘American Idol’ Is Back on Air for its 19th Season

Restrictions and Guidelines due to COVID-19

The popular singing competition series American Idol is back on air for its 19th (or 4th) season. The judges consist of country music star Luke Bryan, 21-time Grammy winner Katy Perry, and music legend Lionel Richie. With the audition part of the show being filmed in the middle of a global pandemic, guidelines and restrictions were at the forefront of how the show’s set would operate. Last season, the show was cut short due to COVID-19, and contestants were forced to go back home and do virtual performances. This decision allowed for great success in the show’s continuation, regardless of the disconnect between judges and contestants. However, this season, many precautions and restrictions have been put in place to allow for the show to continue in person. Some of them are as follows:

  • Judges are not able to hug contestants
  • Judges have to sit over 6 feet away from contestants
  • A limited amount of family members will be allowed at the audition
  • Tickets to Hollywood will not be handed out by judges; contestants can find them on a wall near the exit if they are approved for the next round

While these guidelines and restrictions were mostly visible, it was also striking to see how rarely the judges and contestants mentioned the pandemic. It seemed as though they wanted to produce the show in a way that made it feel like COVID-19 wasn’t happening, which is a good tactic for viewers to feel a sense of normality. However, it came off as though they didn’t care. Ryan Seacreast was never seen wearing a mask, even when not speaking. No family members who were waiting outside of the audition room were seen wearing masks as well. And while we can assume that everyone had to get tested before stepping inside the building, the current state of the world has proved that masks are the only efficient way to halt the virus from spreading. Further, many other shows like ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘Law and Order: SVU’ have proven that they can act with masks on and still have their words heard.

So, there seems to be no adequate explanation why those who weren’t actually singing didn’t have a mask. And, even if the show wanted to be perceived as promoting a sense of normalcy, the fact is that the world is so far from normal currently, and COVID-19 is still a big threat.There were also times when the judges would get out of their seats and go less than six feet away from the contestants. This was extremely confusing to watch, and contradicted their proclamation to other contestants that they had to stay in their seats. Overall, some clarity in regards to the guidelines and restrictions for the show would be helpful, as well as more consistency in actions.


The first episode contained only 11 full auditions, even though the air-time was just over two hours. I will be listing the names of these contestants in the order they appeared in the episode, rating their audition, and also predicting how far I think they will go in the competition.

  1. Benson Boone

Rating: 8/10

Prediction: Will make it to top 20. He may burn out because he has only been singing for a year, and may not have the range to make it into the top 10. However, it is possible that when it gets to America’s Vote, he could be propelled forward with help of his 1.3 million TikTok followers.

  1. Alex Miller

Rating: 6/10

Prediction: If everything goes well, he could make it to the top 20. However, it is very possible and very likely that he will have problems with his future partner in Hollywood Week. If he does make it to the top 20, he may not stand out enough with America’s Vote, especially as a young country singer.

  1. Jason Warrior

Rating: 4.5/10

Prediction: Will make it through Hollywood Week, but will get cut before the top 20. The pressure may get to him, and he may crack.

  1. Anilee List

Rating: 8.5/10

Prediction: Will make it easily into the top 20. Has the potential to go much further (possibly to the final), but we will have to see more of her range. She has a great story, and sings with her emotions.

  1. DJ Johnson

Rating: 6/10

Prediction: Won’t make it past Hollywood Week. While she has a great story, her emotions seem to get the better of her and she may crack under the pressure of Hollywood Week.

  1. Nia Renee

Rating: 8.5/10

Prediction: Similarly to Anilee, Nia will at least make it into the top 20. She has a soulful sound, which is one that always does well on the show. It will be interesting to see her other song choices.

  1. Claudia Conway

Rating: 5/10

Prediction: Won’t make it past Hollywood Week. While her story is interesting given who her parents are, it seems as though the judges sent Claudia through because of the publicity, rather than her actual talent. As more contestants get put through and the competition becomes more difficult, I don’t believe that Claudia will stand out the same way she did in this episode.

  1. Grace Kinstler

Rating: 9.5/10

Prediction: Has the chance to win, and will at least make it to the top 5. She is relatable, has a good story, and has a sound that’s reminiscent of Kelly Clarkson. She will no doubt make it extremely far in this competition, and it will be exciting to see how she progresses throughout.

American Idol’ is available to watch/stream every Sunday night at 8pm ET on ABC

By Audrey Shaev

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