'American Idol' Auditions: Lauren Daigle Returns for Special Reason Years After Judges Rejected Her
American Idol returns for a 23rd season on Sunday night, complete with a special returning guest. Former contestant Lauren Daigle stopped by to surprise a new contestant who was singing her 2018 hit, "You Say." Daigle unsuccessfully auditioned for Idol multiple times until 2015, when she released her first album, How Can It Be.
In a clip from Sunday's premiere, published by PEOPLE, a young singer told judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan she will perform "You Say." Outside, host Ryan Seacrest revealed that Daigle was at the studio after she wrapped a show in Las Vegas the night before. A woman there to support the contestant told Daigle the singer is "gonna go crazy" when she shows up.
Daigle walked into the studio just as the singer began performing "You Say." The judges were left shocked, with Perry noting that this was something that would "only" happen on American Idol. This was Daigle's third time on the show, following her performance of "You Say" over Zoom with Just Sam in 2020 and "Look Up Child" in 2021.
The Louisiana native, 31, tried out for Idol multiple times during the show's original run on Fox. However, it was not until 2021 that she finally performed on the Idol stage. By then, she had already won two Grammys. In 2019, she won Best Contemporary Christian Music Performance/Song for "You Say" and Best Contemporary Christian Music Album for Look Up Child.
"I tried out for American Idol for the first time when I was 17 years old," Daigle told Jubilee Cast in 2014. "I made it to the end of Hollywood Week and got the big 'NO' on the green mile, the round where you are one on one with the judges to find out if you have made it to the Top 24. I tried out again the next season and did not even make it to Hollywood. The following year, I tried out one more time and made it from the Hollywood rounds to the Las Vegas level, but I was cut after the first round in Las Vegas."
After the experience, she prayed and "asked the Lord to come meet me in the middle of the performances," Daigle said. She came to realize that "without His presence, there was no joy in the process," which inspired her to focus on contemporary Christian music. "This is when the Lord taught me about the importance of worship and how fulfilling it is to lift up His name," she explained to Jubilee Cast. "I left American Idol with a great experience under my belt, but joyfully returned to Louisiana to lead worship for my sweet church."
Daigle's next big show is on March 2, when she performs as part of the 2023 RodeoHouston entertainment lineup. Chris Stapleton, Jason Aldean, New Kids on the Block, Brooks & Dunn, Ashley McBryde, and Bryan are also performing shows during the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo between Feb. 28 and March 19. American Idol Season 23 premieres on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.