'American Idol' Finalist Strangely Dropped out of Finale Performance

American Idol crowned its Season 19 winner Sunday night, but not before another curveball could be [...]

American Idol crowned its Season 19 winner Sunday night, but not before another curveball could be thrown in what already proved to be a whirlwind of a season. Before the new Idol winner was announced, past contestants took the stage with celebrity artists, though one person was notably missing. Season 18 finalist and Season 19 competitor Arthur Gunn abruptly dropped out of the performance, leaving more than just the fans confused.

Gunn had been set to take the stage during the three-hour grand finale for a duet with Sheryl Crow, with Idol producers having previously announced the duo would perform two songs. When he was mysteriously absent, Graham DeFranco, a Season 19 Top 16 competitor, stepped in to fill his shoes for a performance that earned plenty of cheers from the judges. During a virtual Q&A post-show, according to USA Today, judge Luke Bryan showered praise on DeFranco, saying that "he literally came to cheer." Bryan added that DeFranco had been at the finale to support Season 19 contestant Chayce Beckham, who took home the title of Season 19's winner, "and we're pulling him out of the crowd going, 'You're gonna sing with Sheryl Crow.' And he's like, 'Hell yeah!'" Perry meanwhile, said DeFranco "killed it. Sang so well, and I was so glad he was there."

During the Q&A, the judges also addressed Gunn's absence, with Lionel Richie admitting that the judges "don't even know what happened." Perry quipped that Idol is "a spicy show. It's a live, three-hour show. And, quite honestly, we've had a very colorful season. Curveballs galore." Some of those curveballs include the abrupt exits of two contestants. Contestant Wyatt Pike left the show after making it to the Top 12, later explaining that he had to leave the competition "for personal reasons." Then, just weeks later, contestant Caleb Kennedy exited after making it into the Top 4. Kennedy's exit came after video surfaced of him next to someone wearing what appears to be a Ku Klux Klan hood. According to Kennedy, the video had been recorded when he was 12, with his mother stating that the teen and his friend had been doing an imitation of characters from The Strangers: Prey at Night.

At this time, it remains unclear why Gunn missed the Idol finale. Neither the Idol producers nor Gunn have addressed his absence. Gunn had initially competed in Season 18 of the ABC singing competition, making it all the way to the finale, where fellow finalist Just Sam was crowned the winner. Gunn then returned to Idol in Season 19 this year after winning the comeback competition, though he was eliminated after the Top 7 show.