'American Idol' Welcoming 2020 Finalists to Compete for Season 19 Top 10 Slot

In a surprise twist for American Idol Season 19, the producers are welcoming back 10 of Season 18's Top 20 finalists to compete for a slot in this year's Top 10. Host Ryan Seacrest announced the surprise news during Monday's Live with Kelly & Ryan episode. It's possible the move had something to do with a surprise withdrawal from this year's Top 16 contestants during Monday night's American Idol episode.

Most of the Season 18 finalists were already in Los Angeles when the coronavirus lockdown began in March 2020. They were all sent home before the live shows, and they had to perform from their homes and apartments during the second half of the season. Now, some of them will get the opportunity to perform in front of the judges during the Monday, April 19 episode. Since the Oscars will air on Sunday, April 25, fan voting will be open for an entire week. The winner will be announced on Sunday, May 2 and they will take the last 2021 Top 10 slot.

"We pivoted pretty quickly to remote production last year because we had to," executive producer and showrunner Trish Kahane told Billboard Monday. "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. They did so well with the remote production, with their mums and dads helping them and their brothers and sisters holding iPhones and ring lights, but they never had the proper Idol experience. Some people really come alive on that big stage. We thought they deserved to have that experience."

The 10 Season 18 contestants invited back are Faith Becnel, Franklin Boone, DeWayne Crocker Jr., Arthur Gunn, Cyniah Elise, Aliana Jester, Louis Knight, Nick Merico, Makayla Phillips and Olivia Ximines. Just Sam was not invited back since she won Season 18. Dillon James and Francisco Martin nabbed record contracts after Season 18 wrapped, making them ineligible to compete.

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The twist was announced before Monday's Idol episode aired. At the start of the broadcast, Seacrest announced that Wyatt Pike was dropping out of the competition after making it to the Top 16. The host did not share details, but fans speculated that he might have violated coronavirus pandemic protocols by leaving Los Angeles to return to his Utah home. Pike's departure came after Luke Bryan announced he tested positive for COVID-19, meaning he will miss the live shows. Producers brought back original Idol judge Paula Abdul to replace the country music star. American Idol airs on ABC Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on ABC. You can also stream episodes live during the broadcasts on FuboTV or Hulu Plus Live TV.

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