Season 4 of ABC’s American Idol premiered on Sunday, February 14, 2021, and there were a few immediately noticeable changes due to COVID-19 safety protocols, which include the judges sitting at separate tables and not being able to get close to the contestants. Luke Bryan recently opened up to People about the hardest part of filming the show this time around.
“The interesting thing is just trying to navigate all of the new rules of COVID-19,” Bryan said. “One tricky thing is a lot of times during the audition process, contestants will get very, very emotional and it will be an emotional situation for them.”
He added, “The fact that me and Lionel and Katy can’t walk out there and do the human element – hug and show support and love, is very, very tough.”
Bryan Says Not Being Able to Console Contestants is Heartbreaking
Bryan said that he feels it’s very important to be able to support contestants when they get emotional during the audition process.
“I think that’s one thing you’ll see as a viewer of me and Lionel and Katie,” he shared. “When someone is hurting and they’re motional, you want to console them and hug them and love on them to help them through. The fact that sometimes we can’t go put our arms around them is pretty heartbreaking.”
The show itself hasn’t changed, however, Bryan stressed. American Idol is still about finding the best singer in the country.
“At the core of it, it’s all about those wonderful singers and talented singers walking in the door and really blowing our minds as judges,” he told the outlet. “I think through all of the COVID restrictions and rules, we’ve been able to really, really put an amazing show together, and very excited to see some of the talent that we’ve been able to find.”
‘American Idol’ Faced Backlash for Its Treatment of Claudia Conway
While Bryan may say the show hasn’t changed for viewers, some people were upset with the way that 16-year-old Claudia Conway was treated by the show.
Following the audition, the show faced backlash on social media from fans who accused the show of exploiting the Conways for higher viewership. According to Page Six, the backlash has caused the executives at American Idol to rethink how they were going to position Conway throughout the season.
Critics of the show’s choice to include Conway in such a high capacity believe that the show used the family issues the Conways experience in order to get more people interested in their show.
Claudia is the daughter of Kellyanne Conway, who worked for the Trump campaign and administration, and George Conway, a lawyer and republican strategist who was vocally anti-Trump. The relationships between Claudia and her parents have been speculated about online, especially recently as Claudia has posted videos of her mother allegedly cursing at her.
Most fans agree, however, that Conway will be treated just like any other contestant moving forward, and many people appreciated Katy Perry’s treatment of the teenager during the audition.