With Season 21 of “American Idol” in the rearview mirror and its new winner, 18-year-old Iam Tongi at the top of the iTunes charts, the cast and crew are already beginning to plan the next season of the long-running show. “Idol” has been officially renewed by ABC, according to Deadline, though celebrity judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie haven’t officially re-upped for a seventh season together. Even if they do, the three say the show is bound to undergo some changes for Season 22.
“The core of the show is such a special thing, but we’ll always evolve,” Bryan told Parade magazine after the season finale on May 21, 2023.
Richie agreed, saying that each season is also a bit different based on the level of talent they see walk through the audition doors.
“It won’t be the same as last year because we adapt to who’s coming in,” he told Parade. “This year was on steroids. If this is 21, I can’t even imagine where we’re going next.”
Despite their enthusiasm, the biggest question is whether there will be a change in the judging panel next season. There have been rumors that Perry has threatened to leave behind the scenes, and Bryan has told interviewers that they’re still “working through” whether they’ll return. Here’s what you need to know:
Judges Comment on Whether They’ll Return for Season 22
Whether all three judges will return for a seventh season together is still up in the air. That’s not unusual, given that ABC typically does not announce that they and host Ryan Seacrest are returning until mid-summer, but fans are eager to know their plans.
When asked by Access Hollywood the night of the season finale whether he’s returning, Bryan said, “Well, we’re working through it and it’s a great question to ask. But, certainly, I don’t see the reason why I wouldn’t come back with my fellow judges. We have a great time doing this and it feels good.”
However, there have been rampant rumors in the media that Perry is unhappy with producers for the way she was portrayed on the show this year and has considered quitting. On the red carpet after the finale, she told Extra that she does hope to return — but that she also needs time for a concert tour since she hasn’t been on the road since she began judging “Idol” in 2018, per Billboard.
“I think we have to talk about it tonight,” she told Extra, alluding to a dinner the cast was going to have after the show. “I think we’re all gonna talk about it tonight. Um, I love my job and I love what I do. I know that, like, I miss going out into the world and doing what those kids get to do. I’m getting a little FOMO after all these years. It’s been quite a minute (since touring). I hope so, we’ll see, and I just am so proud of everything we’ve been able to do thus far.”
Meanwhile, Richie told Entertainment Tonight that he’s definitely game for another season.
“If they want me back, I’m running through the door, first thing,” he said.
‘Idol’ Judges Outline Their Hopes for Next Season
Assuming that all three judges do return, there are some things they told Parade that they definitely don’t want to change next season. For one, Perry said she’s loved watching “Idol” become a welcoming place for unique artists, musicians, and singer-songwriters — something that other shows don’t always allow for.
In fact, runner-up Megan Danielle has said that when she was on “The Voice” in 2020 at age 17, the show didn’t allow her to play any original songs and had a strict list of allowed songs she could sing. She told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the producers at “Idol,” in turn, “let you be exactly who you are.”
Perry told Parade, “I’m just so grateful that real musicians, real artists are trusting us, are giving us a shot again. This is not a karaoke show, it’s not a show about the judges. We are one little part in it, but this is ultimately about people’s stories and sounds and voices that need to be heard. And these stories make up the fabric of America, so I would like to encourage and invite all serious artists and songwriters to audition for ‘American Idol,’ to have the best season yet.”
Bryan agreed, saying that they’d never had an artist quite like Season 21 winner Iam Tongi and knew he was special the moment they heard him sing, coupled with his authentic emotions and compelling story, as he shared during his audition about losing his music-loving dad months before.
“Iam’s audition was probably the highlight of my year, because it just set the tone for a lot of good vibes, a lot of good energy,” Bryan told Parade. “I think we’re giving (viewers) a dose of good emotions, good stories, and the American dream.”
Perry also pointed out that the talent was so good in 2023 that many famous musicians were tuning in to see their songs performed by the contestants.
“This season they really showed up,” she said. “Some amazing, incredible artists were even watching along— Bon Jovi or Coldplay sent messages. They’re all tuning in.”
Meanwhile, Richie said he thought the high-caliber celebrity mentors were a huge boon to the contestants during Season 21, from successful “Idol” alumni like Adam Lambert and Jordin Sparks to music icons such as Alanis Morrisette and Keith Urban. He’d like to see that level of mentorship continue.
“The closer these kids can get to successful artists, the better it is for them,” he told Parade, adding that it’s also good for the artists “to give back a little bit.”
But the judges also said they like the ways the show evolves and changes each year to keep it from getting too predictable for them or viewers.
“We live through things, and we learn things,” he told Parade. “Like this year, we had a Top 26, which we’ve never had. Next year, we may not have that. The core of the show is such a special thing, but we’ll always evolve.”
He pointed to Perry and Richie’s absence from the show in mid-May to attend King Charles’ coronation in England as a perfect example of how the judges and producers are able to come up with new ways of doing things — and that it may inspire them to do something similar next year.
Bryan said, “Even when you look at Lionel and Katy going to the coronation and bringing Ed (Sheeran) and Alanis (Morrissette) in, it may be fun to have two extra judges come in one week.”
After that episode, during which Richie got the King and Queen of England to appear on “American Idol,” Bryan also told People magazine that he might want to be the one who takes a week off next season.
He said, “It was fun. It kinda makes me want to sit out next year. Live from the fishing pond!”
Season 22 of “American Idol” will premiere in early 2024, and online auditions have already begun.