Lionel Richie Says He Was Not Told About Katy Perry Quitting ‘American Idol’

Katy Perry, Lionel Richie

Heavy/Getty Lionel Richie has weighed in on his fellow "American Idol" judge Katy Perry's decision to leave the show

Music legend and “American Idol” judge Lionel Richie was so stunned by Katy Perry’s recent announcement about leaving the show, he joked to Jimmy Kimmel that “it made me drive off the road.”

“My phone blew up,” he told the comedian on February 15, 2024, during an appearance on ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live” — the same show where Perry shared her plans to leave “Idol” three days earlier. During her appearance on February 12, Perry explained that she was eager to release new music and hinted at an upcoming world tour.

Insisting that he’s “not mad” at the pop star, Richie’s comments are the first from anyone in the show’s cast or crew since Perry revealed her decision to Kimmel. ABC representatives have also said nothing publicly about her announcement, which came less than a week before season 22 premieres on February 18.

Here’s what you need to know:

Lionel Richie Says Katy Perry’s Decision to Leave the Show ‘Makes Sense’

When Perry first announced her plans to leave “American Idol” after season 22, Kimmel’s first question for her was how her fellow judges, Richie and country star Luke Bryan, reacted.

“Well, they’ll find out tonight,” Perry quickly said, smiling nervously at the audience.

As the crowd laughed, Kimmel prodded, “Do they really not know?”

“Well they know that I have some things planned for this year,” she said slowly.

When Kimmel asked Richie whether Perry had actually told them about her decision, the “All Night Long” singer deadpanned, “Who?”

Laughing, Kimmel asked, “Were you mad at Katy for announcing it here before talking to you about it?”

“No, I’m not mad,” Richie replied. “It just made me run off the road. My phone blew up … No, we didn’t know about it, but it makes sense.”

Richie continued, “In other words, the reason I love coming on the show here with you, and the reason I’m doing ‘American Idol’ is because I have 400 years of stories and a life in the music business. I have things that I’ve done. And so, when Katy says, ‘I want to go out and create some stories’ … the point is that you have to take some time and actually be an artist.”

At 74, Richie has received countless awards and accolades in the last couple of years for his long and storied career, including being inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in November 2022. But Perry, 39, has had her fair share of success, too, since her pop career took off in 2008. She recently sold the rights to her catalog of hits for $225 million.

Lionel Richie Says ABC is Staying ‘Tight-Lipped’ About Who Will Replace Katy Perry

"American Idol" season 22

ABC“American Idol” judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry and Lionel Richie in a scene from the season 22 auditions.

When Kimmel asked Richie who he’d like to see replace Perry on the judging panel, the R&B legend looked excited by the thought — but stopped short before sharing who he’d like to join him and Bryan.

Fans and industry insiders have come up with a short list of candidates, but Kimmel joked that it could be MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow or even Madonna, whom they’d discussed earlier because she wasn’t part of Richie’s famed “We Are the World” charity recording in 1985.

“You know, they are keeping tight-lipped because I don’t even know,” Richie said of ABC’s plans. “Madonna, if you’re listening, we are completing the circle. We gotta call.”

When season 22 of “American Idol” premieres on February 18, it will begin several weeks of contestant auditions that were filmed in the fall and the show’s infamous Hollywood Week, which took place in early December.

The show won’t air live — with Perry, Richie and Bryan back together again at the judges’ table — until early April, according to The Idol Pad, a spoiler account that tracks results before pre-recorded episodes air.