American Idol: 8 Fakest Things About The Show, According To Cast And Crew (2024)


  • American Idol contestants deal with different conditions than seen on screen, and favoritism is common.
  • Scripted interactions with judges, fabricated drama, and blurred rules make American Idol contestants' journey unclear.
  • Votes can be rigged, winners may not always succeed, and some have called out the show for creating a hostile workplace.

It's no secret that American Idol has seen immense success over the past several decades. The singing competition show is still going strong, and season 21 wrapped up in May 2023. However, there have been many changes to the show's dynamic from the earlier episodes to the current reboot. Despite differences, the show remains popular, and American Idol season 22 has been a major success for the series thus far. After just a few episodes, the current season has become popular with current viewers and those who may not have been as current on the series. While American Idol’s success has wavered over the years, the series has been a staple for reality TV competition aficionados. While viewers may have tapered off American Idol for some time before its move to ABC, the contestants who have held it in high regard have always been interested in auditioning for the series.

Originally airing on Fox, American Idol launched in the early 2000s after British creator Simon Fuller wanted to bring a talent competition to the US. Noting the success of other competition series like Making The Band, the creator felt that he could make waves in the US reality TV market with a competition show. While things have changed tremendously throughout the run of American Idol, the series has remained true to its format for the entirety of its run. Auditioning performers from throughout the country, American Idol looks to find the most talented unsigned performers in the country and bring them to the forefront, competing with their peers for recognition and a record contract. The contestants are judged throughout the competition by both a panel of experts and the country itself, who vote to keep them safe from elimination each week.

No matter which season is watched, present or past, there's been some odd editing, and there are questions surrounding how accurate the show is. While it’s clear that the talent on American Idol is legitimate, there are several other factors of the series that have been offputting for viewers in the past, and are still confusing for them in the present. From the outlandish contestants to the shocking winners, many past contestants and judges have come forward to spill some secrets about their time on the show. Though American Idol has a format that seems to make it impossible for there to be secrets behind the scenes, there is always more than meets the eye when it comes to reality TV. Generally, American Idol is one of the less problematic series on the air, but apparently not everything is as it seems.


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1 The Show Plays Favorites

Some Contestants Get Better Treatment Than Others

Every season, it becomes clear that the show gives certain contestants more airtime than others. Whether it's their popularity or heartwarming background story, it's easy for the more normal contestants to blend into the background. According to a TikTok by a former contestant @katewatsonmusic, she was never aired on the show, even though she made it to the end of Hollywood Week. This is evidence the competition show has always played favorites and aired certain people based on their popularity or sob stories instead of highlighting all the contestants equally. While some contestants don't get their auditions or stories aired on the series, others who do make it to the main stage are treated without care. There are contestants each season who viewers enjoy watching, but who don't make it far in the competition due to judging or low votes. Some even believe that the voting on the series could be rigged in favor of specific contestants.

2 Fake Beef Is Orchestrated

Contestant Drama Is Fabricated For Entertainment Value

It's a no-brainer that reality shows would only be half as entertaining with some drama. However, many high-tension situations are reportedly fake and highly orchestrated by the production team. Even former judge Mariah Carey detailed her experience on the Kyle And Jackie O radio show. Mariah said that her beef with Nicki Minaj was heavily pushed as it made for good TV, even though she didn't favor two females being pitted against each other. There have been issues between the American Idol judges throughout the duration of the series, and though Nicki and Mariah's American Idol beef was well-documented, the original issue on the series was between Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul. Though judges have had their own issues, contestants have beef that feels forced from time to time as well, especially in the audition phase of the season.

3 Contestants Have Little Say In Their Audition Songs

There Are Pre-Selected Songs They Can Choose From

Contestants on American Idol seem to have a knack for picking the perfect audition song. However, they're pretty limited in what songs they can sing during their audition unless the production team lets them sing an original piece. According to Today, contestants are given a CD with around 50 songs to choose from as of 2008. While it makes sense that only certain pieces are cleared by artists for use in the show, it's shocking to learn that contestants have limited options for audition song picks. When American Idol moved to ABC, things changed for the series, but their audition choices have continued to be limited in the new era of the series. Though more contestants can sing original songs and the choices appear to be a bit more diverse in their selections, things are still very limited in the audition round.

4 Auditions Aren't The First Time Contestants Compete

The Judges Are The Final Round Of Auditions

While the American Idol judges are seen as the be-all-end-all for the contestants on the series, they're actually not the first group of critics that the performers face during their time on the series. American Idol contestants are met with several different rounds of auditions during their audition day, sometimes performing before auditions as well. Though the process has changed through the years, performers are typically met with several rounds of audition before they make it to the panel of celebrity judges, and even then, some are not guaranteed a spot to sing on camera. The American Idol hopefuls are all looking for a similar experience, and all wish that they'll be able to meet the judges, perform, and get their start in the music industry from the series, but their early experiences with American Idol are typically with producers.

5 Producers Manipulate Contestants

The Production Team Wants To Create A Narrative

The most cringeworthy American Idol auditions feature terrible singers or people with nasty attitudes. However, the aired situations aren't always a telltale sign of what happened. According to the New York Post, a novel by the name of Elimination Night reveals the inner workings of the show by saying, "Producers use a secret rating system to vet contestants before they even make it to the judge’s table and then, as the season progresses, manipulating and even sabotaging the singers they want to see rise or fall." The book even says that judges can be manipulated without their knowledge, which tells of just how powerful production is regarding the show's outcome. There have been documented cases of producer manipulation throughout American Idol's run, though many happened earlier on in the series than in the more recent years.

Some Feel Exploited After They Don't Make It Further

Some contestants have shared that the day of their audition is a long, arduous process and requires them to be on camera for hours longer than anticipated, even if they don't actually make it through the audition process. Despite coming to the American Idol auditions looking for the chance to sing in front of the judges, the auditioners are corralled through a series of other auditions to see if they should make it further in the competition. While that's happening, there are cameras roving the premises looking for footage they can use on the series to fill time between auditions. Though some auditioners don't mind being on camera despite the fact that they may not even get the chance to get into the audition room, others aren't interested in performing for free. There is countless footage of American Idol contestants who didn't make it to the audition room, but have provided the show free content.

7 Emotional Backstories Can Be Faked For Ratings

Contestant Sob Stories Have Become Key To The Show

Many contestants come and go with emotional backstories, giving memorable performances that made American Idol judges cry. However, some of these stories were allegedly fabricated for ratings. Since sob stories are popular, American Idol doesn't even fact-check them as long as they bring good ratings. One contestant in particular, Matt Farmer, even got exposed for lying about his military past, according to HuffPost. Though there have always been sob stories on the series, things have changed tremendously since the show moved to ABC. The contestants' backstories have become an integral part of the series, with long, winding narratives built about each contestant and their life into the audition episodes. With the backstory of each auditioner becoming more important, the fact that they've had contestants who have lied about their stories before makes it likely they're still doing the same now.

8 A Golden Ticket Doesn't Promise Anything

They Simply Give Contestants The Option To Perform

All contestants on the show dream of holding that famous golden ticket in their hand, which means the singer is going straight to Hollywood for the next round. Or does it? Unfortunately, just because someone gets a golden ticket doesn't mean they are guaranteed to proceed in the competition. As reported by E! News, former American Idol contestant Akron Watson took his experience to MySpace, writing, "A golden ticket, but no plane ticket!!!" According to Watson, the show cut him for "unknown reasons," despite receiving a golden ticket days prior, which supposedly guaranteed a trip to Hollywood. While the golden tickets have been given out throughout the series, their meaning has been menial as they've had contestants share that their golden tickets didn't actually get them to Hollywood. In the past, American Idol's golden tickets only mean they have the potential to perform, but contestants have had to cover their own travel expenses to get there.

9 Judges Have Scripts For Their Interactions With Contestants

Their Critiques Aren't Always Genuine

Regardless of whether American Idol judges are liked or hated, it's a well-hidden secret that these judges have scripts. While it's unclear how long the show has been scripted, several past contestants have shared their experiences discovering this fact during their auditions. A contestant who had previously auditioned for the show, @colbykatreisinger, made a TikTok detailing her experience of realizing just how scripted the show was and how they had already decided about her before she even auditioned. The singer mentions that Katy Perry "didn't learn her lines," but also how the show painted her to look like a bad guy from the start. In past seasons of the series, the judges reactions to performers were far more rough and raw, especially when the original panel of judges were in control. While things have changed to become more positive, that may not mean they're any more genuine.

10 Contestant Eligibility Rules Can Be Blurry

People Have Been Disqualified For Very Little

Throughout the history of American Idol, there have been rules surrounding contestant eligibility. As the competition has been looking for the best unsigned talent in the US for years, there are some stipulations about who can and can't compete. While the lines have been blurry regarding what constitutes working in the industry and what doesn't, there have been contestants who have been ejected from the competition for having worked professionally in the industry in the past. In the early seasons of American Idol, contestants were barred from the show for having performed with signed artists or opening up for them on tours in the past. Though there have been backup singers for signed artists in the past, there are typically rules dictating that people who have held any sort of record contract can't compete on the series.

11 Even Voting Can Be Rigged

The Votes Aren't Always Accurate Or Fair

American Idol always makes fans feel important, as they are made to believe they have a heavy hand in who wins the competition show. While there have been several occasions where fans thought the runner-up should have won instead, there might be solid evidence that cheating is a common tactic in the American Idol voting process. On American Idol, "Textgate" was a scandal that took the world by storm in the late 2000s when Kris Allen unexpectedly won the competition over a more popular competitor and current frontman of Queen, Adam Lambert. According to NZHerald, AT&T admitted to "providing free mobile phones and texting services to fans of Allen" in his hometown, which was unfair. Though voting has been skewed in the past, there have been efforts to make sure things are fair moving forward.

12 American Idol Has Been Accused Of Creating A Hostile Workplace

Some Contestants Have Struggled To Continue In The Competition

Although many of the contestants who perform on American Idol have a great time on the series, others have struggled personally and professionally during their time on the show. Whether it is because of the rigorous pressures of the competition and industry or because of how hard they're working, American Idol contestants can have a difficult time dealing with the stress of the show. In the past, some contestants have shared that they didn't feel comfortable on the series, including American Idol season 19 favorite Arthur Gunn. The performer chose to cancel a performance he was meant to have with Sheryl Crow on the series, explaining to US Weekly that it was a "last minute decision but I couldn’t help but say no cause of some personal morals and values due to unpleasant environmental experiences." Arthur cited the environment he was performing in as an issue, but refused to provide further details.

13 Winners Aren't Guaranteed A Hit Song

The Singles Provided To The Winners Are Historically Bad

While the show's winners are celebrated, American Idol's victors aren't guaranteed a hit song or a shot at a career for their ability to take on the competition. Though there have been some tremendously successful winners on the series in the past, including American Idol season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson, there have been many performers who don't come out of the show with massive success. Some past winners have cited the songs that the winners are given as their first single as a part of their inability to create momentum coming out of the series. Though some are better than others, the singles that the performers are typically given aren't usually incredible for the mainstream. While many artists have issues outside of their lead singles being unsuccessful, some American Idol winners have cited a poor lead single as the reason their careers didn't pick up.

American Idol airs Sundays & Mondays on ABC, and is available to stream on Hulu.

Sources: Kate Watson/TikTok, Kyle And Jackie O/YouTube, Today, New York Post, HuffPost, E! News, Colby Kat Reisinger/TikTok, NZHerald, US Weekly

American Idol: 8 Fakest Things About The Show, According To Cast And Crew (2024)
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