‘American Idol’ Celebrates 20 Seasons With ‘The Great Idol Reunion’ (RECAP)

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ABC/Christopher Willard

It was a homecoming on American Idol as familiar faces from over the show’s last 20 seasons returned to sing on “The Great Idol Reunion.” The VIP Idol Alumni Lounge was also teeming with past contestants.

OG judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson joined the current panel of Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan. And they weren’t the only surprises: The screaming girls who went viral in 2008 for their emotional reaction to David Archuleta not winning Idol actually met him in 2022. Host Ryan Seacrest sort of brought back the blond tips when introducing the first season’s runner-up, Justin Guarini. We even got a little “She Bangs” from William Hung, who is now a motivational speaker.

The current competition took a break for a fun trip down a musical memory lane. Twelve alums came back for six duets to celebrate the Idol milestone: two decades of creating singing superstars.

LAINE HARDY, LACI KAYE BOOTH, KATY PERRY, CALEB LEE HUTCHINSON, MADDIE POPPE, LUKE BRYAN, RUBEN STUDDARD, RYAN SEACREST, JORDIN SPARKS, SCOTTY MCCREERY, LAUREN ALAINA, LIONEL RICHIE, JUSTIN GUARINI, WILLIE SPENCE, GRACE KINSTLER, KRIS ALLEN, DAVID COOK, DAVID ARCHULETA, WILLIAM HUNG

ABC/Christopher Willard

Laine Hardy & Laci Kaye Booth

The 2019 winner joined Top 5 finalist Booth for a countrified rendition of “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” by Stevie Nicks & Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. The show was filmed days before Hardy’s arrest by LSU Police for reportedly planting a listening device and monitoring conversations in his ex-girlfriend’s room at college.

Ruben Studdard & Jordin Sparks

The “Velvet Teddy Bear” from 2003 once again came together with the 2007 winner, pairing up for “Knew You Were Waiting (For Me)” by George Michael and Aretha Franklin. Studdard joined Sparks on her season’s finale night back when she was just 16. A clip showed Richie sitting at the judges’ table listening to Studdard back in Season 2.

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Maddie Poppe & Caleb Lee Hutchinson

A love connection that began four seasons ago, Poppe (rocking a new brunette look) and Hutchinson came in first and second, respectively, in 2018. The happy couple took the stage for Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’ hit “Islands in the Stream.”

CALEB LEE HUTCHINSON, MADDIE POPPE

ABC/Christopher Willard

David Cook & Kris Allen

The 2008 and 2009 winners linked up for a collaboration on “The Cranberries.” They’re actually touring together, including three weeks in Europe.

Willie Spence & Grace Kinstler

Two powerhouse faves from last year brought the party to “Rather Be” by Clean Bandit featuring Jess Glynne. Kinstler has been working with Alessia Cara’s team on new music, while Queen Elizabeth invited Spence to sing the National Anthem in the U.K.

Scotty McCreery & Lauren Alaina

The 2011 winner and runner-up closed the night with “When You Say Nothing at All” by Alison Krauss and Union Station. These former teen competitors are now country chart-toppers—genuine Idol success stories.

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