‘American Idol’ Drama as Arthur Gunn Misses Finale and Duet with Sheryl Crow

Arthur Gunn on American Idol Season 19
ABC/Eric McCandless

Several past American Idol contestants from this season returned for Sunday’s (May 23) finale, but there was one singer conspicuous by their absence: Arthur Gunn.

Gunn, a previous Idol runner-up who won a comeback competition to earn a spot on this year’s season, was scheduled to perform two duets with celebrity guest Sheryl Crow. However, when it came time to take to the stage, Gunn was nowhere to be seen, as former contestant Graham DeFranco took his place alongside the “All I Wanna Do” hitmaker.

Based on what was said in a virtual Q&A post-show, this was an unexpected, last-minute change, as DeFranco was only meant to be at the show as a spectator. “He literally came to cheer,” explained judge Luke Bryan. “He was there to support Chayce [Beckham], and we’re pulling him out of the crowd going, ‘You’re gonna sing with Sheryl Crow.’ And he’s like, ‘Hell yeah!'”

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It’s not yet known why Gunn didn’t make the show, as Lionel Richie said that the judges themselves “don’t even know what happened.” Katy Perry added that it continued this season’s very “spicy,” unpredictable nature. “It’s a live, three-hour show, and, quite honestly, we’ve had a very colorful season… curveballs galore,” she stated. “But Graham DeFranco? I mean, killed it, sang so well, and I was so glad he was there.”

Gunn’s return to the show through the comeback twist was met with criticism from fans at the time, with many claiming that it was unfair to the current group of contestants. The Nepali-American singer returned on the May 2 broadcast to join Season 19’s Top 10 before advancing to the Top 7, creating an awkward atmosphere on stage as Deshawn Goncalves, Alyssa Ray, and Cassandra Coleman were eliminated.

It’s not the only controversy that has rocked American Idol this season. One week after his elimination, contestant Cecil Ray Baker was charged with “burglary of habitation with intent to commit assault.” Meanwhile, Top 5 finalist Caleb Kennedy was dropped from the show after a video emerged online showing the contestant sitting next to a friend wearing a white hood similar to those worn by the Ku Klux Klan.

American Idol, Sundays, 8/7c, ABC