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Tense ‘American Idol’ Moments Over the Years: Madai ChaKell and Luke Bryan’s Interaction and More

Tense American Idol Moments Between Contestants and Judges Over the Years
Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan. Momodu Mansaray/Getty Images

In the two decades American Idol has graced the small screen, fans have witnessed many tense interactions between the show’s contestants, judges and hosts.

Things got heated between season 22 contestant Madai ChaKell and judge Luke Bryan during a March 2024 Hollywood Week episode of the series after ChaKell stopped her performance of Ariana Grande’s “Tattooed Heart” after not gelling with her piano player.

After Bryan noted she seemed “shaky” during some parts of the song, ChaKell used his words to clap back at the country star upon returning to redo her performance. “Can I have your chair, perhaps? Because I’m getting a little shaky,” she stated.

She criticized Bryan again after the song, noting how he previously vocalized that she was still a “year or two away” from perfecting who she is as an artist during her audition. “I wanted to show you that I can be everyone and everything,” she said. “Isn’t that what an American Idol is?”

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As the contestant walked off stage, Bryan quipped, “Maybe we’ll do American Humble at some point. Probably not winning the audience for that one.”

Keep scrolling for more tense American Idol moments over the years:

Madai ChaKell and Luke Bryan

ChaKell was ultimately eliminated from the competition following her Hollywood Week performance. She later addressed her and Bryan’s comments during an April 2024 Instagram Live with Perez Hilton.

“People find me to have a bad attitude because they don’t know me,” she explained, adding, “What I was saying was not for the viewers to understand. Luke Bryan and the rest of the judges knew exactly what I meant when I said, ‘Is your voice OK,’ because you know what we’re doing.”

ChaKell said that her behavior on the show was “warranted” because of her experiences in the music industry. “Why are we talking about me right now?” she told Hilton. “Why are we not talking about who is still in the show?”

Tense American Idol Moments Between Contestants and Judges Over the Years
Katy Perry. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Nutsa Buzaladze and Katy Perry

Perry told the season 21 contestant to have “more grace” after she skipped out on rehearsing for a duet performance with partner Carina DeAngelo. After Buzaladze made it further into the competition, Perry offered more criticism to Buzaladze when the singer sported a sparkly outfit for her performance of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals’ “Paris (Ooh La La).”

“I think one thing I personally would like to see from you is not one piece of glitter the next time,” Perry stated in April 2023. “I know that’s gonna be hard.”

The comment prompted the audience to boo at Perry for the “first time in six seasons,” much to Bryan’s pleasure. “Yes! Katy got booed. Katy got booed,” he exclaimed.

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Sara Beth Liebe and Katy Perry

Liebe called out Perry for allegedly mom-shaming her during her season 21 audition. Before performing Elton John’s “Bennie And The Jets,” Lieb surprised the judges with the fact that she’s a mother of three at age 25. “Honey, you’ve been laying on the table too much.”

Liebe called the moment “embarrassing” in a TikTok response video, adding, “I think women supporting and uplifting other women is so cool, and I think that mom-shaming is super lame, and I think that it’s hard enough to be a mom and it’s hard enough to be a woman.”

Perry later tried to convince Liebe to stay on the show after she revealed she was leaving to take care of her kids. “I know that life is scary. I also know that it’s easier to walk away than to be rejected. But then, I also know that you lose out on your fullest potential,” she told the singing hopeful. “And I know that you love your family, for your kids. I know that as a mother, but remember self-love is just as big as motherly love. Don’t leave the competition.”

Despite moving on to the next round, Liebe stuck with her decision to head home. “Man that sucks. It’s not easy for anyone,” Perry stated. “Everyone has their own story.”

Tense American Idol Moments Between Contestants and Judges Over the Years
Steven Tyler. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Adriel Carrion and Katy Perry

In a February 2023 TikTok, the season 19 star reflected on Perry’s negative reaction to his and contestant Anthony Guzman’s song of choice for a performance. “We’re gonna do something sweet for you,” Guzman stated when asked what they would be performing, to which Perry promptly responded, “Not ‘Watermelon Sugar.’”

Carrion and Guzman tried to hide their disappointed reactions to Perry’s comment after the “Wide Awake” singer stated she couldn’t take hearing the Harry Styles track anymore.

“It’s the way that it has been three years and I’m still traumatized by this moment,” Carrion joked in his TikTok post. “I could be getting my beauty rest and all I hear in my nightmare is, ‘Not ‘Watermelon Sugar.’”

Noah Thompson and Katy Perry

Perry once again showed her displeasure for a contestant’s song choice when season 20 contestant Thompson performed the song “Heartbreak Warfare” by her ex, John Mayer.

“I feel like maybe you should Wikipedia me,” she quipped after the performance,” adding, “Who’s going to pay for my extra hour of therapy?”

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Quentin Alexander and Harry Connick Jr.

Connick Jr. was not a fan of season 14 contestant Alexander saying it was “wack” that two of his fellow competitors were in danger of being sent home. “Quentin, if it’s that wack, then you can always go home, because Idol is paying a lot of money to give you this experience,” Connick Jr. said. “And for you to say that to this hand that is feeding you right now, I think it’s highly disrespectful.”

Alexander proceeded to approach the judges’ table to clarify his comment, stating, “For my personal feelings, it sucks to see two people who I’ve grown to love go home. That’s what I mean by it being wack. So I’m not disrespecting this competition.”

Alexander later apologized to Connick Jr. on stage, after which host Ryan Seacrest joked, “I actually thought you were going to hit him.”

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Shannon Magrane and Steven Tyler

Season 11 contestant Shannon brought her whole family into the audition room after telling the judges her father is former MLB pitcher Joe Magrane. The athlete proceeded to shake hands with the judges, asking Tyler how things were. “Hot, humid and happening, just like your daughter,” the rock star stated, causing the whole room to go silent. Despite the awkward interaction, the judges sent Shannon through to Hollywood.

Tense American Idol Moments Between Contestants and Judges Over the Years
Harry Connick, Jr. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Jason Castro and Paula Abdul

Abdul confused fans after making comments about Castro not doing well during his second performance in an episode, even though he had not performed the number yet. “Jason, the first song, I love hearing your lower register, which we never really hear. The second song, I felt like your usual charm, it was missing for me,” she said during a season 7 episode. “It kind of left me a little empty. And the two songs made me feel like you’re not fighting hard enough to get into the top four.”

Following some laughs from the audience, judge Randy Jackson noted that Castro had only sung once that night so far. “Oh my god, I thought you sang twice,” she remarked. “You know what, this is hard.” She went on to clarify that some of her positive comments were actually meant for contestant David Cook.

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Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell

Seacrest and Cowell shared a tense interaction during a season 6 episode after Cowell called the host “sweetheart.” Seacrest clapped back, “Don’t call me sweetheart. We don’t have that kind of relationship. I don’t want that kind of relationship.”

Cowell, for his part, said, “You’ve made this very uncomfortable Ryan, now.”

That same year, the two butted heads again after Seacrest asked for Cowell’s opinion on a contestant’s high heels. “You should know, Ryan,” the judge answered, after which Seacrest jokingly warned him, “Stay out of my closet.”

Cowell continued to poke at him, telling the host to “come out.”

Tense American Idol Moments Between Contestants and Judges Over the Years
Ryan Seacrest. Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Kenneth Briggs and Simon Cowell

Cowell made things awkward during Briggs’ season 6 audition by comparing him to “one of those things in the jungle with massive eyes,” adding, “What are they called? Bush baby.”

Abdul proceeded to call her fellow judge “sick.” Briggs, for his part, told Abdul he was fine before addressing Cowell. “Simon, you’re gonna say what you’re gonna say, but you know what, that’s your opinion,” he stated. “You’re entitled to it.” Despite receiving positive words from Abdul and Jackson, Briggs did not move on in the competition.

William Hung and Simon Cowell

While season 3 contestant Hung charmed the judges with his positive attitude, he could not escape Cowell’s negative comments about his audition performance of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs.”

“You can’t sing. You can’t dance. So what do you want me to say?” Cowell stated, after which Hung said he was proud that he tried his best. Before leaving Hung noted that he’s never had “professional training,” after which Cowell sarcastically retorted, “Well, there’s the surprise of the century.”

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