“American Idol” has been around for over a decade, and 2022 will mark the show’s 20th anniversary since first airing in 2002. If you’re a longstanding fan, you know all too well how addictive this reality singing competition can be. Once you’re hooked, you want to know every detail of every season, new and old.

Related: Everything You Need to Know About “American Idol”

The show’s most recent season kicked off on Feb. 14, 2021, while the next season is anticipated to start in the spring of 2022. This guide provides all the essential details about the 2021 season and what we know about the 2022 season so far.

What Happened Last Season?

The most recent season of “American Idol” aired on ABC. You might see it referred to as season 19 or season four. Why the discrepancy? When “American Idol” first started in 2002, it aired on Fox. After a 15-season run, the show ended in 2016. However, the “end” ended up being just a hiatus, as the show returned in 2018 — airing on ABC instead of Fox.

So, the 2021 season of the show was technically the 19th season of “American Idol” but was the fourth season of the show to air on ABC. For this reason, you’ll see it referred to as “season four” on the ABC website. OK, technicalities aside, you’re here because you want to know what happened!

Season 19 aired from Feb. 14, 2021, to May 23, 2021. There were 19 episodes total, with some adaptations made to the usual format due to the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Zoom auditions were used to give wannabe contestants a chance to get on the show. 

Read on to learn which aspiring singers made it in front of the judges and find out who won the grand prize and was crowned the 2021 American Idol.

Who Were the Judges?

Season 19 brought back the same three judges who have been in place since the ABC revival of “American Idol” began in 2018.

  • Katy Perry is a renowned pop star who has gone multi-platinum, toured the world, and collaborated with musical icons like Snoop Dogg.
  • Luke Bryan is a famous country music star with an impressive 23 No. 1 hits under his belt.
  • Lionel Richie came to fame as a member of the Commodores in the 1970s. Since then, the singer-songwriter has gained notoriety for award-winning tracks like “Endless Love” and “Lady.”

What Were Some of the Most Memorable Performances?

Of course, the performances are the heart of any season of “American Idol.” Season 19 didn’t disappoint, offering many jaw-dropping performances, from high-energy tracks to emotional songs that tugged at the heartstrings of viewers and judges alike.

Here are some of the standout performances from the season.

  • Alyssa Wray, “I’m Here”: Although she didn’t make it far in the competition, Alyssa remains memorable thanks to her performance in the Showstopper Round. Her soulful and emotional vocals definitely impressed the judges. In fact, she got a standing ovation from all three.
  • Chayce Beckham, “You Should Probably Leave”: It’s always fun to see how the winning Idol did early on in the show. Looking back at this performance from the Showstopper Round, it’s clear to see that Chayce was destined for stardom. The mellow track puts his unique voice on display.
  • Casey Bishop, “The House of the Rising Sun”: Although Casey didn’t make it to the finals, her performance of “The House of the Rising Sun” remains memorable. The song allowed her to showcase her strong vocals.
  • Willie Spence, “Set Fire to the Rain”: Performed as part of the top 16, Willie knocked it out of the park with this performance. It was one of the powerhouse vocalist’s early standout moments on the show before he went on to become the season’s overall runner-up.
  • Grace Kinstler, “Happy”: Grace became a frontrunner in the competition early on, singing “Happy” by Pharrell Williams in week one (the theme of the week was Oscar-nominated songs). The feel-good track and her peppy performance had everyone smiling and dancing.
  • Arthur Gunn, “Iris”: This was the performance that snagged Arthur the winning spot in the highly competitive and nail-biting Comeback Round. His raw emotion and perfect musicianship impressed fans and judges alike. He beat out nine other comeback contenders that week.
  • Caleb Kennedy, “Real Gone”: Caleb got a lot of love for his rendition of “Real Gone” from the “Cars” movie (this performance was part of the Disney theme week). Caleb wowed with his cool, laid-back country vibes and powerful vocals. You’d never guess he’s a teen when you hear him.
  • Grace Kinstler, “Fix You”: Grace showed exactly why she deserved to make it into the final four with her gorgeous singing of Coldplay’s “Fix You.” Logically, she sang this track during the Coldplay songbook week (which saw Chris Martin come on the show as a guest mentor).
  • Willie Spence, “Glory”: Willie showed off his powerful vocals once again in his gospel-inspired rendition of “Glory.” He sang the song during the “My Personal Idol” week when the show had dwindled down to just the final four — meaning stiff competition and high expectations.
  • Chayce Beckham, “Afterglow”: You can’t leave Chayce’s rendition of “Afterglow” off this list! His stirring performance served as his reprise song in the grand finale. It’s no wonder he took home the grand prize after singing this song for America.

Who Were the Finalists?

The top four finalists of season 19 of “American Idol” were Willie Spence, Grace Kinstler, Casey Bishop, and Chayce Beckham. After Casey’s elimination during the “My Personal Idol” themed week, the final three competed for the grand prize.

In the finals, Grace sang “All by Myself” as her judges’ choice song and “I Have Nothing” as her hometown song. Willie sang “Georgia on My Mind” as his judges’ choice song and “A Change Is Gonna Come” as his hometown song. Finally, Chayce sang “Blackbird” as his judges’ choice song and “Fire Away” as his hometown song.

After Grace was eliminated, Willie and Chayce went head-to-head in a final showdown to determine who the public wanted as the 2021 American Idol. Each singer was given a chance to perform a reprise song. Willie opted for “Stand Up,” and Chayce chose “Afterglow.”

Who Won the Most Recent Season of “American Idol”?

Chayce Beckham won American Idol 2021 after knocking out the runner-up Willie Spence and third-place-winner Grace Kinstler. His prizes? A record deal, a $250,000 cash prize, and a budget of $300,000 to record an album (which is considered an advance and must be paid back).

What to Know About the Upcoming Season of “American Idol” in 2021

Now that you’re all caught up on the 2021 season of “American Idol,” you’re probably wondering what’s next. Don’t worry: The show has been renewed for another season. Season 20 is expected to air on ABC in early 2022 (likely in mid-February).

Although most of the details surrounding the new season are unconfirmed, you should expect some changes. Why? Former showrunner Trish Kinane has left her post and will be replaced by executive producer Megan Michaels Wolflick. A change in showrunners often means change for a show.

Read on to find out what we know about the upcoming season so far.

Who Will the Judges Be?

The judges for the 2022 season haven’t yet been officially announced. However, the odds are that the same trio will sit on the judges’ panel as in 2021:

  • Katy Perry represents the pop side of the music industry.
  • Luke Bryan gives the show some country-music credibility.
  • Lionel Richie provides decades of musical expertise, covering everything from funk to R&B.

This group of judges offers a diversity of expertise, so it makes sense that ABC has kept them on since they first joined the judging panel with the 2018 revival.

Is There Still Time to Audition?

Think you’ve got what it takes to be the next American Idol? You’re in luck: As of July 2021, auditions for the 2022 season are still open. ABC has details about season five (also known as season 20) auditions on its official website.

You can submit via an online audition video or reserve a spot for one of the in-person virtual IDOL ACROSS AMERICA auditions with the show’s producers. According to the ABC website, you’re even allowed to audition both ways.

Where to Watch “American Idol” in 2022

The 2022 season of “American Idol” is set to air on ABC, likely starting mid-February 2022. You can watch the show via ABC or on Hulu. This streaming service offers a free, 30-day trial, so if you don’t have a Hulu account yet, you can give it a try to see if you like it — and catch the premiere while you’re at it.

Get All the Latest Updates on “American Idol” From BuddyTV

With many details of the upcoming 2022 season of “American Idol” still to be announced or confirmed, there’s a lot of exciting updates ahead! If you want to keep up with all of the latest “American Idol” news, BuddyTV has you covered.

Heather Reinblatt

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV