American Idol season 17 begins in March, which comes with a handful of returning judges and mentors. Long-time host Ryan Seacrest is the face of the singing reality series, though it's the cast of celebrity judges who provide the most insight and entertainment from week to week.
For the first 15 seasons, American Idol aired on FOX until its cancellation in 2015. At the time, the contestants and judges celebrated the opportunity to participate in the supposed final season, though Seacrest ended the competition by teasing a possible return.
In 2017, ABC acquired the rights to American Idol, and season 16 debuted last May, with 20-year-old Iowa native Maddie Pope winning the competition. After a successful comeback season in 2018, American Idol season 17 is on the way - and here are the judges and mentors joining the new season.
Katy Perry returns to American Idol after serving as a judge during the first season on ABC (American Idol season 16). Born as Katheryn Elizabeth Hudson, Perry experienced a religious upbringing, as her parents set up churches across the United States. Upon settling in Santa Barbara, CA, Perry released her debut album, Katy Hudson, in 2001, a Christian Rock record that sold less than 200 copies. But by 2008, she had evolved into “Katy Perry,” and her breakout album, One of the Boys, ultimately sold 7 million copies worldwide, thanks to singles like “I Kissed a Girl,” Hot n Cold,” and “Waking Up in Vegas.”
Over the past 10 years, Katy Perry has become one of the best-selling music artists of all-time, and she’s been nominated for 13 Grammy awards. Since 2008’s One of the Boys, her three subsequent albums have all reached #1 on the Billboard charts, with her last being 2017’s Witness. Fueled by the singles “Chained to the Rhythm” (featuring Skip Marley,) “Bon Appétit” (featuring Migos), and “Swish Swish” (featuring Nicki Minaj),” Witness became a worldwide hit.
From 2010 to 2012, Katy Perry was married to English comedian Russell Brand and has become known for her inspirational songs about female empowerment and personal growth. During her first season as an American Idol judge, she brought an exceptional amount of star power to the program, as she's a relevant pop artist with a large social media following. For American Idol season 17, Katy Perry has promised to up the ante.
Known for his good ol’ boy persona and radio-friendly hits, Luke Bryan returns as an American Idol judge for season 17. In 2007, Bryan emerged on the country music scene with his debut album I’ll Stay Me, which reached #2 on the US Country charts. Bryan landed his first certified platinum album with 2009’s Doin’ My Thing, preceding his designation as Top New Artist the following year by the Academy of Country Music Awards.
Throughout the 2010s, Bryan has crossed over into mainstream pop culture, large in part to his four consecutive #1 albums: Tailgates & Tanlines (2011), Crash My Party (2013), Kill the Lights (2015), and What Makes You Country (2017). In 2015, alone, Bryan was named the ACM Entertainer of the Year, the CMA Entertainer of the Year, and the American Music Awards’ Favorite Male Country Artist. In contrast to fellow country star Blake Shelton, who serves as a judge on NBC’s The Voice, Bryan maintains a relatively low profile off the stage.
As the third returning judge, Lionel Richie brings a wealth of creative and industry knowledge to American Idol. Now 69-years-old, Richie is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, as both a solo singer and as a member of the Commodores, a Motown funk group from Tuskegee, AL.
In 1974, the Commodores premiered their debut album Machine Gun, and released six more throughout the decade, with 1978’s Natural High marking the band’s commercial peak. In the '80s, Richie established himself as of the decade’s most iconic pop artists, with his 1982 self-titled debut producing classic hits like “Truly,” “You Are,” and the timeless ballad “Endless Love,” which later became a duet featuring Diana Ross. Richie’s two subsequent '80s albums - Can’t Slow Down and Dancing on the Ceiling - both reached #1 on the Billboard charts.
Younger American Idol viewers may be more familiar with Richie’s daughter, Nicole, who became one of the first 21st century reality TV stars. Alongside socialite Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie starred in the Fox/E! series The Simple Life, which aired for five seasons from 2003 to 2007. Her father, Lionel, has continued to record over the years, and he’s regarded as one of the best songwriters of his generation. In fact, Richie co-wrote the iconic 1985 charity single “We are the World” with Michael Jackson.
American Idol 2019 Mentors: Bobby Barnes & Skip Marley
As the host of a popular morning radio show, Bobby Bones is quickly becoming a highly influential figure in American pop culture. Last season on American Idol, the Arkansas native helped the top 24 contestants prepare for a celebrity duet. This time around, Bones will serve as a full-time mentor for the American Idol contestants from week to week.
In 2013, "The Bobby Bones Show" became a syndicated radio program via iHeart Radio. Three years later, Bones released Bare Bones, I'm Not Lonely If You're Reading This Book, which ultimately became a New York Times bestseller. Last November, Bones and Australian ballroom dancer Sharna Burgess won season 27 of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars. On American Idol, Bones will use his industry knowledge to help contestants both on and off the stage.
As the grandson of reggae icon Bob Marley, Skip Marley comes from a rich musical legacy. At 22 years old, he’s also an emerging artist in his own right, one who can undoubtedly relate to this year’s group of American Idol contestants. In 2017, Skip Marley collaborated with American Idol judge Katy Perry for the song “Chained to the Rhythm,” of which became an international sensation and certified platinum single. Thus far, Marley has yet to release a full length studio album, though he’s released various non-album singles in recent years. American Idol will re-introduce audiences to the Marley legacy, all the while highlighting an up-and-coming Marley in a mentor role.