Why Luke Bryan Won't Be On American Idol's First Live Show

Season 19 of American Idol is well underway, with the first live show of the season premiering this week. Unfortunately, one important person won't be there to cheer on the top 16 contestants: Idol judge Luke Bryan

The country music star has been busy juggling his judging duties and promoting his latest album. Bryan joined the American Idol reboot — along with fellow judges Katy Perry and Lionel Richie — in 2018. Since the show's premiere, it has attracted as many as 6.51 million viewers (via Variety), with fans especially looking forward to the live performances. But Bryan announced that he would have to sit out the first of these shows after testing positive for COVID-19.

"I'm sad to say I won't be a part of tonight's first live @AmericanIdol show," Bryan tweeted. "I tested positive for COVID but I'm doing well and look forward to being back at it soon." 

The show also confirmed the news, writing on Instagram that "Luke will be missed at our first #AmericanIdol LIVE show tonight, but he is resting now in quarantine at home and we're wishing him a speedy recovery." While the show noted it has followed all COVID-19 precautions — with all involved tested often for the virus – anything can happen during these unprecedented times.

"Shooting a show during a pandemic constantly presents new challenges," ABC noted in a release, according to Variety. "But we are blessed to have the best crew in the business."

A former American Idol judge will cover for Luke Bryan

For die-hard American Idol fans, there is a silver lining, as ABC announced that Paula Abdul will be filling in while Luke Bryan is on the mend. Abdul served as a judge on the show's first eight seasons, leaving after she reportedly asked for $20 million a year to stay on and the network turned her down, according to TVLine. Since leaving Idol, Abdul has been a judge on other reality competitions, including So You Think You Can Dance and The Masked Dancer.

Back in 2017, the singer/dancer told the Today Show that although she was happy about the reboot, she had no plans to appear on it. "I had an incredible time on that show and blessed to be part of it from the beginning, but I think they need to do a whole reboot," said Abdul.

Luckily she has had a change of heart as Idol producers announced that Abdul would be making a return to the judge's seat. "We're so excited to announce Paula Abdul will be stepping in as a guest judge to join Lionel Richie and Katy Perry as we get closer to crowning a new winner!" they said on Instagram.