The Song ‘American Idol’ Judges Wanted to Ban From the Competition

Throughout the seasons of American Idol, the judges have heard hundreds of songs, some used repeatedly during the competition, from auditions, and sometimes reappearing during Hollywood Week, and long after.

In 2023, season 22 judges Lionel RichieKaty Perry, and Luke Bryan talked about the monotony of some song choices in the competition and revealed one hit that they would have banned from auditions if they could. “We’ve heard ‘Watermelon Sugar’ a lot,” said Bryan during an interview on Good Morning American with his fellow judges.

During season 19 of Hollywood Week in 2021, the judges first joked about banning the song. “Why did everyone pick the same song,” said Perry. “Take a risk, guys.” Bryan then recommended banning Styles’ hit.

“We have officially banned everyone from singing ‘Watermelon Sugar,’” Perry announced to the contestants. “It’s an official blanket ban.”

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Released on Styles’ 2019 album Fine Line, “Watermelon Sugar” topped the Billboard Hot 100 list and became one of the biggest pop hits by the summer of 2020. Fine Line also went to No. 1 internationally, including the 200 chart.

[RELATED: Revisiting the Meaning Behind “Watermelon Sugar” by Harry Styles]

By 2021, it wasn’t the last they would hear of the hit during the competition. When it was time for contestants Adriel Carrión and Anthony Guzman to perform their duet, Richie asked the duo what song they would be singing. Guzman said, “We’re gonna do something sweet for you.”

Perry responded, “Not ‘Watermelon Sugar.’ I can’t take another ‘Watermelon Sugar,'” she added to a stunned visibly stunned Carrión and Guzman. When the music started, she looked to the other judges and said “Is this ‘Watermelon Sugar’? and started laughing before being bleeped.

By the time Carrión and Guzman moved into their more soulful reimagining of the song, they had all three judges standing and dancing along to their performance.

Their perfoIn 2023, Carrión said he was still haunted by Perry’s critique of their song choice. “It’s the way that it has been three years and I’m still traumatized by this moment,” joked Carrión. “I could be getting my beauty rest and all I hear in my nightmare is, ‘Not “Watermelon Sugar.'”

[RELATED: 5 Songs You Didn’t Know Harry Styles Wrote for Other Artists]

Demi Lovato and Martina McBride

When asked if there were any other songs that should be banned from the compeition, Perry mentioned Demi Lovato‘s 2021 single “Anyone” and added, “Because they relate to that lyric in that song, but the thing is that every singer sings it.” Richie added, “And it’s a go-to. It’s a comfort song.”

Bryan dug into the country music song bank and came up with another song he would ban, “A Broken Wing,” Martina McBride‘s No. 1 hit from 1997. “You know the Martina McBride song,” said Bryan of his other banned song pick, “that all the girls sing in the pageant: ‘[A] Broken Wing.’”

Despite the judges’ weariness of hearing some songs on repeat, “Watermelon Sugar,” “Anyone,” “A Broken Wing,” nor any other songs have been officially banned from American Idol.

Photo: Momodu Mansaray/Getty Images

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