Amid the celebration and coronation that took place on Sunday night’s American Idol season 19 finale, one truly strange moment stood out. After announcing that 2020 No. 2 finisher Arthur Gunn — who was brought back in a controversial move in which some of last year’s at-home pandemic singers were given one more shot — was slated to perform a duet with Sheryl Crow, the pensive singer was nowhere to be found.
In his place was smiling season 19 finalist Graham DeFranco, who subbed in at the last minute after he showed up to support his pal, and this year’s eventual champ, Chayce Beckham. The strange situation remained that way until Tuesday morning (May 25), when Gunn attempted to explain his absence in a lengthy Instagram post that seemed to only muddy the waters further.
“It was last minute decision but I couldn’t help but say no cause of some personal morals and values due to unpleasant environmental experiences,” he said. “It’s not necessary to state it, it is what it is, so I felt like I had to move on, It’s not the show @americanidol to blame, they were there long before nor anyone related to show.”
Gunn went on to say that he was grateful for the chance Idol gave him and for the fanbase it helped him build, but “sometimes things happens and it happens for a reason I guess. I feel upset about it as much as all you might have, and I’m sorry if I did let down anyone but I felt like all these confrontations didn’t need to happen at the show, so I just had to move on from there, sometimes all we can do is move on!!!”
While consummate pro Crow took the unexpected swap in stride and appeared to be having fun while singing her hits “Every Day Is a Winding Road” and “If It Makes You Happy” with the low-key, underdressed DeFranco, even the judges seemed unclear about what was going on.
After the epic, three-hour finale, Lionel Richie told USA Today that the panel “don’t even know what happened,” with Katy Perry adding that the change-up was in keeping with the yo-yo, “spicy” season. “It’s a live, three-hour show, and, quite honestly, we’ve had a very colorful season … curveballs galore,” she said. “But Graham DeFranco? I mean, killed it — sang so well, and I was so glad he was there.”
On the night of the finale, Gunn posted a mirror selfie in which he was sitting on a chair in a relaxed pose with the caption, “currently.”
A source close to the show tells Billboard that “Arthur decided at the last minute that he did not want to perform, and Graham stepped in.”
Gunn also appeared to offer an olive branch to Crow in his post, admitting that he “missed my opportunity” to sing with the legend on Sunday night, and invited her to perform a couple songs with him at his July 30 show at the 2,000-capacity Cotillion club in Wichita. Billboard has reached out to Gunn for additional comment.
Check out the singer’s post below.