It feels like every season of American Idol features a song or artist that the aspiring stars gravitate toward in their attempt to show the judges that they have what it takes to be a pop superstar right now. Some years it’s Adele or Queen, others it’s Rihanna — or, if they’re really ambitious, Whitney Houston.
This year, however, everyone wants to break off a piece of “Watermelon Sugar.” The 2020 Harry Styles hit was so ubiquitous during the audition and early Hollywood rounds, in fact, that at one point in March, the judges just called for an outright Harry-torium.
“We’ve officially banned everyone from singing ‘Watermelon Sugar.’ It’s an official blanket ban, thank you very much,” Katy Perry said just before Anthony Guzman and Adriel Carrion brought the house down with, yes, the beloved fourth single from Harry’s 2019 sophomore solo album, Fine Line.
So what gives with all the sugar highs on the show this year? Billboard reached out to the show’s musical director, Kris Pooley, to find out what may have inspired the rush of covers.
“On Idol, we’ve seen a big surge the past few years in attracting more artistically minded singers to the show,” said Pooley of the diverse talent that’s come through the audition process lately. “Great, budding songwriters or artists who also have incredible voices, but maybe haven’t seen themselves represented as strongly in singing competitions in the past, are showing up to Idol. Seeing Idol as a legitimate platform to demonstrate their artistry, which it is. And I think Harry Styles demonstrates this type of singer — someone who has a strong creative perspective, style, an incredible singer, and also has great songs with great melodies.”
The second night of the all-star celebrity duets continues at 8 p.m. on ABC on Monday night (April 5). Another group of top 24 singers will be teaming up with of artists including Idol season five runner-up Katharine McPhee, Jason Aldean, Tori Kelly, Ben Rector, Jimmie Allen, Joss Stone, Brian McKnight, Jewel, Incubus singer Brandon Boyd, Maroon 5’s PJ Morton, Josh Groban and Ryan Tedder.
Check out three killer “Sugar” covers (as well as swings at Styles’ “Falling” and “Sign of the Times”) below.
Hollywood week “Sugar” montage
Mary Jo Young and Colin Jamieson
Claudia Conway and Hannah Everhart