At the top of the telecast, host Ryan Seacrest confirmed this and introduced guest judge (and original “Idol” judge) Paula Abdul, who joined forces with Lionel Richie and Katy Perry to narrow down the Top 16 singers to the Top 12. But the news was quickly overshadowed as Seacrest made another announcement.
“Before we get to the results, I have to tell you that finalist Wyatt Pike will not be competing in the competition. He had to drop out,” Seacrest said. “But we wish him the very best.”
He moved on and offered no explanation, and it didn’t come up again for the rest of the show. And if you know anything about how seriously viewers take popular reality singing competitions, you know exactly what happened next. Twitter lit up in a frenzy with fans wondering what happened to Pike, a 19-year-old singer-songwriter from Park City, Utah. Reactions ranged from curiosity to extreme concern, and quite a few noted that he was their favorite singer in the competition.
Pike also gained more than 10,000 Instagram followers in three hours as people raced over to his account to comb for clues. His last post, from five days ago, showed a picture of his hometown. But according to a comment he wrote, he still appeared to be in Los Angeles, where “Idol” is filmed.
When reached Monday night, a spokesperson for “Idol” said, “Wyatt could not continue due to personal reasons, and we cannot comment further.”
It’s a rare situation for the long-running reality series, especially for a perceived frontrunner. Pike impressed the judges early on with an original song he wrote for his younger sister, called “Best For You.” Richie called him the “Park City James Taylor” and noted he was a “fabulous storyteller.”
Pike made it through to the Hollywood round at the Dolby Theatre, where he sang a cover of George Ezra’s “Blame It On Me.”
“I’ve realized over 19 years that music is the thing for me. I’ve gone from playing hotels and restaurants in my hometown and posting things online,” he said. “Getting on the Dolby stage and performing with a big band for the biggest show is definitely a big change. I feel pretty excited.”
He collaborated with singer Ben Rector in the celebrity duet/Top 24 round, and Perry deemed him an “authentic superstar musician” while Seacrest raved about how comfortable he looked onstage. Pike then made it through to the Top 16; the performance episode was filmed last week and aired Sunday night. On Monday, three more singers were eliminated.
If anyone at “Idol” knew before Monday evening that Pike dropped out of the competition, the news didn’t reach the show’s social media accounts: Less than three hours before the episode started, the official “Idol” Twitter feed told everyone to show some love to the Top 16, which included Pike.