5:10pm PT by Lesley Goldberg
It's Official: 'American Idol' Adds Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie as Judges
Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie are joining ABC's American Idol.
The country music star and pop icon become the second and third judges on the upcoming revival, joining the previously announced Katy Perry. Bryan made the news official Friday with a short video after the network's official announcement. The panel — with returning host Ryan Seacrest — will make their debut on ABC's Good Morning America on Wednesday.
Bryan was considered a logical choice back in July, when he was one of three said to be in the mix for the gig. Richie and Charlie Puth were also in consideration, with Richie's deal finalized this week.
“Luke and Lionel are the perfect additions to round out our panel of judges for American Idol on ABC,” said ABC Entertainment president Channing Dungey in a statement. “In their respective genres of music, both Luke and Lionel possess insurmountable popularity and award-winning talent that are undeniable, and we are lucky that they will help in paving the way for hopefuls pursuing their dreams on our stage.”
That Bryan would join American Idol makes sense given ABC's relationship with country music. The Disney-owned network is the home to the Country Music Awards, among others.
“I’m excited at the chance to help some deserving artists reach their dreams,” said the singer-songwriter. “To be in a position in my career to help facilitate this along with the other judges is just a complete honor. It’s gonna be a blast!”
Added Richie: “I am very excited to be joining Katy, Luke and Ryan on American Idol. As a singer, songwriter and producer, I feel I can bring a great deal of experience to the table. It’s going to be so much fun!”
Auditions started in August in Florida. Seacrest is locked in to return as host, a negotiation that stretched to nearly three months despite the fact that it was considered a foregone conclusion.
Bryan and Richie don't have nearly the star wattage of Perry, who took a significant chunk of the revival's budget with her reported $25 million contract. ABC, Fremantle and Core Media are said to have talked about ways to prevent the show from suffering the cost problem it had toward the end of its original Fox run, when skyrocketing talent salaries caused it to lose money.
American Idol is set to premiere in March, with ABC using the Oscars as a launching pad. The revival is said to be airing on Sundays and Mondays.
"We have taken our time to get the right mix of amazing talent for the new Idol judging panel. Our viewers expect musical credibility, passion and a true concern for the contestants; and with Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie joining the brilliant Katy Perry, we have two more world-class musical powerhouses eager to get to work and identify the next generation of superstars,” said FremantleMedia North America president of entertainment and Idol showrunner Trish Kinane.
Added Peter Hurwitz, CEO and president of 19 Entertainment parent Core Media Group: “This extraordinary panel of judges speaks volumes about the continued power of the iconic American Idol brand. We are thrilled to have Lionel Richie and Luke Bryan join Katy Perry and, ultimately, millions of viewers as we begin this new era on ABC.”
Bryan just kicked off his ninth annual Farm Tour. Bryan's last three albums debuted at the top of the Billboard Country Album charts. He has released five albums since 2007: I'll Stay Me, Doin' My Thing, Tailgates & Tanlines, Crash My Party and Kill the Lights. The singer-songwriter is repped by WME.
Richie, meanwhile, is one of only two songwriters in history to have No. 1 records for nine straight years. He has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide and won an Oscar, Golden Globe and four Grammys. His catalog includes "Endless Love," "Lady," "All Night Long," "Hello" and "We Are the World," which he wrote with Michael Jackson for USA for Africa. His early work includes time with The Commodores, where he wrote "Three Times a Lady," "Still" and "Easy."