By Fred Bronson of Billboard
The two guest performers on Monday (April 19) night's installment of American Idol are both making "comeback" appearances, fitting in with the theme of the evening as contestants from season 18 in 2020 come back to compete for a slot in the season 19 top 10. Former judge and mentor Harry Connick, Jr. and former contestant Lauren Daigle, both natives of Louisiana, will command the Idol stage with new performances.
Connick, Jr. will offer a medley of two songs from his new album, Alone with My Faith, recorded on his own during lockdown. The medley includes the title track and "Old Time Religion." Daigle will sing her 2019 Hot Christian Songs No. 3 hit "Look Up Child."
"It's really nice to be back," Connick, Jr. tells Billboard. "I had such a good time when I was a judge, and before that, a mentor. So any chance I get to see those folks again, I welcome. I have a lot of friends there." Looking back on his three seasons as an Idol judge, Connick, Jr. says, "By nature, I'm not a judgmental person, but that was the job and I took it seriously. I thought it was important to try to give some insight to these young performers and maybe some things that would help them develop a little bit. It was very different than being a mentor because it's really not hands on and it's usually just a few short moments that you have with them, but I really enjoyed it. It's a great chance for these kids to maybe learn a little bit about show business and the rigors and demands of a schedule in this business."
Daigle is also working on new music, but as it is not ready to be released yet, she decided to sing her hit "Look Up Child," which she describes as a "fun, poppy song." Daigle spoke to Billboard after rehearsing on the Idol stage. "I'm excited to be back with people that I so enjoy. We did rehearsals and the Idol team, like the band, is insane. We had a ball. The band nailed it, and just how tight the [production staff] works together is amazing but it's also really refreshing how kind they are."
Daigle knows the crew from auditioning as a contestant. In 2010 she was cut just before the top 24 was selected. In 2012, she made it through Hollywood week but was eliminated in the subsequent Las Vegas rounds. Although she didn't become an Idol top 10 finalist, she achieved star status and a career that includes a string of hit singles and albums on the Billboard charts.
How does Daigle look back on her Idol journey? "I don't have any disdain or any negativity toward the show," she explains. "At the time I was so young and naïve and I don't think I knew who I was yet. So I could have been pulled in so many different directions artistically. I feel like it gave me an opportunity to step back. And 'no' can be good. It creates resilience and it increases your understanding of why it is that you do what you do. When you feel the sting of a 'no,' it only prompts you as to why you actually want the 'yes.' And so for me, I feel like it was good to learn and to grow. I'm actually really excited that it worked out this way and that we have this harmonious relationship and we get to do fun things like this week together."