10 ‘American Idol’ Contestants Who Were Wronged

I think I enjoy complaining about American Idol (2002 – 2016 and 2018 – present) more than watching it. I mean, I was only 3 to 4 years old when the show came out, so I had no idea what the heck was going on. Now that I’m an “adult,” I’ve started to realize how messed up the show really was–I’m sorry, it’s still messed up because American Idol is still going on. It was everything from the scripted lines, the jokes towards former judge Simon Cowell, humiliating the contestants on live television, and the manipulative contract their winners got sucked into.

Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips even sued 19 Entertainment, the show’s co-producer, for his “oppressive” contract. According to ET, Phillips was forced to do gigs for free promoting Idol sponsors and the production company hid important information from him, such as the title of his second studio album Behind the Light (2014). American Idol’s contract controversy goes back to season one with Kelly Clarkson, when she was forced to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” for a one-year anniversary 9/11 event held at the Washington Lincoln Memorial, according to People

But, we’re not here to talk about contract controversies, I’m going to focus on the contestants. I’m talking about the ones that were either eliminated at the wrong time or they were forced to exit the competition. Except for a couple of people, most of these former contestants are considered underrated, in my opinion. For the record, I’m not trying to stir up drama for the show or for the contestants, these are just my thoughts and I mean no harm. Now, let’s get started!

10. EJay Day from Season 1

My memory of season one was very hazy, so I did a marathon of that season months ago. One of the contestants I grew to like was EJay Day, the first finalist to be eliminated from the competition in Idol history. Back then, it was only the top 10 versus a top 12. There was a double elimination the first night, with Day receiving the lowest amount of votes and Jim Verraros receiving the second lowest amount of votes. I wasn’t a fan of his performance in the semi-finals, but I liked the tone of his voice. In the finale, the top 10 did a couple of medleys together and Day’s vocals have improved since his time on the show. If he had more experience, Day could’ve gone further in the competition. 

9. MacKenzie Bourg from Season 15

Season 15 had some talented people, but the wrong guys were getting eliminated, one of them being MacKenzie Bourg. He had the smallest guitar I’ve ever seen, wrote his own songs, and was so cute! In all seriousness, Bourg was able to change well-known songs and make them his own. Out of all the seasons I’ve watched, Bourg’s performance of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” is in my top five American Idol performances of all time. Unfortunately, he was eliminated and came in fourth place in the “farewell” season. Due to Hawaii’s time difference, American Idol doesn’t play live, so I found out the results early and was in a bad mood throughout the whole night.

8. Pia Toscano from Season 10

Pia Toscano’s elimination was a big deal! I don’t think anyone expected her to be sent home, including my uncle. Toscano had one of the best voices from season 10 and she came in ninth place…out of 13 contestants. Before her elimination, I was all for supporting my favorite contestants. But the week Toscano was eliminated, I didn’t vote for her because she was popular and I didn’t think she needed my votes. That was probably one of my biggest regrets in life. It’s one of those “what if” moments, like what would’ve happened if she wasn’t eliminated and how far she could’ve gone in the competition.

7. Colton Dixon from Season 11

Jessica Sanchez and Joshua Ledet may have earned all of the standing ovations, but none of them touched me the way Colton Dixon did. He had this alternative rock vibe that I really dug, sounded great live, and had awesome hair. Dixon previously auditioned for season 10, but was cut before the semi-finals. When he showed up to the season 11 auditions with his younger sister Schyler, the judges practically begged him to audition and he made it to the finals, coming in seventh place. He’s doing well now and is currently a successful Christian artist. 

6. Allison Iraheta from Season 8

Forget about Kris Allen, how cool would it have been if season eight had Allison Iraheta and Adam Lambert, the two rockers, battle it out in the finale? For a 16-year-old (at the time), she sounded like a pro and was ready to make an album. She hit a couple of rough spots throughout the competition, but she fought back with some stellar performances. Iraheta had a distinct voice, the look, and knew what type of artist she wanted to be. It’s weird to think that I forgot about her till a year ago. Iraheta came in fourth place for her season. 

5. James Durbin from Season 10

James Durbin was one of my favorite American Idol contestants to ever exist on the show. He should’ve won season 10, in my opinion, because he had the passion, the energy, the voice, and the ability to entertain a crowd. I believe he was the first heavy metal Idol ever. His story was very inspiring too about his diagnosis of Tourette syndrome and Asperger syndrome shortly after his father passed away, and how his then-fiancée (now wife) Heidi changed his life. When he was eliminated and came in fourth place, I stopped watching American Idol, until the finale because I knew that Durbin would either be in the audience or performing for the big event.  

4. Jennifer Hudson from Season 3

Ah, who could forget Jennifer Hudson’s shocking elimination? It was between the three divas (Hudson, LaToya London, and Fantasia Barrino) and Hudson had the lowest number of votes, coming in seventh place. She was a fan favorite and grew week-by-week, in fact, fans thought she could’ve won the whole competition. It does seem a bit odd that the three African American females from that season were in the bottom three together, don’t you think? According to US Magazine, some fans blamed her elimination on a power outage in Hudson’s hometown in Chicago, while others, including Elton John, felt that it had to do with her race. 

3. David Hernandez from Season 7

When fans think of season seven, they talk about Carly Smithson and Michael Johns, but does anybody remember a dude named David Hernandez? He made it to the finals, but was shortly eliminated after the tabloids discovered that he used to work as a male stripper at a gay strip club known as Dick’s Cabaret, according to Newsweek. Despite being an early fan favorite, he came in twelfth place for season seven. That was pretty messed up because he had the most professional voice out of all the guys from that season. Danny Noriega may have been my favorite from season seven, but Hernandez had the better voice. His elimination performance wasn’t even bad and compared to Kristy Lee Cook’s performance, Hernandez didn’t deserve to go home that soon.

2. Corey Clark from Season 2

I’m the type of person that believes there’s good in everyone and Corey Clark is no different. Unlike the previous contestants I’ve mentioned, Clark was disqualified from the show before he had a chance to perform for Disco week. The reason for his elimination is a bit complicated; the show announced that it was because he failed to disclose a past criminal record, but Clark said it was because of the drama that occurred behind the scenes. According to MTV, Clark noted that after making the top 12, he and the contestants had to sign a contract and pick one of the two hand-picked attorneys to represent them, which he described as a conflict of interest. To sum it all up, because Clark tried to get the other contestants to stand up to the producers, the show decided to let him go, the article continues.

Despite the drama and mean stuff that’s been said about him, I really liked this dude because I thought his higher register was so unique and unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. If Clark wasn’t disqualified, he probably would have done well in the competition. Out of all the top 12 contestants from season two, he was the most interesting one and unlike those guys that pretended to be tough, his bad boy persona came naturally (and I mean that in a good way). You’ve got to admit, American Idol did him wrong! They kept giving Clark a hard time for almost getting kicked off the show and then they made him reveal why he got disqualified on live television (which they also did with Jermaine Jones in season 11). I mean, come on, hasn’t the dude suffered enough?

1. Jorge Núñez from Season 8

Years later, it breaks my heart knowing that Jorge Núñez was eliminated from American Idol way too soon. He made it to the top 13, but was eliminated shortly afterwards in a double elimination alongside Jasmine Murray. I remember watching his performance of Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” during the semi-finals, and instantly falling in love with this kid. The judges even praised him for that performance. Núñez was so happy that he started speaking in Spanish. Then, all of a sudden, he had one bad performance and got sent home. Other former contestants had multiple chances to redeem themselves from their bad performances, so why wasn’t Núñez given a second chance? 

Re-watching his Idol journey now as an adult is painful because Núñez was from a small town in Puerto Rico, where not much can happen, and I can’t find a trace of this dude. I searched up Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Wikipedia, but I couldn’t find anything other than American Idol clips and a video of him singing the national anthem of Puerto Rico (from 2009). It would’ve been nice to see Núñez go further in the competition, so that he could’ve represented where he came from and became the show’s first Puerto Rican Idol. Jorge Núñez, if you’re reading this, I voted for you and I hope you’re doing well now!

There you have it, people! Those are the 10 American Idol contestants who I feel like deserved better. Again, these are my opinions and we don’t have to agree on the same thing!

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23 thoughts on “10 ‘American Idol’ Contestants Who Were Wronged

Add yours

    1. Yeah, I’m kind of obsessed with Idol lol. I just had to get those complaints off my chest for the whole world to see. James Durbin was the best! I loved his cover of Priest, but Mike Ladano wasn’t a fan of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I love how passionate you are about music!!!
    I’ve only watched the first season of American Idol (Kelly is ❤️) but I can imagine all the drama behind the scenes done to make the show “interesting”. It’s not like anyone ever asks to really show proof of the viewer votes – so they can be fudged so easily.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aww, thanks so much Happy Panda! I think the show had good intentions, but as the show got popular, they lost their way and unfortunately never found their way back. Yeah, for any reality show, really, there’s always drama behind the scenes. When Adam Lambert lost to Kris Allen in season 8, there was a claim that AT&T had something to do with it.


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