‘American Idol’: What Is the Age Limit to Audition? The Answer Keeps Changing

Is someone ever too old to showcase their musical talents? When it comes to American Idol auditions, the answer is yes. Since the first season in 2002, American Idol has had strict rules regarding the age limit for contestants. And though the age range has been extended a few times over the years, it still has a cap 20 seasons later. What is the oldest age someone can be to audition for American Idol?

American Idol host Ryan Seacrest and judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan
‘American Idol’ host Ryan Seacrest and judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan | ABC/Gavin Bond

The history of the ‘American Idol’ age limit

American Idol’s first three seasons required contestants to be at least 16 years old but no older than 24. However, when season 4 aired in 2005, the cap jumped to 28 years old. Then, American Idol dropped the lower age limit from 16 to 15 years old ahead of season 10 in 2010. As Distractify notes, many people attributed the drop to the success of young teenage singers like Justin Bieber.

Since then, American Idol’s age range has remained at 15 to 28 years old. Singers do have the option to audition more than once within the limits, but only if they did not advance to the Top 10 previously. Additionally, anyone under the age of 18 must bring a parent along to their audition.

‘American Idol’ hesitated to push the limit any higher

So, why hasn’t American Idol extended the maximum age since 2004? It seems as though the competition hesitated to even raise it to 28 years old. At the time, FOX’s programming chief, Gail Berman, explained that it’s all about the singers’ careers post-Idol.

“I’m sure there are people who are tremendously talented above that, but we’re talking about people who hope to have pop careers afterward,” Berman told the Television Critics Association, per Entertainment Weekly.

Even when American Idol moved from FOX to ABC in 2018, there was still no sign of changes to the age limit. Now, American Idol Season 20 contestant Sam Finelli has sparked a conversation about the age range on social media. He mentioned during his audition that he wanted to sing for the judges before aging out at 29 next year.

Some fans on Twitter are urging American Idol to extend the limit, pointing out that competitions like The Voice and America’s Got Talent have no age limits (The Voice artists just need to be at least 13).

“They allowed past finalists still within the age limit to audition again, but they didn’t get rid of the upper age limit?” one fan wrote. “That’s the biggest grievance I’ve had the last few years. Idol is literally the only talent competition show here to still have one.”

Who were the youngest and oldest ‘American Idol’ winners?

American Idol has seen quite a few 15- and 16-year-olds advance past the audition phase. However, the youngest person to ever win the competition was Jordin Sparks, at 17 years old. She took home the trophy in May 2007, and she is still the youngest American Idol winner to this day.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the age range is Taylor Hicks, who became the first 29-year-old to win American Idol in season 5 (he was 28 at the time of his audition). A few years later, in season 14, Nick Fradiani won at the same age.

New episodes of American Idol Season 20 premiere every Sunday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.

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