Aaliyah once said, “Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.” But for American Idol hopefuls, one’s birthdate can stand between them and their dreams of stardom. While some of pop music’s most powerful players — including Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, and even new Idol judge Katy Perry — are well into their 30s, one of the unfortunate requisites to audition for the hit reality competition series is that you are 28 years old or younger.
According to the show’s official rules, potential contestants must be between 15 and 28 years old when they sing in front of Katy, 33, and her fellow judges Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie, who have also continued to sell albums and concert tickets at their respective ages, 41 and 68. Regardless of the series’ seeming belief that older singers won’t resonate with mainstream audiences, producers of American Idol — which has been rebooted for ABC after 15 years on Fox — have realized the power of welcoming younger talent onto the series.
In 2010, in the wake of Justin Bieber’s meteoric rise to fame as a fresh-faced teen from Canada, AI lowered the original age limit from 16 to 15, which still stands today. But, as viewers witnessed on the December 2016 Season 11 finale of Idol’s NBC rival The Voice, America is happy to endorse older artists. Country crooner Sundance Head was 37 years old when he won the show on behalf of coach Blake Shelton.
While we’re happy to see younger contestants flaunt their singing skills on Idol, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that more mature vocalists will be able to get in on the action sometime down the road. American Idol airs on ABC Sundays and Mondays at 8 p.m. EST.