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Clay Aiken bashes 'American Idol' again; current contestants call him 'bitter'

Lyndsey Parker
Singer Clay Aiken performs during Fox’s “American Idol” finale for the farewell season at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016, in Hollywood, Calif. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)

Clay Aiken is at it again. The Season 2 American Idol runner-up hasn’t been shy with his Idol-bashing in the past — during Fox’s farewell season in 2016, he called the premiere “boring” (“I’ve watched root canals more entertaining than these judges” was one of his more damning tweets), and back in 2009, he even blogged that the series was in a “state of decline” and said that that Adam Lambert made his “ears bleed.”

This week, Aiken took to social media to once again blast the show — but this time, two recent Idol contestants, Catie Turner and Ada Vox, blasted right back.

Aiken’s anger was sparked by Sunday’s Prince-themed episode, on which Turner shockingly forgot the words to almost an entire verse of the Prince-penned Bangles hit “Manic Monday.” America judged her harshly and sent her home — but actual TV judges Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan, instead of critiquing Turner, gave her a cheerful pep talk. Bryan encouragingly told Turner, “You have been in this competition since day one, and you have not had one glitch. So, what just happened to you is OK, darling!” Richie praised Turner’s “fantastic” recovery. Perry even said, “You did great!”

“So, when I was on American Idol, I slightly flubbed some lyrics. Nowhere near this noticeable … and even Paula [Abdul] gave me hell,” Aiken tweeted incredulously. “This girl [Catie] gets a therapy session?! Really? Seriously??! What happened to the show we loved? #MakeIdolGreatAgain.”

Turner, the most-followed contestant of this current Idol season, hopped on Twitter to defend herself, accusing Aiken of sour grapes. “I’m sorry, Clay, you are still upset about something that happened to you 16 years ago,” she responded. “It shows bitterness, doesn’t age well. … No tea no shade and nothing but respect, just disappointed in someone who has been through this experience wouldn’t have an ounce of empathy and wants an 18-year-old to get clawed into.”

Drag-queen Idol contestant Ada Vox also chimed in, tweeting: “You’re really starting to look desperate @clayaiken … you had your time. There’s no point in attacking an 18-year-old girl because you’re bitter about your f***up. Stop trying to stay relevant by riding the coattails of a show that you couldn’t win, either. #TakeASeat.”

There was clearly no love lost between Aiken and Vox. When Vox was controversially voted off Idol during top 10 week, Aiken penned an op-ed for the Huffington Post titled “Ada Vox Lost ‘American Idol’ Because She Wasn’t The Best Singer. Period.”

Aiken may be harsh with his Idol commentary at times — but in his defense, specifically regarding Turner’s flub, he did have a valid point.

“Remember back 2002–2003 when American Idol was a high-stakes singing competition and we were all waiting and nervously anticipating what Simon Cowell had to say?” he posted. “Why’s it now totally without critique and essentially just a Vacation Bible School talent show?” Turner’s kid-gloved treatment this week was indeed a far cry from Aiken’s Idol days, when lyrical errors were original judge Cowell’s No. 1 pet peeve and could send many a contestant packing before Hollywood Week was even over. The rebooted show’s kinder, gentler approach — while it makes for feel-good TV — will not prepare Turner or other hopefuls for the cutthroat, unforgiving music industry.

There are times, however, when Aiken can be gracious to his fellow Idol alumni. Earlier this year, when Season 10 champ Scotty McCreery tied Aiken’s chart record for the most successful male contestant ever, Aiken took to Twitter — this time in a congratulatory mood.

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