After a three-month absence on social media, “American Idol” Season 17 winner Laine Hardy returned to Instagram and Facebook on July 25 with a reflective new song and far more facial hair than fans are used to. The country singer all but disappeared after his last public appearance, a pre-recorded duet with fellow “Idol” alum Laci Kaye Booth, which aired during the show’s May 2 reunion episode.
By the time that special aired, Hardy was making news for a different reason: on April 29, he’d been arrested by Louisiana State University police in Baton Rouge, La., for allegedly bugging his ex-girlfriend’s dorm room. According to USA Today, he was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison for “interception and disclosure of wire, electronic or oral communication,” an offense that carries a maximum fine of $10,000 or a prison sentence of up to 10 years.
Local news station WAFB9 reported that Hardy was able to leave the jail without posting bond. Their legal analyst, attorney Franz Borghardt, told the station it’s unlikely Hardy would serve time if this is his first such offense.
Billboard Magazine reported that Hardy’s appearance on the “American Idol” reunion show was pre-recorded in early April, weeks before his arrest. Once the warrant for his arrest was made public, he posted a statement via social media, which has since been deleted, to let fans know he was “fully cooperating” with authorities. He had not posted anything since, until his new video upload.
Hardy Reflects on Missing the ‘Good Times’ in New Song
In a new video posted to Instagram and Facebook, 21-year-old Hardy appears to be sitting at home with an acoustic guitar performing a new two-minute song, “Party I Can Play.” While the tempo is upbeat, the lyrics are particularly poignant given the singer’s recent challenges.
“I guess you never know the good times while you got ’em,” Hardy sings in the chorus, “but you sure do miss ’em when they slip away. I knew then, but somehow I’d forgotten all I need is a pickup where I can set up and a party that I can play.”
In the caption of the video, Hardy made no mention of his recent legal troubles or return to social media. He simply wrote, “been writing some new songs.. let me know what you think ‘Party I Can Play.’”
The vast majority of fans welcomed the country crooner back with open arms, praising the new song and encouraging him to keep his head up. “Glad you’re back! We missed you! Missed hearing your voice,” one fan wrote. But they were less enthusiastic about the singer’s new look.
Hardy’s Fans Love Him But Hate The Beard
Despite their love for the singer and his new tune, many fans made it clear in their social media comments that they do not like Hardy’s full beard and longer locks. During the “American Idol” reunion special, judge Katy Perry feigned fainting over the singer’s more grown-up look, with long hair and facial scruff replacing the clean-shaven look he sported during the competition.
“I was slayed when you came on the stage Laine,” she told him excitedly.
But his dark hair and beard have grown longer and fuller in the months since, and Hardy’s fans do not seem impressed. Just six hours after Hardy uploaded the video, hundreds had already commented on his look.
One Facebook follower wrote, “That beard needs to goooooo…I fear that beard!!!”
Another commented, “The song is good, get rid of the beard, it hides your beauty. Yes I said BEAUTY!”
“Love the song,” one fan wrote, but then added, “I’ll be glad when men stop wearing all of that long facial hair, also cut that hair, the Elvis look is the best for you.”
Hardy’s return to social media comes just as he prepares to embark on his first concert dates in a while, starting at the Pike County Fair in Bowling Green, Mo., on July 29. According to his website, he has four upcoming concerts scheduled this summer.