These are the most successful ‘American Idol’ contestants to date
Ever since the first season of American Idol aired on television, an abundance of other shows have popped up trying to piggyback off of its success. The Voice, The X Factor, and The Masked Singer all stand out as shows in a similar vein that might never have reached fruition had American Idol not paved the way for the reality singing competitions genre.
Even when a singer competing on American Idol doesn’t take home the winning title, their reputation in the music industry can still lead them down the path of superstardom, even helping them to branch out to avenues outside of music. Landing roles in TV shows, movies, and Broadway musicals isn’t uncommon for people who have starred in various seasons of American Idol.
Here are the most successful artists to appear on the show over the course of its 20-year history.
One of the biggest names to grace the American Idol stage is Ruben Studdard. He won the second season of the show and received a coveted Grammy nomination in 2003 for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. He released his debut album Soulful the year he won followed by a second album titled I Need an Angel in 2004. In 2006, he dropped The Return and in 2009, he released Love Is. Most recently, he put out another album called Ruben Sings Luther in 2018.
If you’re an American Idol superfan, then you know who Clay Aiken is. He was the runner-up in Ruben Studdard’s season, but even though he didn’t win, he has still received plenty of attention and clout. His powerful voice helped pave the way for his career as a musician, TV personality, and actor. Outside of the industry, he also focuses on his work as a political candidate and activist. His debut album Measure of a Man went multiplatinum the year he starred on the show and he has even performed on Broadway in a joint show with Ruben Studdard.
When Fantasia Barrino won the third season of American Idol in 2004, she was ready to release as much amazing music as possible to the public. Her song “Free Yourself” is totally unforgettable and largely considered her biggest song to date. When she won her season of the show, she was only 19 years old and already the mother of a young child. Getting involved in an affair with a married man messed with her reputation for a while, but she slowly began to rebuild her persona in the public eye.
Anyone who ever watched American Idol knows all about Adam Lambert. Since starring on the eighth season of the show in 2009, he’s made a name for himself as an actor, singer, and prolific songwriter. It didn’t make any difference that he was the runner-up ⏤ the world knew that he was destined to be known. At this point in time, Adam has sold over 3 million albums and 5 million singles worldwide. People simply love listening to his music and hearing his incredible voice.
Country music contestants on American Idol finally had their time to shine when Scotty McCreery won the tenth season of the show in 2011. His debut album, titled Clear as Day, ended up becoming certified platinum in the United States after its initial release. When he was first auditioning for the show, he performed “Your Man” for the judges and showcased his exceptional singing skills. When he was asked to prove that he could hit higher pitches, he did so with ease. He sang Travis Tritt’s “Put Some Drive in Your Country,” leaving the judges completely impressed. At just 17 years old, Scotty is one of the youngest winners in the history of the show and all signs pointed to his eventual win from that very first audition.
Chris Daughtry might not have won his season of American Idol, but he was still a finalist who has since made major waves in the music industry. He formed a band named after himself and is still its lead singer. The fifth season of American Idol wasn’t his to win, but it did help him garner a fanbase of supporters who stayed true to him long after he was (prematurely, many would argue) let go from the show. His self-titled debut album reached the number one spot on the Billboard 200 after its release in Nov. 2006.
Jordin Sparks is one of the most notable individuals to come from American Idol, with some epic songs on her résumé to prove it. No one is ever going to be able to forget her collaboration with Chris Brown on the song “No Air.” Her other songs “Tattoo,” “Battlefield,” and “One Step at a Time” are also known for being some of her best. Sparks won the sixth season of the show when she was only 17 years old, and her impressive talent at such a young age obviously stood out to millions of people who are still fans today.
After starring alongside the likes of Beyoncé in Dreamgirls, it’s clear that Jennifer Hudson is one of the biggest celebs to come from American Idol. She starred in the third season of the show, which Fantasia ultimately won, but that didn’t slow Hudson down in the slightest. She’s come so far in her career that she’s successfully been able to transition from music to acting. She’s earned an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award for Dreamgirls as well as a variety of other awards including a Daytime Emmy Award and two Grammy Awards. Talk about talent!
The season four winner of American Idol in 2005 was Carrie Underwood. Her infectious energy, sweet smile, and unbelievable voice are what cemented her as one of the most unforgettable contestants on the show. Country music is her genre and she owns it well. “Before He Cheats” is but one of many examples of the fire and passion Underwood brings to each and every one of her singles. We can’t imagine what country music would be today without her contributions to the genre, and to think that it might have never happened had it not been for Idol is as wild as it is extraordinary.
When people think about American Idol winners and contestants, Kelly Clarkson’s name and face usually come to mind pretty quickly. She won the first-ever season of the show in 2002 and quickly earned herself a record deal with RCA. She’s gone on to have a hugely successful music career and now even has her own talk show, which has already won six Daytime Emmy Awards. Just like Underwood, we can’t imagine not having songs like “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You),” “Since U Been Gone,” “My Life Would Suck Without You,” and the one she sang the night she became the first American Idol, “A Moment Like This,” on our playlists. Clarkson has proven that she’s a down-to-earth talent with extraordinary range (even if From Justin to Kelly didn’t go as well as she’d hoped) and we’re all the better for having her charming personality and epic voice on our phones and screens forevermore.