American Idol Winners: The History Of Idol

American Idol winners

Everyone knows the benefits of being crowned the winner of American Idol. For an undiscovered artist, it can mean an invaluable head start in the fiercely competitive music industry. The hard won honor launches a relative unknown talent into the stratosphere, providing instant national and even worldwide recognition and a recording contract with a successful label. A stellar future in the music industry should be virtually guaranteed, shouldn’t it?

Many previous winners of Idol have taken full advantage of these perks and gone on to hugely successful careers. Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Phillip Phillips and Scotty McCreery to name just a few. Other past winners like David Cook, Fantasia and Kris Allen have had comparatively modest success, while for example: Taylor Hicks, Ruben Stoddard and Lee DeWyze have had relatively disappointing careers, especially when you consider the amount of enthusiasm surrounding them during their reign on American Idol.

According to the statistics, winning the coveted title isn’t really an indicator and certainly isn’t a guarantee of future success. A victory on American Idol can easily turn into nothing more than a blip on the screen and a launch pad right back into virtual obscurity.

In fact, the greatest success stories of American Idol have emerged from the pool of Top 10 finalists over the past 12 seasons. Topping the list is Jennifer Hudson, who at this point, is probably remembered least for her time on American Idol Season 3. She has since won countless accolades and awards, including a Grammy, Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, BAFTA and of course an Oscar for her role in “Dreamgirls”. She is currently the national spokesperson for “Weight Watchers”.

Another standout Top 10 contestant that immediately comes to mind is Chris Daughtry who went out in 4th place on American Idol Season 5. Daughtry has had a great career thus far with a Grammy nominated album as well as four No. 1 Top 40 hits. Also worth mentioning is the fact that he has donated 100 percent of the proceeds from his single, “Gone Too Soon” to the Connecticut School Shooting Victims’ Fund.

Clay Aiken, American Idol Season 2 runner-up, is a successful singer, actor and author. His first album, “Measure of a Man” has reached multi-platinum status. His book, “Learning to Sing, Hearing the Music in Your Life” is on the best-seller lists and he had a very successful run on Broadway in “Monty Python’s Spamalot”. Continuing his lamentable “always the bridesmaid…” status, Clay finished a respectable second on last season’s Celebrity Apprentice.

Adam Lambert is perhaps the most colorful member of the group of “also rans” and has enjoyed great success since his American Idol Season 8 elimination from the Top 10. His album, “For Your Entertainment” rose to the No. 3 spot on the Billboard chart and his recently released, “Trespassing”, bumped Carrie Underwood out of the No. 1 spot. He is the 7th finalist to reach the No. 1 spot on Billboard, 5 of which finished out Idol in the Top 10. Adam has been touring successfully since appearing on Idol and was the first contestant to headline a tour in the year following his appearance on the show.

Clearly, not winning the top spot on American Idol had no negative effect on these artists’ chances of going on to lucrative singing careers. Of course, this is just a sampling of the more than 100 Top 10 finalists over the years.

The current season of American Idol has produced a Top 10 with great vocal ability, each having unique and appealing talents to contribute to the music industry. Each one has a chance to use their new found fame to make their dreams of a career in music a reality.

What do you think will become of the current Top 10? Who has the staying power to continue on after American Idol 2013 wraps in a few weeks? What past Top 10 contestant do you think didn’t quite live up to their potential and who do you think is succeeding despite not finishing first?





  1. you don’t have to win it to be a winner. it’s the exposure you get that you normally wouldn’t have if you weren’t on the show. in fact, some of the “losers” are definitely doing better than some of the winners…hint hint…kris allen e.g. and where is lee dewyze???

  2. I think some of the best american idols out there who did not win are doing great and are the best performers out there. There are some good one’s though who did win. Kelly Clarkson. Carrie Underwood. Daughtry,And I will never forget The one and only ADAM LAMBERT. he is making mucho money. So he shows that one doe’s not have to win to be a winner! I dont have a clue who will win this year. I know several I want to win. But one never knows which one the public will pick.

    • I think Joshua has a new single thats available from I ♥Radio or some other digital music service. Its been getting great reviews. I read that he hasnt signed with a record company yet. I was under the impression Jimmy was going to pick him up after last season finished.

  3. Thank you for posting this information on successful American Idol winners and contestants. There have been some comments that Idol should be cancelled because the only successful people were country singers. Your reminders of AI singers who went on to bigger things shows how valuable this show really is and the diversity of the genres. Every year viewers are disappointed because their choices were voted off (been there), but, for me, it’s about music. It’s the music that really keeps me watching the show, not the fact that I picked the winner which has not happened often for me.

  4. Nice to read about all the contestants and the history of Idol. One thing that needs correcting though is Clay Aiken’s “newest” album “Measure of a Man” is totally wrong. That is his very 1st album back in 2003 — He’s made 6 more albums since then. My favorite is “On My Way Here” released in 2008 — I also love “Tried and True” released in 2011 and “Steadfast” with the beautiful “Bring Back My Love” released in 2012. I’m so happy to know that Clay will be back on Idol this Thursday night.

    • You are absolutely right. I should have said his first album released following his season on American Idol. Thank you for the correction.

  5. Typical of this show…. Hence why I do not follow this show anymore. For years they have picked who they wanted to win and it has gotten to the point where they do it openly and everyone can see. They must think America its stupid and do not know about music. EVERYONE knew ANGIE was they best and they only took her out because they wanted to assure that Candice would win… What a shame. Shame on this panel of judges that think they can do things like this… I have no respect for all. The only one I cared for was @Keith Urban and I can not believe that he would lend himself to do something like this. Candice will not be famous, simply because she was NOT the best. @Angie will be famous and amazing and I can not wait to get her album.

  6. One note of correction: Clay Aiken did headline a tour the year after his appearance on the show. He appeared in 50 cities in the summer of 2004. We called it the Solo Tour, as it directly followed his co-headlining tour with Kelly Clarkson in January thru March of ’04. Also, there have been 12 additional solo tours since. Clay is one of only 5 artists to have their first 5 albums open on the top 10 of the Billboard chart. This is no small accomplishment.
    I wish RCA had been more believing of Idol’s success early on, as they would never let Clay tour overseas when it would have been appropriate. I don’t believe Kelly or Fantasia did either, early in their career.

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