'American Idol': 16 of the Best Losers Ranked

Over 15 seasons, many of show's might-have-beens went on to even more successful solo careers than the winners

Load Previous

2. Adam Lambert, Season 8

How Far Did He Go: Runner-up

Most Memorable Performance: Lambert's cover of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" earned Simon Cowell's only standing ovation during his tenure.

Biggest Hit: "Whataya Want From Me," peaked at Number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100. His debut album, For Your Entertainment, went gold in the U.S., selling 863,000 copies, peaking at Number Three on the Billboard 200. He snagged his first Number One hit with "Trespassing" in 2012.

Career: Lambert was a musical theater performer and Burning Man attendee who didn't curb any of his weirdness when he hit the Idol stage. He shook the foundation of the show with his fashion and song reinvention, from adding sitar to Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire," to an acoustic take on The Miracles' "The Tracks of My Tears." His bromance with winner Kris Allen made the show must-watch TV, and his second-place finish lit the fire of a thousand think pieces about Idol and America's reluctance to champion an openly gay contestant. While the show never addressed his sexuality, despite playing up straight co-stars' love lives (and deceased wives, in the case of third-place finisher Danny Gokey), Lambert also never addressed it head on, not even when pictures of him kissing his ex leaked during the series. He came out in a Rolling Stone cover story just two weeks after his loss. His Queen performances on the show led to him joining the band as frontman to replace Freddie Mercury on tours, in-between his own solo career. A same-sex kiss in his first major performance post-Idol, on the American Music Awards, caused outrage and cheers in equal measure as the social fabric of America shifted. On January 15th, 2015, Lambert became the first former contestant to appear as a guest judge on American Idol. In 2016, he announced his The Original High World Tour, and he'll join Queen for some festival dates this summer.

Back to Top