The Winners and Losers of ‘American Idol’
Who? The first-ever (and still-biggest) Idol victor.
Peak: Second album, Breakaway, went platinum six times and spawned several monster singles including "Since U Been Gone," "Behind These Hazel Eyes" and the title track. Her latest LP, All I Ever Wanted, debuted at Number One in March '09 and is still going strong.
Low: An ill-conceived public feud with label boss Clive Davis in 2007, followed by the cancellation of an arena tour and a cooler reception for third LP, My December (which has since gone platinum).
Currently: Her fifth studio album, Stronger, a self-described mix of “Prince, Tina Turner, Sheryl Crow, Radiohead,” sprinkled with country influences and produced by Gaga-and-Beyoncé-approved Darkchild, hit stores in October 2011.
Who? Season One's Sideshow Bob–tressed second-place finisher.
Peak: Debut album on RCA was released around the same time as his corny feature film with Clarkson, From Justin to Kelly.
Low: Was unceremoniously dropped from RCA shortly after release of debut album.
Currently: Since wrapping up a Broadway stint in the Green Day musical American Idiot and appearing in touring productions of Rent and Chicago, he can be found providing Idol punditry for the TV Guide Channel.
Who? Rock-worshiping Season One contestant.
Peak: iTunes-only single "My Religion" sold like the 2004 equivalent of hotcakes, eventually hitting Number One on Billboard's Hot Digital Songs chart.
Low: An unflattering season of The Surreal Life, where she tirelessly made reference to how Idol tried to downplay her rocker personality, and a subsequent short run on Fox’s Gimme My Reality Show that she later called a personal regret as big as doing Idol.
Currently: Starr is laying low, doing charity work in Los Angeles.
Who? The Velvet Teddy Bear, Season Two's supersized winner.
Peak: 2003's Soulful, the only of Studdard's four albums to go platinum, earned him a Grammy nomination.
Low: Dropped from J Records in December 2007 after sluggish sales. He went on to release his fourth album, Love Is, in 2009, produced by Nineties powerhouse duo Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis.
Currently: After spending 2010 promoting The Very Best of Ruben Studdard and touring through the summer with Season Two runner-up Clay Aiken, a much thinner Studdard (thanks to a vegan diet) is playing out 2011 at small venues around the country.
Who? Love-him-or-hate-him Season Two first runner-up.
Peak: Amassed a nation of fanatical "Claymates" thanks to the Number One debut of his 2003 album, Measure of a Man, which was followed by his New York Times best-selling book Learning to Sing: Finding the Music In Your Life.
Low: He's since come out of the closet, but the coy crooner was a gossip column punching bag for years thanks to incidents like the March 2006 publication of suggestive webcam photos he allegedly sent to a male suitor.
Currently: "Bring Back My Love," Aiken's first self-released single, hit digital stores in late December 2011.
Who? Plus-size fashion model who finished in the third spot in Season Two.
Peak: From 2005 to 2010, Locke has quietly churned out a steady stream of Number One singles on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary and Dance charts.
Low: One half of a weird and nasty feud stoked by desperate Saved by The Bell alum Dustin Diamond on Celebrity Fit Club, in which, allegedly, a dildo played a starring role.
Currently: Locke opened her own record company, I AM Entertainment, and released a dance-centric EP called Four on the Floor.
Who? Braided crooner who was disqualified from Season Two after it was discovered he had recently been arrested for battery and resisting arrest.
Peak: Persuaded the Black Eyed Peas, high-profile producer Scott Storch and Kid from Kid 'n Play to make appearances on his self-titled debut LP.
Low: Slammed by Idol judges and producers for a 2005 Primetime Live interview in which he alleged that he'd had an affair with Paula Abdul, and that she'd given him special pointers while he was on the show.
Currently: He has been arrested three more times since his Idol appearance and faced a spate of other legal troubles.
Who? The second-place yet still under-the-radar finisher from Season Three.
Peak: Starred on Broadway in Hairspray from 2006 to 2007, and stripped to her skivvies in a headline-making role in Hair in 2010.
Low: Blue Skies, her debut album, opened at a weak Number 52 on the charts in 2004 and has still yet to go gold.
Currently: After filling Dolly Parton’s big shoes in the role of Doralee Rhodes for the national tour of 9 to 5: The Musical, she joined the cast of The Young and the Restless in October 2011.
Who? Gravel-voiced winner of Season Three.
Peak: First single, "I Believe" debuted at Number One on Billboard's Hot 100, and the subsequent album led to four Grammy nominations. She finally got her hands on that Grammy with the single “Bittersweet,” from her third studio album, Back to Me, which peaked in the Top Ten on the R&B chart in 2010.
Low: A Lifetime movie based on her autobiography, Life Is Not a Fairy Tale, which melodramatically depicts her struggles as an illiterate single mom and how her life changed thanks to Idol.
Currently: After an acclaimed run in the Oprah Winfrey-sponsored Broadway production of The Color Purple, Barrino is set to play Mahalia Jackson in a biographical movie about the gospel queen scheduled for a December 2011 release. Rumor is Aretha Franklin can’t decide between Barrino or Jennifer Hudson for her own biopic.
Who? Idol's most famous non-winner and Randy Jackson's wild-card pick for Season Three's Top 12.
Peak: Took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Effie White in Dreamgirls; managed to outshine Beyoncé in that film.
Low: Duetted with Meat Loaf on his Bat Out of Hell III: The Monster Is Loose.
Currently: Amid a succession of movie roles and a prominent gig with Weight Watchers, Hudson released her second studio album, I Remember Me, in March 2011. It debuted at Number Two on the Billboard 200, and its lead single, “Where You At,” peaked at Number 10 on Billboard’s Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
Who? Country music darling who took the Season Four crown.
Peak: Her debut album, Some Hearts, rocketed to the top of Billboard's country charts at a record-breaking speed and propelled her to multiple Grammys and American Music Awards. In April 2010, she made history as the first woman to be named the Academy of Country Music's Entertainer of the Year, and then grabbed the title again in 2011.
Low: Plagued with the stigma of having dated the same guy as Jessica Simpson (Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo).
Currently: Underwood scored another Number One hit with "Remind Me," her duet with Brad Paisley, and sang with Tony Bennett on his album Duets II.
Who? Long-haired Skynyrd disciple who lost out to Carrie Underwood in Season Four.
Peak: Bice’s debut album, The Real Thing, peaked at Number Four on the charts, and his version of “Inside Your Heaven” hit the Billboard Hot 100 at Number Two, in the familiar position of just below Underwood.
Low: Past charges of cocaine and marijuana possession came out during Bice’s tenure on Idol, though his rap sheet didn’t seem to adversely sway voters.
Currently: Turning up in medium-level venues around the country, after the resoundingly quiet 2010 release of his third album, 3.
Who? Rocker with flowing locks and a smoldering stare who won Paula Abdul's tender heart during Season Four.
Peak: Scored a Tony nomination for his role as aspiring hair-rocker Drew in the Broadway production Rock of Ages.
Low: Debut solo album was released in August '07 to a chorus of chirping crickets.
Currently: On the road with the Rock of Ages national tour.
Who? Young singer who secured her place in Season Four's Top 10 with a scorching rendition of "Total Eclipse of the Heart."
Peak: Released a single, "Unbroken," in 2007.
Low: Where to begin? Sierra was stalked, arrested for cocaine possession and battery, charged again with resisting arrest and disorderly conduct, became the alleged star of a sex tape and reportedly received word that she was pregnant while in jail.
Currently: Her 2010 single “Enough” steered clear of the charts, but she’s scheduled to release the corresponding album, Rebound – all about her Dr. Drew-guided struggle for sobriety – sometime this year.
Who? Prematurely silver-haired, harmonica-playing, dad-dancing, Soul Patrol-leading winner of Season Five.
Peak: Appeared on the cover of People magazine's 2006 hot bachelors issue.
Low: Dropped by J Records in early 2008.
Currently: Released an album on his own label in 2009 and recently wrapped a stint in the touring company of Grease, which earned him enough money to place tenth on Forbes' 2009 list of the highest-earning Idols. He made a surprise appearance this spring on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, crooning Rebecca Black’s so-bad-it’s-good “Friday” with the host and Steven Colbert.
Who? Unabashed fan of the band Live with a rock-radio-ready voice who got an offer to front Fuel after being eliminated from Season Four.
Peak: Named one of the 10 best-selling artists of 2007 based on the strength of his debut album with his cleverly named band Daughtry; also scored four Grammy nods and set a chart record for fastest-selling rock debut.
Low: Performed Stone Temple Pilots' "Plush" with a street musician.
Currently: Released a third studio album, Break the Spell, in November of 2011.
Who? "Over the Rainbow"-belting L.A. gal who took second place in Season Five.
Peak: A respectable Number Two debut for her debut self-titled album in early 2007.
Low: Reports that she'd been dropped from RCA Records surfaced at the same time as rumors that she'd been trying to hawk her wedding photos to celebrity magazines.
Currently: McPhee is set to star in NBC's new musical series Smash.
Elliot Yamin, Paris Bennett and Kellie Pickler
Who? A trio of Season Five fan favorites who managed to put out post-Idol albums.
Peak: Yamin’s 2007 album debuted at Number One on Billboard’s Independent Albums chart, and slowly went gold; the pint-sized Bennett, a.k.a. “Princess P,” persuaded fellow Season Five contestant Kevin “Chicken Little” Covais to rap on her LP; after Pickler’s debut album, Small Town Girl, went gold, she co-wrote the hit single “Best Days of Your Life” with bestie Taylor Swift.
Low: Yamin has been out of the limelight since the modest success of his first album; Bennett’s original record label filed for bankruptcy in 2008, leaving her to sign with a tiny company owned by her uncle; Pickler’s oft-arrested parents created unwanted headlines for the singer when her dad, convicted of a “stabbing incident,” was released from prison a week after Pickler’s Idol elimination.
Currently: Two years after Yamin's 2009 disc Fight for Love debuted at Number 26 on the Billboard 200, he released his third album, Gather ’Round, exclusively to the Japanese market. Bennett is reported to be working on a new LP of jazz-inspired tracks. Pickler has become close with Taylor Swift, with whom she co-wrote "Best Days of Your Life." After a string of hit singles, Pickler has wrapped a third studio album, which is due out later this year.
Who? The extremely tall surprise winner of the Season Six title.
Peak: Selected to honor Diana Ross at the Kennedy Center Honors gala and to sing an original song, “Faith,” at President Obama’s inauguration ball; "Tattoo" reached the Top 10 of the singles chart.
Low: Sales of her debut album haven't been as strong as past winners, though unlike many other Idols, she still has a record deal.
Currently: Sparks has landed a role in the movie Sparkle opposite Whitney Houston.
Who? Beat-boxing blond who seduced fans with his spastic, "adventurous" version of Bon Jovi's "You Give Love a Bad Name" on Season Six. Scored his first Number One when "Heartbreak on Vinyl," the first single from his second album of the same name, landed atop Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play chart in April 2010.
Peak: Wrapping his voice around "Baby Got Back" with Sir Mix-A-Lot in Seattle.
Low: Allowing the American public to see Jimmie Walker Blue, the buck-toothed "character" sometime-comic Lewis busted out on and after Idol.
Currently: Was dropped from his label despite the moderate success of debut album, Audio Day Dream, but he’ll share his thoughts on the season’s contestants with most media outlets who’ll listen.
Who? Season Seven winner known for his creative reinventions of songs like Lionel Richie's "Hello."
Peak: His Rob Cavallo-produced debut LP has gone platinum.
Low: Stripping down to his skivvies for a Guitar Hero ad based on Risky Business that aired during the Season Seven finale.
Currently: Working on his second record ahead of a June 2011 release.
Who? Season Seven runner-up whose boyish charm made Paula Abdul want to "squish [his] head off."
Peak: First single, "Crush," debuted at Number Two and sold more than a million digital copies.
Low: Jive Records, his label since 2008, dropped him after a sluggish 2010 album, The Other Side of Down.
Currently: Scaring up original material to plot his next move.
Who? The most divisive contestant in Idol history, this Season Six finalist hung on well past his due despite awful reviews from the judges. His boyish charm, rotating haircuts and a campaign by the anti-Idol site Votefortheworst.com are to thank or blame, depending on your tolerance for his shtick.
Peak: Making 13-year-old fan Ashley Ferl bawl uncontrollably during his performance of "You Really Got Me."
Low: Everything else.
Currently: Made his off-Broadway debut in February 2011 with a role in Freckleface Strawberry, a children’s musical penned by redheaded actress Julianne Moore.
Who? The laid-back Season Eight champ who hit a high note with his acoustic version of Kanye West's "Heartless."
Peak: Walking away with the Idol crown over predicted winner Adam Lambert.
Low: Being forced to sing the natural disaster–plagued coronation song "No Boundaries."
Currently: After touring with Lifehouse last year, Allen kicked off 2011 by singing the national anthem at the NFL Pro Bowl in Hawaii.
Who? The attention-getting neo-glam rocker (and master of the high notes) who placed second in Season Eight.
Peak: Returning to Idol to deliver straitlaced, on-point criticism as the best mentor of Season Nine.
Low: An American Music Awards performance during which Lambert kissed an S&M-costumed male band member and grabbed the crotch of another. The risqué act was censored during the show's West Coast broadcast and drew outrage from many quarters.
Currently: A new album, Trespassing, is set to hit stores in March 2012.
Danny Gokey and Allison Iraheta
Who? Season Eight's third- and fourth-place finishers, who scored their own record deals.
Peak: Gokey went country, turning out a Top Five album with his 2010 debut, My Best Days, and is still going strong; Iraheta opened on Adam Lambert’s Glam Nation tour last summer.
Low: Gokey’s still in the fast lane, but after Iraheta’s debut dance-rock album, Just Like You, failed to take, Jive Records dropped her in September 2010.
Currently: Both are working on second studio albums: Iraheta finished out as the opener on Adam Lambert's Glam Nation tour last summer, while Gokey is set to be support on Taylor Swift’s summer tour.
Who? Gap-toothed Season Nine runner-up and crowd favorite.
Peak: Bowersox sung a turbocharged rendition of “Up to the Mountain” on the first night of the Idol finale just hours after breaking up with her boyfriend. Simon Cowell called it“the best performance and song of the night.”
Low: Battled health problems during the show and missed her young son enough to tell Ryan Seacrest she was thinking about quitting. Her words ,spoken in confidence, made headlines, as did Bowersox’s later statement that Seacrest “betrayed” her.
Currently: Her folksy first album, Farmer’s Daughter, got massive media coverage due to her edgy-for-Idol songwriting style and landed her a spot at SXSW in Austin.
Who? Soft-spoken Chicagoan who captured just enough female hearts to beat out powerhouse Crystal Bowersox as the winner of Season Nine.
Peak: His 2010 pre-Idol album, Slumberland, peaked at Number Seven on the Billboard Heatseekers chart.
Low: In its first week, DeWyze’s post-Idol album release, Live It Up, scored fewer sales than any previous winner’s. By 2011, it trailed Bowersox’s debut, though hers hit shelves a month after his.
Currently: DeWyze was dropped by his label in late 2011.
Casey James and Michael Lynche
Who? Season Nine's third- and fourth-place finishers: James is a little bit country; Lynche is a little bit rock ’n’ soul.
Peak James went on to open for Sugarland on the March leg of the band’s 2011 tour; Lynche laid low after finishing the Idol national tour.
Low: A smooth ride for James so far but the opposite for Lynche, who was briefly disqualified from Idol after his dad revealed to a newspaper that his son made it into the final 24.
Currently: James signed with Sony Music Nashville and has a debut album due out this year. Lynche is still missing in action.
American Idol Season One contestants performing in Los Angeles on July 16, 2002.
American Idol Season Two finalists on March 8, 2003 in Hollywood, California.
American Idol Season Three finalists on March 10, 2004 in Hollywood, California.
American Idol Season Four finalists on March 9, 2005 in Hollywood, California.
American Idol Season Five finalists on March 9, 2006 in Hollywood, California.
American Idol Season Six finalists.
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