With the American Idol season 9 finale tonight, it’s interesting to look at how far the show has come. The show has been a consistent ratings juggernaut, and the contestants have often found success – much more so than its predecessor, Star Search, and contemporaries like Making the Band, Nashville Star, and The One: Making a Music Star. The soulful Lee DeWyze and Crystal Bowersox will both find success, I believe, but they’ll have an uphill battle against these folks, starting with number 5…
5. Justin Guarini, Season 1
Yes, he was the first runner-up and is in mostly cultural obscurity, but look – he appeared in a movie, he has a steady job at TV Guide Channel, his debut album peaked at #20 on the Billboard 200. I know, not a compelling choice, but still.
4. Jennifer Hudson, Season 3
The surprise elimination of Season 3 (when Fantasia Barrino, successful in her own right on Broadway, won), Jennifer Hudson has definitely come into her own. She won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild Award for her role in Dreamgirls, and her debut album earned a gold record and a Grammy for Best R&B Album. She has certainly done good after Idol.
3. Carrie Underwood, Season 4
Underwood, who defeated the now culturally-irrelevant Bo Bice in 2005, has won 5 Grammies (including the Best New Artist award), 5 American Music Awards, 5 CMA’s, and 10 Academy of Country Music Awards. Her albums have gone multi-platinum and she’s found great success as a crossover artist. I’m not a huge fan of her, but I respect that.
2. Chris Daughtry, Season 5
Now, I think Daughtry’s act is kinda boring at this point (largely because I’ve heard the same songs a bajillion times), but I have to admit, Chris Daughtry has done really great. Immediately after his sudden elimination from the show, he was asked to become lead singer of Fuel (if you could call it ‘singing’), instead starting his own band. The debut album was the top-seller of 2007, the fastest-selling rock album in Nielsen SoundScan history and won three AMA’s.
But the #1 is still über-successful, as it’s…
1. Kelly Clarkson, Season 1
The first one to win it all on Idol (and the runner-up on the World Idol special), Clarkson cemented the Idol brand, and more – with multi-platinum albums, 2 Grammys, and 4 AMA’s. She’s literally the most successful Idol contestant, according to Billboard. (Finally, one of my choices substantiated!)