Top 10 'American Idol' Alumni

Contestants With the Most Enduring Careers

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"American Idol" is a landmark show in both television and music history. It led television ratings for an unprecedented seven seasons during its first 15-year run. The show produced a wide range of future music stars who changed the music industry. These are the 10 most enduring stars first introduced on "American Idol."

 

01
of 10

Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson
Photo by Jo Hale / Redferns

Kelly Clarkson, the first "American Idol" winner, is still the most successful mainstream pop artist. She has reached the pop Top 40 on 17 occasions, and 11 of those songs have gone to the Top 10. Four of them went all the way to No, 1. All eight of Kelly Clarkson's studio albums have reached the Top 5 on the album chart. Six of them were certified platinum. Kelly Clarkson has earned 14 Grammy Award nominations and won three, including Best Pop Vocal Album twice.

For her most recent album, 2017's "Meaning of Life," Kelly Clarkson turned in a soul and R&B-oriented direction. The change of focus received strong critical acclaim. It is her first album for Atlantic Records after completing her long-term contract with RCA. The song "Love So Soft" earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Solo Performance, and it hit the top of the dance chart in remixed versions.

Top pop hit singles:

  • "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" (2012)
  • "Since U Been Gone" (2004)
  • "My Life Would Suck Without You" (2009)
  • "A Moment Like This" (2002)
  • "Because of You" (2005)
  • "Behind These Hazel Eyes" (2005)
  • "Never Again" (2007)
02
of 10

Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood
Photo by Jo Hale / Redferns

Shortly after winning the fourth season of "American Idol," Carrie Underwood quickly turned in a country music direction. She has unleashed 13 No. 1 country singles while still managing to reach the pop Top 40 19 times. Carrie Underwood's five studio albums have all reached No. 2 or No. 1 on the album chart. They are all certified platinum for sales. Carrie Underwood won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist and has won six more times among 14 nominations.

Carrie Underwood's most recent release as of spring 2018 is the single "The Champion," recorded as a promotional song for the Super Bowl. It features rapper Ludacris and is notable for being a pop release. It reached the Top 50 on the U.S. pop chart.

Top pop hit singles:

  • "Inside Your Heaven" (2005)
  • "Before He Cheats"  (2006)
  • "Cowboy Casanova" (2009)
  • "So Small" (2007)
  • "Good Girl" (2012)
  • "Last Name" (2008)
  • "Blown Away" (2012)
  • "Jesus Take the Wheel" (2005)
03
of 10

Chris Daughtry

Chris Daughtry
Photo by John Lamparski / Getty Images

After finishing No. 4 in the fifth season of "American Idol" behind Taylor Hicks, Chris Daughtry's career headed for the stratosphere when he put together his own band, and the album "Daughtry" became one of the biggest rock debuts of all time. Four studio albums by the group have reached the Top 10 on the album chart. The first two were certified platinum for sales and the third was certified gold. The group Daughtry has reached the Top 20 on the adult pop radio chart 14 times. Nine of those songs have reached the Top 10, and four went all the way to No. 1. The group Daughtry has earned four Grammy Award nominations.

The most recent Daughtry release is the 2016 greatest hits collection "It's Not Over...The Hits So Far." It includes two new songs: "Torches" and "Go Down." "Torches" was the lead single. It reached the Top 40 on adult pop radio.

Top pop hit singles:

  • "It's Not Over" (2006)
  • "Home" (2007)
  • "No Surprise" (2009)
  • "Over You" (2007)
  • "What About Now" (2008)
04
of 10

Adam Lambert

Adam Lambert
Photo by Don Arnold / WireImage

Arguably no other "American Idol" contestant has generated the kind of intensive press interest that has followed season eight's runner-up Adam Lambert. His music has done well on the charts, with his first album placing No. 3 on the album chart and the second album, "Trespassing," going all the way to No. 1. It includes the single "Better Than I Know Myself." The year 2015's third studio album "The Original High" opened at No. 3 on the chart and included the Top 20 mainstream and adult pop radio hit "Ghost Town." Adam Lambert earned a Grammy Award nomination in 2011 for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance with "Whataya Want From Me."

Adam Lambert tours as the lead singer for rock group Queen. He co-starred in the TV remake of "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" in 2015. His single "Welcome to the Show" appeared in March 2016 independent of any album release. The song features Persian-Swedish singer-songwriter Laleh.

Top pop hit singles:

  • "Whataya Want From Me" (2010)
  • "Mad World" (2009)
  • "If I Had You" (2010)
  • "Time for Miracles" (2009)
05
of 10

Fantasia

Fantasia
Photo by Leon Bennett / WireImage

Fantasia Barrino, who performs simply as Fantasia, is widely recognized as delivering one of the most powerful performances ever on "American Idol" with the "Porgy and Bess" standard "Summertime." Her debut album ,"Free Yourself," earned three Grammy Award nominations. Her third and fourth studio albums were No. 2-charting releases in 2010 and 2013. Fantasia has reached the Top 40 on the R&B singles chart 13 times. She has earned 12 Grammy Award nominations and won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 2011 for "Bittersweet."

Fantasia's studio album "The Definition of..." appeared in July 2016. It reached the Top 10 on the album chart. Two songs from the collection were Top 10 hits at adult R&B radio. One of them, "Sleeping With the One I Love," earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional R&B Performance. Fantasia released her first Christmas album, "Christmas After Midnight," in 2017, and it reached No. 3 on the holiday album chart.

Top pop hit singles:

  • "I Believe" (2004)
  • "Truth Is" (2004)
  • "When I See U" (2007)
06
of 10

Jordin Sparks

Jordin Sparks
Photo by Paul Morigi / Getty Images

At the age of 17, Jordin Sparks became the first teenage victor of "American Idol" at the end of the show's sixth season. Many fans speculated she may head in the direction of contemporary Christian music when she began recording. However, her first, self-titled solo album was firmly in the pop vein and generated three Top 10 pop singles. She continued the momentum in 2009 with her No. 7-charting second album and its top 10 smash title song, "Battlefield." Jordin Sparks' third solo album, "Right Here Right Now," was not released until 2015, with disappointing results. Jordin Sparks earned a Grammy Award nomination in 2009 for Best Pop Collaboration with Chris Brown on "No Air."

One of Jordin Sparks' most recent projects was a pilot episode for a show titled "Sugar and Sparks" on Food Network. It aired in October 2016.

Top pop hit singles:

  • "No Air" with Chris Brown (2008)
  • "One Step at a Time" (2008)
  • "Tattoo" (2007)
  • "Battlefield" (2009)
  • "This Is My Now" (2007)
07
of 10

Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson
Photo by Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Jennifer Hudson's early exit from "American Idol" in 2004's third season, finishing only in seventh place, was one of the biggest shocks in the show's history. However, she did not let it deter her from success as both a singer and actor. She is the only former contestant to win an Academy Award. She was selected as Best Supporting Actress in 2007 for "Dreamgirls." She has also earned acclaim on both TV and Broadway, in addition to pursuing a successful music career. Her three studio albums have all been Top 10 hits. Jennifer Hudson has made seven appearances in the Top 40 of the R&B singles chart. She has earned five Grammy Award nominations and won for Best R&B Album for her self-titled debut in 2009.

Jennifer Hudson's most recent single is "Remember Me" released in March 2017. It was intended to be a preview of an upcoming fourth studio album. The song reached the Top 20 on the adult contemporary chart. In January 2018, Clive Davis announced that Jennifer Hudson would portray R&B legend Aretha Franklin in an upcoming biographical film.

Top pop hit singles:

  • "Spotlight" (2008)
  • "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" (2006)
08
of 10

Clay Aiken

Clay Aiken
Photo by Mike Windle / Getty Images

After placing second in the second season of "American Idol" behind Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken generated one of the largest and most devoted fan bases of any contestant. This resulted in big sales for his first album, but he was unable to sustain the momentum. However, Aiken headed to Broadway to become a star in the musical "Monty Python's Spamalot." In 2014 he won the Democratic primary to run for the U.S. House of Representatives from North Carolina's 2nd District. He lost the general election to Republican incumbent Renee Ellmers. He has been an active advocate for gay rights and people living with autism. Clay Aiken has reached the Top 40 on the adult contemporary chart 16 times.

Top pop hit singles:

  • "This Is the Night" (2003)
  • "Solitaire" (2003)
  • "Invisible" (2004)
09
of 10

Phillip Phillips

Phillip Phillips
Photo by Paul Morigi / Getty Images

Georgia-born Phillip Phillips, winner of "American Idol's" season 11, has the distinction of releasing the show's all-time bestselling coronation single, "Home." It was a major hit across radio formats from adult pop to rock and peaked at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, selling more than four million copies. Phillip Phillips followed it with a million-selling debut album and a second million-selling song, "Gone Gone Gone." His second studio album, "Behind the Light," released in 2014, was another Top 10 hit, including the Top 10 adult pop single "Raging Fire." 

Phillip Phillips released his third studio album, "Collateral," in January 2018. It included the single "Miles," which reached No. 15 at adult pop radio. The album was a commercial disappointment, failing to reach the Top 100 on the album chart.

Top pop hit singles:

  • "Home" (2012)
  • "Gone Gone Gone" (2013)
  • "Raging Fire" (2014)
10
of 10

Scotty McCreery

Scotty McCreery
Photo by Denise Truscello / Getty Images

Scotty McCreery won the 10th season of "American Idol" at age 17. He quickly followed Carrie Underwood into country music stardom. His first two nonholiday studio albums topped the country albums chart. His first, "Clear As Day," was certified platinum for selling more than one million copies. Five of his songs have reached the Top 40 on the country chart.

Scotty McCreery initially released his 2017 single "Five More Minutes" without record label support. It became the first song to reach Mediabase's country singles chart without label support. In March 2018, with support from the label Triple Tigers, "Five More Minutes" became Scotty McCreery's first No. 1 single on the Billboard country radio airplay chart. His fourth studio album, "Seasons Change," appeared in March 2018 and hit No. 1 on the country album chart, his third album to accomplish the feat.

Top pop hit singles:

  • "I Love You This Big" (2011)
  • "The Trouble With Girls" (2011)
  • "See You Tonight" (2013)