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Once upon a time, “American Idol” was the must-watch TV show of a generation. Tens of millions of viewers tuned in every week, getting to know the singers and casting votes for who should stay to perform another week. The original run of the series ended in 2016 on Fox, but ABC revived it in 2017, and the latest season saw some of the lowest ratings ever for the series.
If you were a fan of the show in its heyday, you no doubt still remember some of your favorite — and least favorite — contestants. Take a look these classic “American Idol” singers and what they’ve been up to since their time on the show ended.
When the first season came to a close in 2002, Kelly Clarkson became the first person to ever win the “American Idol” crown. Viewers of the new show liked the Texas native enough for her to take 58 percent of the votes in the finale.
Since winning “Idol,” Clarkson has been extremely successful in the music business, having three No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 (to go with 11 in the Top 10) and winning three Grammy Awards. She now works as a judge on NBC’s “The Voice” and raises her two kids with husband Brandon Blackstock.
Arguably the gold standard of “American Idol” alums, Carrie Underwood has become a country music icon since she won the fourth season of the show in 2005.
Since then, she’s racked up an incredible 14 No. 1 hits on Billboard’s country singles chart and has won seven Grammy awards. In November 2018, she’ll co-host the Country Music Association Awards for the 11th consecutive year. Offstage, the Oklahoma native is married to former NHL player Mike Fisher, with whom she shares a son.
The powerhouse rock singer was a favorite during the eighth season of “American Idol” in 2009, where he finished in second place. During his run on the show, he wowed fans with his voice, personality and striking looks.
Shortly after his season ended, he came out in Rolling Stone and has worked as an advocate for LGBTQ rights. As a solo artist, Lambert has had 10 singles land in the Billboard Hot 100, as well as a No. 1 album. Since 2011, he’s been the lead singer for Queen, with whom he’ll share a Las Vegas residency in September 2018.
When you think of “American Idol” success stories, Jennifer Hudson has to be one of the first people to come to mind — but she only finished in seventh place during the show’s third season in 2004. After being voted off the show, the Chicago native kept her dream of stardom alive, landing a role in the 2006 movie musical “Dreamgirls,” for which she won an Oscar.
Since then, she’s continued to record music, winning two Grammys to go with six nominations, and has continued to act, performing on Broadway in “The Color Purple” from 2015 to 2016. Like Clarkson, she’s also a judge on NBC’s “The Voice.”
The bald-headed rocker finished fourth on “Idol’s” memorable fifth season in 2006.
After launching to fame on the show, his own band, Daughtry, went on to score six Top 10 singles on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart to go along with a pair of No. 1 albums. Daughtry released its fifth album, “Cage to Rattle,” in July 2018. Away from music, the self-proclaimed comic book nerd and amateur artist got to draw a Batman cover for DC Comics in 2016.
A fan favorite thanks to her bubbly attitude and Southern charm, Kellie Pickler finished sixth during 2006’s fifth season of “American Idol.”
Since her run on the series ended, she’s had five singles in the top 20 of Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart. In 2013, she won ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars,” showing she could move as well as she could sing. Since 2017, she’s been co-host of the nationally syndicated daytime talk show “Pickler & Ben,” which is owned by Simplemost’s parent company, E.W. Scripps.
“American Idol” voters proved the show is a democracy by keeping Sanjaya Malakar around to a seventh-place finish during 2007’s sixth season of the show. His singing skills were infamous, with the judges ripping him every chance they got, but his creative hairstyles kept him a fan favorite.
After “Idol,” the Seattle-area native hasn’t done much in show business. In 2012, he was reportedly living in New York and working as a bartender. In May 2018, he showed up on the finale of ABC’s new “American Idol” reboot, to the delight of his “Fanjayas.”
With his silky voice and bright smile, Ruben Studdard won the crown of season two of “American Idol” in 2003. After that, he nabbed a Grammy nomination and a pair of No. 2 singles on Billboard’s Hot R&B chart. Since then, Studdard has done some acting and has released seven albums, including a record of Luther Vandross covers in 2018.
One of the most successful “losers” in “American Idol” history, Clay Aiken finished second to Studdard in season two. The big-voiced singer has since released six albums, five of which charted in the Billboard Top 10. He’s also worked on Broadway, having a successful run in the musical “Spamalot.” In 2014, Aiken surprised many by running for Congress in North Carolina. Just like in “Idol,” he ended up finishing second.
Fantasia, as she’s known on stage, won 2004’s third season of “American Idol” thanks to her heartfelt, powerful performances all season long. Barrino has continued to be an in-demand R&B singer, racking up a Grammy win and 12 nominations, the latest of which was in 2016. In 2006, she released her autobiography, “Life is Not a Fairy Tale,” which was then made into a TV movie that starred Barrino as herself. She’s released six albums since winning the show’s crown.
The jazzy Katharine McPhee ended up finishing second to Taylor Hicks in 2006’s fifth season of “Idol,” but she’s arguably had the better career of the pair. She’s released five albums so far, including a 2017 record that hit No.2 on Billboard’s Jazz Albums chart. She’s also well known for her acting career, which has seen her work on Broadway, in films and as a star of the CBS show “Scorpion” for four seasons.
Speaking of Hicks, the winner of “American Idol” season five was noted for his soulful voice and gray locks, despite being just 29 years old. During his run on the show, his fans became known as the “Soul Patrol.” After winning the show, Hicks did a Las Vegas residency for several years. He hasn’t released a new album since 2009, but Hicks put out a new single in September 2017 and promised a new record in 2018.
When 17-year-old Jordin Sparks won the sixth season of “Idol,” she was the youngest person to ever take the crown. Skip to today and Sparks has released three albums, scored three Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 and received a Grammy nomination. She’s also done a bit of acting, appearing in movies like “Show Dogs” and “Left Behind,” as well as on Broadway in “In the Heights.” In May 2018, she welcomed her first child with her husband, Dana Isaiah.
During his journey to being crowned the winner of “American Idol” season seven, rocker David Cook’s energetic performances and the touching story of his brother’s cancer battle endeared him to fans. Since then, he’s released three albums and scored a No. 1 hit on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart. Lately, Cook has been working on Broadway, where he’s starred in “Kinky Boots.”
The charming Kris Allen was crowned champ of 2009’s eighth season of “Idol.” Since his run on the show ended, he’s released five albums and has landed seven tracks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In 2018, he released a new single, which was met with positive reviews, and he’s been on tour with the latest crop of “American Idol” contestants from season 16. In 2016, Allen’s wife, Katy, gave birth to their second child.
The winner of 2010’s ninth season of “American Idol,” Lee DeWyze has recently said he doesn’t spend much time thinking about his time on the show and instead focuses on his continuing career singing and writing songs. He’s released seven albums so far, including 2018’s “Paranoia,” and his music has been featured in shows including “The Walking Dead” and “Shameless.” In 2012, the Illinois native married actress Jonna Walsh.
During season four of “Idol,” Alabama-born Bo Bice came the closest of anyone to ending Carrie Underwood’s dream of winning the show. The long-haired rocker finished second to the future country music star, but made plenty of fans along the way.
Since his run on the show, he’s released three albums, all of which have landed in the Billboard 200. From 2014 to 2018, he was the lead singer for the Grammy-winning rock band Blood, Sweat & Tears. Offstage, he lives in Georgia with his wife and four kids.
Before auditioning for “American Idol,” Blake Lewis claims he’d never seen an episode of the show. That lack of knowledge clearly didn’t hurt him, as the beatboxing singer finished second in 2007’s sixth season. He’s since released three albums and has scored two singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Lewis has been critical of “American Idol’s” return to TV, which came shortly following its final episode on Fox.
The Utah-born David Archuleta was just 16 years old when he first wowed judges and viewers on “American Idol’s” seventh season, where he eventually finished as runner-up to David Cook.
Since his run on the show, he’s had a No. 2 album on the Billboard album chart, as well as seven singles on the Hot 100. In 2011, he teamed up with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for a Christmas music concert album. He’s also done charity work, including some benefiting homeless youth. Still a star in his home state, his parents opened Archuleta Performing Arts, a Utah program for helping kids get a great education in music, in July 2018.
Country sweetheart Lauren Alaina finished second to Scotty McCreery during season 10 of “American Idol,” and their careers followed a similar path. She released her debut album in 2011 but didn’t have major success until 2017, when she scored a No. 1 country hit with the song “What Ifs.” In 2016, she branched into acting, starring in her first movie — and in 2018, she won her first Academy of Country Music Award for best new female vocalist. In July 2018, she got engaged to her boyfriend, Alex Hopkins.
Elliott Yamin’s big, emotional vocals got him plenty of fans during a third-place run in “Idol’s” fifth season. Since his time on the show came to an end, he’s stayed busy, releasing six albums so far and working with other artists seemingly any time he gets a chance. His 2008 hit, “Wait for You,” hit No. 4 on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart, where he’s also had three other singles reach the top 30. Like fellow “Idol” alum Bowersox, Yamin is a Type 1 diabetic and has done charity work to raise awareness about the disease.
During her run on 2007’s sixth season of “American Idol,” fans and judges found it very hard not to love ex-backup singer Melinda Doolittle. After she finished third during the season’s finale, Simon Cowell said he thought she should have won the crown over Jordin Sparks. Since then, she’s had singles make Billboard’s Adult Contemporary and Christian music charts. Offstage, she’s worked with former first lady Laura Bush on helping eliminate malaria in Africa. She still performs regularly, touring the country and singing with various orchestras. She also says she’s still close to Sparks and that she even helped plan her baby shower this year!
In 2006, country singer Bucky Covington finished eighth during the fifth season of “American Idol.” Despite that mediocre result, Covington rode his fame from the show to a No. 1 album on the Billboard Country Albums chart in 2007, as well as a pair of Top 10 hits. He’s still performing today, releasing his latest new music in 2015. That same year, he and his fiancée welcomed their first child, a daughter named Kennedy.
One of the first rock singers to become a star on the “Idol” stage, Constantine Maroulis finished sixth in 2005’s fourth season of the show. The big-voiced singer released one solo album in 2007, but has ultimately found his greatest success on the stages of his native New York. In 2009, he was nominated for a Tony Award for his work in Broadway’s “Rock of Ages,” a performance that critics also praised. He’s also starred on Broadway in “The Wedding Singer” and “Jekyll & Hyde.”
Australian rock singer Michael Johns finished in eighth place during season seven in 2008, but his sudden elimination shocked many fans because he’d never landed in the bottom three before that. His dashing looks and soulful voice made him a fan favorite during his time on the show, which included a strong performance of Aerosmith’s “Dream On.” In 2009, he released his only post-“Idol” album. Sadly, Johns died of an enlarged heart in 2014, at the age of 35. After his passing, Simon Cowell called him “a truly great guy.”
Louisiana-born soul and gospel singer Joshua Ledet took his room-shaking voice to a third-place finish during season 11 of “American Idol” in 2012. To this day, some have said he might have been the best pure singer in the show’s history.
Since “Idol,” Ledet has released some original music but has mostly stayed out of the spotlight. In 2013, he wrote and released a song on YouTube that Rolling Stone praised heavily. He’s currently working on a full-length album that he hopes to release in 2018.
For Candice Glover, the third time was the charm. The R&B singer didn’t make it to “American Idol’s” live shows until her third time auditioning. Judges Randy Jackson and Mariah Carey loved Glover on her way to winning season 12. Since winning the show, Glover has released one album, 2014’s “Music Speaks.” In 2017, she performed on Broadway as part of a Christmas music revue, with The New York Times praising her voice.
In season 13 of “Idol,” Michigan teen Jena Irene Asciutto became just the second contestant to ever go from being a wild card pick to making the finale. She eventually finished as runner-up and changed her name to simply Jena Irene during the season when the show’s production officials accidentally kept leaving out her last name, Asciutto. Irene went on to release her debut EP in 2016, on which she had written every song. Her full-length debut, “Cold Fame,” came out in 2017 and was described as “clever, honest and totally unexpected” by the Detroit Metro Times.
North Carolina rocker Caleb Johnson took his love of singing the classics all the way to winning the crown of season 13 of “American Idol.” Less than three months after winning the show, he released his first — and, so far, only — album, “Testify.” Since then, he’s kept busy by touring and performing Meat Loaf’s hits with the legendary singer’s own band. He’s also announced he’ll be touring with Trans-Siberian Orchestra in winter 2018.
If you can call anyone a “star” of “American Idol,” despite them not making it past the first audition, William Hung would be it. Hung became a favorite of viewers after his off-key, yet insanely likable, audition performance of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs” aired during the third season. Hung went on to release three albums, including the Christmas collection “Hung for the Holidays.” He has since retired from music and was working as an analyst for the Los Angeles County Sheriff Department as of 2012. Recently, Ricky Martin stunned fans at a Las Vegas concert when he invited Hung onstage to perform “She Bangs” with him.
Born Jackie Miskanic, Jax wowed audiences on the way to finishing third in “Idol’s” 14th season. Since appearing on the show, she’s released an EP called “Funny” and performed at the White House for a special Fourth of July concert in 2018. In 2016, the singer announced she was recovering from a battle with thyroid cancer.
Since Diana DeGarmo finished in second during the third season of “American Idol,” she’s gone on to have a great career in entertainment. The Alabama-born performer has released only one full-length album, 2004’s “Blue Skies,” but has starred in several Broadway, Off-Broadway and nationally touring musicals, including “9 to 5.” DeGarmo also had a regular role in “The Young and the Restless” from 2011 to 2012. In 2018, she signed on to perform alongside fellow “Idol” alum Constantine Maroulis in a New York production of “Jekyll & Hyde.”
During the eighth season of “American Idol,” singer and multi-instrumentalist Scott MacIntyre inspired audiences with his powerful voice and story. He was born almost totally blind and suffers from other health issues, but found he had a gift for music. He’s released several albums since his time on the show and, according to his website, has topped the Christian music charts. In 2015, MacIntyre underwent a successful kidney transplant, his second. His wife, Christina, had their first child in 2016.
In 2008, Danny Gokey was going through a lot and his touching story made him a favorite of “American Idol” viewers. About a month before he auditioned for the show, his wife unexpectedly passed away, but he decided to go for it since he would pass the show’s age limit if he waited another year. Gokey ended up finishing third during the show’s eighth season and has gone on to have great success in the Christian music genre. He’s released five albums so far, including 2017’s “Rise,” which was nominated for a Grammy.
If you ask people who watched the 10th season of “American Idol” (myself included), they’ll probably tell you Pia Toscano should have won it all. The New York-born singer was incredibly talented and had poise for days — not to mention beauty. She was shockingly eliminated early in the season, placing ninth, to the outrage of the show’s fans and judges. Judge Jennifer Lopez was so impressed with Toscano that she’s worked with her often over the years, including as part of Lopez’s Las Vegas residency.
Like Frenchy from “Grease,” Brooke White was a beauty-school dropout before showing her skills on “American Idol.” The Arizona-born singer made it to fifth place during the seventh season, wowing viewers with performances of songs by Carole King, Carly Simon and other soft-rock icons. White is a devout Mormon who has recorded some faith-based music in recent years. She and her husband, Dave Ray, welcomed their second child in 2016.
The original “American Idol” runner-up, Justin Guarini lost out to Kelly Clarkson in 2002’s first season. In 2003, the curly-haired crooner used his fame from the show to score a top-20 solo album and, alongside Clarkson, a co-starring role in the movie “From Justin to Kelly.”
Since then, he’s worked on Broadway and has had a regular gig as Lil’ Sweet, the pint-sized mascot of Diet Dr Pepper.
In 2011, 17-year-old North Carolina native Scotty McCreery rode his deep voice and boyish demeanor to the crown of “American Idol’s” 10th season. It’s been a bumpy ride for the country singer since winning. He’s released four albums but was dropped by his record label in 2015. Then, in March 2018, McCreery finally scored his first No. 1 hit in terms of country radio airplay. More good news for McCreery this year: He wed his high-school sweetheart, Gabi Dugal.
In 2012, handsome Georgia-born singer Phillip Phillips was voted winner of “American Idol’s” 11th season. His Dave Matthews vibe and skills on the acoustic guitar made him a fan favorite.
After winning the crown, Phillips earned a pair of No. 1 hits on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart and has since released three albums, including 2018’s “Collateral.” In January 2018, he made his acting debut with a role in CBS’s “Hawaii Five-0.” In 2015, he got married to his longtime girlfriend, Hannah Blackwell, whom Phillips has called his “best friend.”
Crystal Bowersox’s powerful, folksy takes on songs by legends like Aretha Franklin and Tracy Chapman led her to a second-place finish during season nine of “Idol.” The Ohio native went on to star in a Broadway musical about Patsy Cline and has continued to tour and release music, including 2017’s “Alive.” A Type 1 diabetic since the age of 6, Bowersox has devoted a lot of time to raising awareness for the disease and performing for kids who have it.
Source: American Idol Wiki (“American Idol” dates, results)