Where Are They Now? – American Idol Winners – Part 1

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The American music talent television show American Idol has had 17 winners since it began in 2002. Are you wondering how those winners are doing? Wonder no further – here’s an update on the first 9 winners. I’ll cover the next 8 winners on my November 17 post.

Season 1 – Kelly Clarkson – Pop/Country music star, she has had 27 songs on the Hot 100 chart, with 3 songs reaching #1 – A Moment Like This, My Life Would Suck Without You, and Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You). She has won 3 Grammy awards, she has been in 6 films and numerous television shows, including her own talk show in 2019 and as a coach on the singing competition show The Voice 4 times, including the current season.

Season 2 – Ruben Studdard – R&B, pop and gospel singer, he has released 7 studio albums, and 2 singles – Flying Without Wings and Sorry 2004 – have reached the top 10 of the Hot 100. He currently is on tour, performing songs that pay tribute to Luther Vandross.

Season 3 – Fantasia Barrino – R&B singer, she has released 7 studio album, with 1 single – I Believe – reaching #1 on the Hot 100 chart. Four other of her songs have topped the R&B charts. She has won a Grammy award (plus 11 other Grammy nominations) and has performed on Broadway, winning a Theater World Award. Her latest album was released in October 2019, and its first single, Enough, peaked at #2 on the Adult R&B Songs chart.

Season 4 – Carrie Underwood – Country pop music star, she is one of the most successful music artists ever, with over 70 million records sold. She is the only country artist ever to have a song debut at #1 on the Hot 100 chart, with Inside Your Heaven. She has had 17 songs peak at #1 on country charts. Her first 27 singles all reached the top 10 of the country charts. She has won 7 Grammy awards and nearly 200 other awards. Today, she continues to be one of country music’s biggest stars. Carrie can claim to be the most successful American Idol winner of all time.

Season 5 – Taylor Hicks – Blue-eyed soul and blues rock singer, Hicks was the oldest winner at age 29. After his win, he released 2 studio albums, and 1 song – Do I Make You Proud – topped the Hot 100 chart in 2006. He first performed the song on the finale of Season 5 of the show. Prior to winning, he released 2 independent live albums. After the win, he performed in the musical Grease on Broadway and on a national tour, and he was the first Idol winner to have a residency in Las Vegas, in 2012 and 2013. In early 2019, he starred in the Serenbe Playhouse production of the musical Shenandoah. 

Season 6 – Jordin Sparks – R&B and pop singer, Sparks was the youngest winner at age 17. She has released 3 studio albums, 2 EPs and a mixtape. Three singles have reached the top 10 of the Hot 100 chart, with No Air (with Chris Brown) reaching #3 – it is the third highest selling single by an Idol contestant, earning a Grammy nomination. She is currently recording a new studio album.

Season 7 – David Cook – Rock singer, Cook has released 3 studio albums and 2 EPs since winning. Prior to his season on Idol, he released an independent album. His first album after winning, the self titled David Cook, was certified platinum. It contained a bonus track, The Time of My Life, which is Cook’s best selling single – it reached #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart, and #3 on the Hot 100 chart. Light On from the album also sold well. For the most part, his other music has not been successful. In 2018, he made his Broadway debut performing in a limited run of the musical Kinky Boots. In 2020, he will tour in Europe with Season 8 winner Kris Allen.

Season 8 – Kris Allen – Pop/Alt rock singer, Allen’s win was somewhat controversial, in that many felt the runner-up, Adam Lambert, deserved the win. Lambert certainly has gone on to be more successful – he now is the lead singer for Queen. Allen has released 5 studio albums, with only 1 hit from them – Live Like We’re Dying peaked at #18 on the Hot 100 and at #3 on the Adult Pop Songs chart. In September 2019, he released a compilation album, titled 10, which contains new versions of songs from previous albums. In 2020, he will tour in Europe with Season 7 winner David Cook.

Season 9 – Lee DeWyze – Indie folk rock singer, he has released 6 studio albums since his win, and an independent album originally released in 2007 was re-released after his win. His cover of U2’s Beautiful Day, which he sang on the show, was released as a single and it reached #24 on the Hot 100. Other than that, his albums and singles have not sold well. In October 2019, he released an EP titled Castles – it contains 3 acoustic tracks that are truly beautiful and have been added to my favorite indie playlist.

With Carrie Underwood as American Idol’s biggest success story, and Lee DeWyze perhaps the least known of the winners, here are videos from each – Before He Cheats and Castles respectively. Personally, I recommend you watch the DeWyze video first – the song is beautiful, and in October the video won an award from the LA Film Awards for Best Animation.



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