7 People You Forgot Won ‘American Idol’

Jonathan Riggs | May 12, 2015 10:03 am

Unless you’ve been too busy sipping from Paula Abdul’s red Coke cup — and if you have, do not attempt to operate heavy machinery — you’ve probably heard that next year’s season 15 of American Idol will be its last. Whether that news inspires you to react with relief, horror or a pill-fueled “Promise Of A New Day” freakout, no one can deny the show’s impact.

The series’ winners’ impact is a different story. We love them all, but time hasn’t been kind to all of the champs of American Idol. For every Kelly Clarkson or Carrie Underwood, there are others who’ve been largely forgotten by mainstream music fandom, fairly or otherwise. Let’s look back at seven of them.

Name: Ruben Studdard Season: 2 Year Won: 2003 Beat Out: Clay Aiken, who topped Studdard on the charts with their dueling debut singles. Biggest Post-Idol Triumph: Scoring a #2 single (“Flying Without Wings”) a #1 album (Soulful) and a Grammy nomination for his cover of The Carpenters’ “Superstar.” What Went Right: Although he couldn’t maintain his mainstream pop success, “The Velvet Teddy Bear” built an impressive gospel and R&B career and continues to record, tour, and act in musical comedies to this day. What Went Wrong: Being topped by Clay Aiken in any respect has done no one’s career any favors. The YouTube Verdict: “Ruben Studdard has not fell off. He is doing a lot better than most of you filthy people making comments.”

Name: Taylor Hicks Season: 5 Year Won: 2006 Beat Out: Katharine McPhee, who somehow achieved enduring relevance as an actress. Biggest Post-Idol Triumph: He hit #1 with his debut single, “Do I Make You Proud,” #2 with his self-titled debut album, and released an autobiography, Heart Full of Soul: An Inspirational Memoir About Finding Your Voice and Finding Your Way. What Went Right: The gray-haired leader of the “Soul Patrol” won long-term residencies at the Bally’s and then Paris casinos in Las Vegas. What Went Wrong: Unceremoniously dropped by his label, Hicks’ mainstream impact has now been largely overshadowed by “Weird Al” Yankovic’s kind-of-scathing parody, “Do I Creep You Out.” The YouTube Verdict: “Hmm I’ve never heard of this guy. Granted i never watched American Idol, but I’ve heard of everyone else.”

Name: Jordin Sparks Season: 6 Year Won: 2007 Beat Out: Blake Lewis, the beatboxing, bromance-prone boy wonder. Biggest Post-Idol Triumph: Buoyed by her loyal “Sparkplugs,” the purity-ringed singer scored a run of Top 20 singles, most notably the #8 hit “Tattoo” and the Grammy-nominated Chris Brown duet “No Air.” What Went Right: At first, Sparks seemed like the kind of act who would never end up on a list like this, starring in the musical remake of Sparkle alongside Whitney Houston in her last film role, dating Jason Derulo and laying down tracks for her third studio album. What Went Wrong: Delayed by RCA from releasing said third album, then dropped altogether from the label, Sparks has been out of mainstream rotation on the charts for a very long time. Following this year’s mixtape #ByeFelicia, she’s set to release her long-awaited LP this year. The YouTube Verdict: “Girl if you cant breath its most likely cause chris brown be choking you.”