7 People You Forgot Won ‘American Idol’
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.”
Name: David Cook Season: 7 Year Won: 2008 Beat Out: David Archuleta, the sweetest little singer to ever accidentally wander into a gay bar. Biggest Post-Idol Triumph: His self-titled debut album went to #3 on the charts, while a record-breaking 11 of his songs debuted on the Hot 100 all at once. What Went Right: Although his winner’s single, “The Time of My Life,” contained lyrics like “looking for that magic rainbow,” it went Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100. Plus, Cook, an excellent guitarist, was on the first season which allowed contestants to play their own instruments. What Went Wrong: Perhaps a long-simmering curse cast by Archuleta’s famously aggressive stage dad? Whatever the cause, it actually makes us sad that “Cookie” hasn’t released an album since 2011. The YouTube Verdict: “David Cook reminds me of my co-worker Kennedy.”
Name: Kris Allen Season: 8 Year Won: 2009 Beat Out: Adam Lambert, which caused quite the controversy over alleged vote-tampering by producers. Biggest Post-Idol Triumph: Both his winner’s single, “No Boundaries,” and his self-titled debut album peaked at #11 on their respective charts. What Went Right: His follow-up single, a cover of The Script’s “Live Like We’re Dying,” went Platinum, rising to #18 on the Hot 100. What Went Wrong: Sadly, everything else. None of his subsequent singles charted, and he was dropped from his label after his next album flopped. The YouTube Verdict: “Well his career didn’t seem to live up to expectations. What ya know, life’s a bitch.”
Name: Lee DeWyze Season: 9 Year Won: 2010 Beat Out: Crystal Bowersox, the folksy “Farmer’s Daughter.” Biggest Post-Idol Triumph: He earned Bono enough money to buy a new pair of colored sunglasses by taking a cover of U2’s “Beautiful Day” to #24 on the Hot 100. What Went Right: He beat “The Situation” from Jersey Shore to win a Teen Choice Award. What Went Wrong: Fairly or not, DeWyze became the whipping boy for American Idol fatigue — all of his releases flopped. That said, in 2014, he did place “Blackbird Song” on the second Walking Dead soundtrack. Yay? The YouTube Verdict: “His eyes are cool. No homo.”
Name: Candice Glover Season: 12 Year Won: 2013 Beat Out: Something called a “Kree Harrison.” Biggest Post-Idol Triumph: Presumably, then-judge Nicki Minaj still wants to “skin and wear” Glover, despite the abysmal numbers delivered by Glover’s debut album Music Speaks. What Went Right: Music spoke. What Went Wrong: Fewer people were listening than ever in the history of American Idol. The YouTube Verdict: “She deserves more subscribers. Too bad my generation is a piece of ****.”
Did we touch upon any of your own favorite former Idols? Let us know below!