When it debuted in the summer of 2002, American Idol had a tag to its title: “The Search for a Superstar.” After eight full seasons and a ninth one soon to be completed, can the folks at American Idol honestly say that they’ve found eight full-blooded superstars. Not quite!
In American Idols Most Successful Contestants, we took a look at some of the Idol contestants, both winners and losers, who’ve made it to the big time after the show. Idol winners like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Fantasia Barrino have all made indelible marks in the entertainment industry. Also-rans, like Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson and Clay Aiken have shown that you don’t have to win the Idol crown to make it big.
Notwithstanding, many contestants who have appeared on the show have realized dreams they never would have reached without it, having lived their fifteen minutes of fame in the American Idol spotlight and many finding work they wouldn’t necessarily have found if not for the show. Contestants like Diana DeGarmo, Tamyra Gray, Kimberly Locke, Constantine Maroulis and many others have found ways to ply their trade one way or another in the entertainment industry.
And then there are others, the ones who seemed to have had so much potential, at least in the eyes of the judges, fans and voters of the show. Some of these contestants by and large failed to live up to the title of American Idol, and have fizzled into pop music’s world of also-rans, for the most part. There are runners-ups that fit into this category, as well, contestants that never reached the pinnacle of the show but seemed to have so much potential for the big time during their seasons. In this turn we take a turn at some of the Idol contestants over the years that haven’t quite lived up to their potential.
The ones who won it all…
Of course, expectations are always high for the winner of American Idol, especially on the part of its producers. The show does its part to push them along towards their shared goal of super stardom and boatloads of money. Many, if not all of the previous winners, and many former contestants, as well, have appeared on the show at one time or another to promote their latest effort. In the end, it’s up to the individual artist to up shift into high gear and complete their own ride towards the top of the charts. Here are some of the winners who haven’t quite lived up to expectations:
Studdard was the second contestant ever to reach the pinnacle at American Idol, defeating the very popular Clay Aiken in a close final. Nicknamed the “Velvet Teddy Bear” during his days on the show, Ruben’s soulful voice and innocent charm made him a favorite with the fans. After his appearance on the show, he released his first album, “Soulful” in December of 2003, which sold 1.8 million copies. Six-plus years and three albums later, Studdard has remained largely out of the spotlight selling only 44,000 copies of his May 2009 effort, “Love Is.”
Taylor Hicks was crowned the American Idol in May 2006, at the end of the show’s 5th season. Hicks, like Studdard, hailed from Birmingham, Alabama, and was popular throughout the season, more so for his personality and showmanship than his singing. This underdog never landed into the bottom three throughout the season and beat out all-time Idol standouts Chris Daughtry, Elliot Yamin, Katherine McPhee and Kellie Pickler for the title. After the show, Hicks’ first single, “Do I Make You Proud” debuted at #1 and was certified gold. His album, sold 730,000 copies. Since then, the singer parted ways with his label, Arista, and released another CD “The Distance” on his own label. The March 2009 album has largely gone unnoticed, selling a little over 44,000 copies.
Of all the singers on this list, Sparks, the 6th American Idol, has seen the most commercial success. Both of her post-Idol albums (“Jordin Sparks” in 2007 and “Battlefield” in 2009) have reached the top ten on Billboard’s Album Charts and she’s hit the Top 20 five times, with “This is My Now” (#15 in 2007), “Tatoo” (#8 in 2007), “No Air”, featuring Chris Brown (#3 in 2008), “One Step at a Time” (#17 in 2008), and “Battlefield” (#10 in 2009). Through all this, she’s managed to sell only a little over 1.1 million albums, not even close to what the folks at American Idol would have expected from a winner with such high expectations.
David Cook won the 7th American Idol title in January 2008, beating out runner-up David Archuletta for the title.
Cook was the first “rocker” to win the title, and as such may have veered too far off the pop music mainstream spotlight for that reason. His debut album, “David Cook” sold over 1.2 million copies and has had four singles reach Billboard’s Hot 100, with only his Idol song, “The Time of My Life” cracking the top ten. It’s only been two years since Cook grabbed the title, but so far a pop music superstar he has yet to become.
In last year’s season of American Idol, singer Kris Allen shockingly defeated odds on favorite Adam Lambert to take the crown. Though he’s had a modicum of success in his reigning year as the American Idol, Lambert has clearly grabbed more of the spotlight in the pop music industry than Allen.
So far, eight contestants have earned the title of American Idol on this pop culture phenomenon of a show. To date, only three of the eight have lived up to the expectations of just what an American Idol is supposed to be. Though each of these five former winners have not yet reached the pinnacle that the creators of the show had envisioned for its champions, they’re all still out there, selling their wares. Only time will tell if any of them become enduring household names and reach the successes of the other three.
Stay tuned for a look at other promising contestants who’ve seemingly headed off into oblivion…