In Part 1 of this three-part series on American Idol contestants who’ve achieved less than stellar success in their days following their appearance on the show, we looked at winners of the crown who never quite achieved what producers of the show had envisioned for its winners. Ruben Studdard, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook and Kris Allen all reached the pinnacle of American Idol, yet failed to achieve the success of the show’s other three winners, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and Fantasia Barrino.
Winners of the American Idol title are not the only contestants on the show with the potential to make it big. The bright glare of the Idol stage is a huge opportunity for any potential singer to reach out for their own brass ring, and every season has had its share of performers with the potential to hit the big time, a la Chris Daughtry and Jennifer Hudson. Yet many of these contestants who showed such promise during the show fizzled in the years following their seasons. Let’s take a look:
The second place finisher on any season of American Idol normally would be the second most likely contestant to hit it big, but that hasn’t happened often. Clay Aiken is clearly the most successful of runner-ups on the show, and artists such as Katherine McPhee, David Archuletta and Adam Lambert have at least managed to stay on the radar of the entertainment industry thus far. Others, like the ones we see here, showed so much potential on the show yet sadly waned in the end:
The first season of American Idol was a venture into the unknown. Having been a summer replacement show in 2002, no one could have predicted then just how successful the show would become, or how its contestants would actually fare in the real world. By the time the 1st season wound down to its finale, it had already begun to steamroll on to the pop culture scene in a big way. The two finalists, eventual winner Kelly Clarkson and runner-up Justin Guarini squared off in a three song contest that ended up being a no contest. Clarkson was clearly the winner. Within months, she had already become a household name and Guarini began his path back towards obscurity.
After his tour on American Idol, Guarini co starred with Clarkson in a poorly received film, “From Justin to Kelly”, and in June 2003, he released his own eponymous CD, “Justin Guarini.” The album barely sold over 100,000 copies and within months Guarini was dropped from his label RCA. Though still managing to find work in the entertainment field, Justin Guarini has never reached the pop star potential that he could have had.
Diana never really had a chance in the 3rd season finale against winner Fantasia Barrino. Though a close race in the end, DeGarmo’s sweet personality and ample singing voice were no match for the stage presence of the winner. Since her time on the show, Diana has released two albums, “Blue Skies” (2004) and “Unplugged in Nashville” (2009), neither one of which received any notable success. Though not highly successful in the music industry, DeGarmo has found modest success in theater, appearing in Hairspray and Hair on Broadway, and several other musicals in various venues.
Bo Bice was one of the first rockers to hit it big on American Idol, and surprisingly made it all the way to the Season 4 finale against eventual superstar Carrie Underwood. Bice wowed Idol fans all season long with a then new to the show, Southern rock flavored performances. Through it all, Bice seemed reluctant to bask in the spotlight that is American Idol and eventually lost in the season’s finale, but his overall performance on the show garnered him many fans and he certainly had the potential to make it into the big time.
Bice’s first album, “The Real Thing” was released in December 2005 on RCA Records. Though it reached #4 on Billboard’s Top Albums chart, sales never quite reached platinum status. His subsequent effort, 2009’s “See the Light” did not fare well at all. Though still out on the circuit performing and recording (his next effort, “Different Shades of Blue” is due to be released in May 2010), Bo Bice has yet to achieve the success he could have had.
In Season 5 of American Idol, the producers of the show decided to try something new by announcing a finale featuring the top three contestants rather than the top two. The three singers who reached the finale were winner Taylor Hicks, runner-up Katherine McPhee and third place finisher Elliot Yamin. Yamin was one of those types of contestants on the show that I just love. Armed with a great voice and a likable personality, he grew professionally with each performance, eventually garnering him a spot in the season’s final showdown.
After finishing in third place in the tightest race to date on Idol, Yamin embarked on a career in music. He signed on with SONY and released a self-titled album in March 2007. The album was certified Gold and reached #3 on Billboard’s Top Albums chart, boosted by a #13 single, “Wait for You.” Elliot’s promising start soon faded into disappointment, though, as he has yet to reach that same level of success ever since. That’s too bad!
Who can forget the unique beatboxing style of Blake Lewis? His unique spin on songs such as Jamoriquai’s “Virtual Insanity” and Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love (a Bad Name)” were met with rave reviews for their daring and positively unique renditions. Lewis’ status grew with each week, and he became a favorite to win it all against eventual winner Jordin Sparks on the finale of Season 6. In the end he finished in second place.
After his appearance on Idol, Lewis released his debut album in May 2007, a self-titled EP featuring his famed rendition of the Bon Jovi tune heard on the show. His subsequent release in December of that same year, “A.D.D. (Audio Day Dream)”, on Arista Records reached #10 on the charts, but sold a disappointing 305,000 copies. Since then, Lewis has managed to stay active in the recording industry, but has not been as successful as he could have been.
There you have it, so much potential and so little of it realized. Justin Guarini, Diana DeGarmo, Bo Bice, Elliot Yamin and Blake Lewis were bona fide stars during their runs on American Idol, but once they were cast out into the real world, their stars never quite shined as bright as they had on the show. Stay tuned as we take a look at other Idol contestants with potential that never reached the pinnacle of their trade.