American Idol premiered in 2002, to great fanfare and audience interest. From 2003 to 2011, the performance and results episodes held the number one programming slot on television. The idea behind the show is simple: it’s a talent contest, searching for the next American music superstar, with the winner getting a recording contract and going on tour. So how many of the winners, in the show’s twelve year run, have had that dream fulfilled? Here’s a list of the winners, their net worths, and their album sales, so you can decide if auditioning is worth it.
12. Candice Glover (2013): $1 Million
The most recent of the American Idol winners, Candice Glover has an estimated net worth of $1 million. She auditioned three times before being accepted onto American Idol. However, her career is being eagerly watched, especially after wowing audiences with her bluesy cover of the Cure’s Lovesong, which was lauded as one of the best performances in American Idol history. Her coronation song, I am Beautiful peaked on the R&B charts at number 33. Her album, Music Speaks, had its release was pushed back twice, but was finally released in February 2014, and has sold 19,000 copies thus far.
11. Kris Allen (2009): $2.5 Million
Kris Allen won American Idol in 2009, despite being overshadowed by runner-up Adam Lambert (net worth: $5 million), and was dogged of rumors of vote tampering, as Lambert had received more press, was widely considered to be the front runner for the title, and the network didn’t release the margin by which he had beaten Lambert, adding fuel to the fire. He self-released an album in 2007, Brand New Shoes, which sold 600 copies. However, his debut album post-Idol, Kris Allen, sold 346,000 copies and reached number eleven on the charts.
10. Lee DeWyze (2010): $2.5 Million
Lee DeWyze released two albums from WuLi records, So I’m Told, and Slumberland (which sold 17,000 copies), before his idol win. However, his indie rock sound found a much larger audience with 2010’s Live It Up, his post-idol debut selling 153,000 copies. Thanks to the fame gained from American Idol, WuLi released another album of previously unreleased material, What Once Was, in 2012. He also won the Male Reality/Variety Star of the Year award from the Teen Choice Awards in 2010.
9. Scotty McCreery (2011): $3 Million
2011’s American Idol winner, Scotty McCreery had his coronation song, I Love You this Big debut on the charts at #32, making it one of the highest debuts in American Idol’s history, selling 171,404 units in its first week the song became certified gold back in 2011. He’s since released three albums, his 2011 debut Clear as Day which reached platinum at platinum, the Christmas album Christmas with Scott McCreery, a 2012 release that reached gold, and 2013’s See You Tonight, which has sold 209,000 copies thus far.
8. Ruben Studdard (2003): $3 Million
Studdard‘s performance of the Leon Russell/Bonnie Bramlett song Superstar earned him a Grammy Nomination the same year he won American Idol. He’s released five albums, starting with the R&B/Pop styled Soulful in 2003, which went platinum with $1.8 million in sales. His later albums have been more gospel-oriented, and have sold well, with the most successful being 2004’s I Need An Angel, selling 483,000 copies. He has also segued into acting with roles in the revival of Ain’t Misbehaving, the soundtrack of which was nominated for the Best Musical Theater Album Grammy in 2010.
7. Taylor Hicks (2006): $3.3 Million
Taylor Hicks, like some of the other winners, had an established music career before his 2006 win. The 1997 album In Your Time sold 1500 copies, and his follow-up in 2005, Under the Radar, sold 17000. Aside from his platinum 2006 album, Taylor Hicks, he’s also expanded his career scope beyond music. He acted in Grease on Broadway in 2009, and was the first American Idol winner to get a Vegas Residency, starting at Bally’s in 2012, and moving to the Paris Las Vegas in 2013 for more space. He also has a restaurant, which he opened as ORE Drink & Dine in 2011, before remodeling it as Saw’s Juke Joint in 2012.
6. Phillip Phillips (2012): $3.5 Million
Phillip Phillips’ coronation song, Home is the best selling of all the American Idol coronation songs, while his debut album, 2012’s The World from the Side of the Moon, reached platinum. He has a new album planned for a 2014 release. His single, ‘Home’ has been nominated for a best song award from the World Music Awards, the results of which are pending.
5. David Cook (2008): $5 Million
David Cook’s post-grunge sound was already established prior to his run on American Idol, he’d released three albums while performing in the band Axium (Matter of Time, Blindsided and The Story Thus Far), as well the solo album Analog Heart in 2006 after Axium’s breakup. His time on Idol was a little bumpy after he mis-credited some of his songs, like claiming the Beatles song Day Tripper was by Whitesnake (both great bands, but with markedly different sounds), and initially not crediting his performance of Eleanor Rigby as being inspired by the Doxology and Neil Zaza covers. However, the bumps on the road didn’t stop his career, with eleven of his songs debuting on the top 100 list a week after his American Idol win, breaking the record previously held by Miley Cyrus, and he nabbed an endorsement deal with Sketchers. His first post-idol album went platinum, selling 1,500,00 copies, while his second album has only sold 130,000 copies.
4. Fantasia Barrino (2004): $5 Million
Fantasia Barrino, AKA Fantasia, received three Grammy nominations for her first album, 2006’s Free Yourself, for Best R&B Album, Best Traditional R&B Performance (‘Summertime’) and Best Female R&B Performance (‘Free Yourself’). She won Vibe’s ‘Voice of the Year’ in 2005, and her coronation song, ‘I Believe’ won both the top selling R&B/Hip Hop single of 2004 as well as the Top Selling Single of 2004 from Billboard top 100. Her first album was a platinum release, and her second album, Fantasia (2006) was a gold release. She’s also had successful turns on Broadway, as Celie in The Color Purple, as well as wrote her own biography, the New York Times bestseller Life is Not a Fairytale, and starred as herself in the Lifetime adaptation of the book.
3. Jordin Sparks (2007): $8 Million
2007’s winner, Jordin Sparks was the youngest contestant to win American Idol, taking the top honors at age seventeen. Her first album, the self-titled Jordin Sparks, went platinum, while the duet No Air, with singer Chris Brown, was nominated for the Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals Grammy, and was the third highest selling Idol contestant single. The follow-up album, Battlefield (2009), did not sell as well as 2007’s Jordin Sparks, but the first single off it, Battlefield, reached number 10 on the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first American Idol winner to have all of their first five singles reach the top 20 on the charts. She’s been on a musical hiatus for the past few years, experimenting with acting on shows like Big Time Rush and The Suite Life on Deck, the 2012 remake of Sparkle, and a leading role in the Broadway musical In the Heights, and she’s been signed on for a role in the upcoming Left Behind movie. Aside from her acting, she’s also released two perfumes. She returned to music recording last year, with the release of the Christmas song This is My Wish.
2. Kelly Clarkson (2002): $29 Million
The first season winner, Kelly Clarkson‘s rise to fame was carefully watched by millions, entranced by the new show. Her first single, A Moment Like This, had the quickest leap to the number-one spot on the Billboard 100 Music, breaking a record held by the Beatles for the previous 30-odd years. She’s had 91 #1 hits, eleven of which reached the number one spot internationally. She’s the only artist to win the Best Pop Vocal Album twice, first for 2006’s Breakaway, and then for 2011’s Stronger. All of her albums have been platinum sellers, with the best being Breakaway, which reached 6x Platinum.
1. Carrie Underwood (2005): $60 Million
Carrie Underwood’s the most successful of the American Idol winners, with her country-pop musical stylings and hits like Before He Cheats , Some Hearts, and Cowboy Casanova, with an estimated net worth of $60 million. Her debut album, Some Hearts was a 7x Platinum hit, making it the biggest American Idol debut album yet released. All of her following albums have reached platinum sales. She’s won six Grammy awards, as well as numerous Billboard Music, Academy of Country Music and American Music awards.