When American Idol announced that the series was finally coming to an end, there were mixed feelings about losing this pioneer in the reality singing competition shows. Although there were would-be singers that were disappointed at the thought that there would never be another chance to become “the next American Idol,” there were others that felt that the show was rightfully being put to rest. The ratings had been dwindling for quite some time and people seemed to tire of the same old American Idol tactics. Simon Cowell had already left the show and replacing the judges with Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey was just another last ditch effort to try and keep the show afloat.
It seemed like there was a winning combination when Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, and Harry Connick Jr. were brought on as judges but that still wasn’t enough to maintain the show’s popularity. The Voice seemed to take over as the most popular reality singing competition series on television and it looked like American Idol was finally coming to an end. Yet, new headlines made huge news in the music industry when it was revealed that there were talks about having American Idol return to the small screen. ABC is bringing the series back and there is a lot of talk about former contestants becoming part of the show. Check out our list of the 15 fan favorites from American Idol’s past seasons and speculate whether or not some of these singers will reach new fame when the show returns.
15 Carrie Underwood
Carrie Underwood is one of the most successful contestants to have ever won American Idol. In 2005, Underwood started off as a lowly contestant at the age of 22-years-old. She wound up winning the fourth season of the series and quickly transitioned into the next superstar in country music. On top of becoming one of the top-selling music artists in country music, Underwood has also made a name for herself as an actress and television personality. She had a small part in the 2011 film, Soul Surfer, and surprised everyone when she starred in The Sound of Music Live! on NBC. She is considered a huge vocal talent but it’s also her personality that has made her incredibly popular. This has been proven time and time again when she would pair up with Brad Paisley to host the CMA Awards. With her reaching incredible fame and success, sometimes people forget that she was introduced to the world through a reality singing competition.
14 Adam Lambert
When Adam Lambert first appeared on the Idol stage during Season 8, he was thought of as a much edgier contestant than they previously had in the series. While he had the look and vocal ability to be a rock star, he also proved that he had a tender side to his voice. As a major favorite on the show, Lambert made it all the way to the end before becoming the runner-up. After the show, Lambert went on to release his own album which ended up being moderately successful. Yet, Lambert isn’t known solely for his vocal ability or record breaking sales. Instead, he’s made quite a name for himself as a celebrity favorite on the red carpet. With the unique ability to remain in the public’s good graces over the years, Lambert collaborates with Queen in touring together and was even asked his opinion on the Freddie Mercury biopic. Currently, there is a huge buzz around Lambert for a judging spot on the upcoming series renewal of American Idol.
13 Kelly Clarkson
When Kelly Clarkson was first seen as a contestant on the premiere season of American Idol, audiences hailed her incredible voice. She was seen as a young and petite girl with the powerhouse voice of an icon in the music industry. Her emotional win became the standard for all other potential future winners and she went on to be one of Idol’s most successful winners. As a singer/songwriter, she’s responsible for some of country music’s hottest hit singles and has even had her songs sung by Reba McEntire. Clarkson wound up forming a friendship with this iconic country singer and even went on to marry her stepson, Brandon Blackstock. While Clarkson still remains an accomplished singer/songwriter, most recently she is best known for focusing on her husband and their growing family. In capitalizing on her new mother persona, Clarkson released a children’s book in 2016 entitled, “River Rose and the Magical Lullaby.”
12 Jennifer Hudson
While there have been some truly stellar singers that have graced the Idol stage, audiences can admit that there were some seasons that were better than others. In 2004, the third season of the series brought a plethora of super talented singers all hoping to become the next American Idol. Jennifer Hudson was amongst the pack but many remembered her more for her style missteps and her over-the-top look that characterized her as a bigger girl. Hudson wound up coming in seventh place in the series and it would seem that she would become just another casualty of forgotten wannabe singers. Yet, all of that changed once she was given the role of Effie White in the 2006 film, Dreamgirls, which she went on to win an Oscar for as the Best Supporting Actress. She went on to star in a number of other films but is probably best known for her incredible weight loss through her endorsement deal with Weight Watchers.
11 Fantasia Barrino
After the huge success of the first season of American Idol, people all over the world were flocking to try out for the series. Season 3 featured an incredible amount of super talented contestants, with each having their own draw to what makes them incredibly special amongst the pack. To keep this in perspective, Jennifer Hudson was kicked off long before the final three were picked and Diana DeGarmo was seen as a smaller and cuter version of the powerhouse singer, Kelly Clarkson. Yet, Fantasia Barrino wound up taking home the coveted title of “The next American Idol” and it seemed to go to an incredibly worthy winner. Yet, there was a large amount of scandal following her win, including allegations that the producers tried to get her to hide the fact that she was a single mother. Barrino also went on to have a reality series, which highlighted all of the people in her life that seemed to be dragging her down and using her as their meal ticket. Even more scandal came when Barrino became romantically linked to a married man. However, she has remained a credible artist through her work on the Broadway stage, portraying Billie Holiday in the production, After Midnight.
10 Constantine Maroulis
Constantine Maroulis was introduced to the world during the fourth season of American Idol and quickly became a fan favorite due to his rocker persona, flowing locks and smoldering look. While this made him stand out during the early part of the season, it quickly became cartoon-like in execution and audiences grew tired of the same old shtick. Once his time on the show came to an end, it seemed questionable whether or not Maroulis would find a credible career in the music industry. Yet, he began making a name for himself on Broadway. While his over-the-top facial expressions and performance style may have been thought of as super corny on the performance stage, it was perfect for Broadway. Starring in Rock of Ages, Jekyll and Hyde and The Wedding Singer, Maroulis is far from being thought of as one of the forgettable contestants from American Idol’s past.
9 Kellie Pickler
There were a number of American Idol contestants that were known for coming from humble origins and many of them hadn’t yet experienced things like flying on an airplane or being out of the state of their birth. When Kellie Pickler appeared on Season 5 of the series, she was far from thought of as worldly. Yet, her personality made her seem extremely likable and even Simon Cowell once remarked that he liked her better than Carrie Underwood. This wasn’t because of the vocal ability, even though Pickler has a unique sound that lends itself well to country music. Instead, it was because of the way she appeared in interviews and television segments. Although she didn’t go on to win her season, she seemed to be embraced by country music. The world came to know about her hardships regarding her family and there was an emotional stage performance where she broke down and cried in front of all of country music. Her ultra-likable personality led to a reality series on CMT entitled, I Love Kellie Pickler.
8 Scotty McCreery
When Scotty McCreery was first seen as a contestant on American Idol in 2011, viewers were blown away at the deep and rich tone of his voice. At such a young age, he already had the sound befitting a country superstar. Yet, there was a distinct difference between the way he looked and the way he sounded. He still had the boyish looks of the neighbor kid and there was even an awkward crying moment during Hollywood Week on the series. It took a lot of work for McCreery to shed the character he created as a contestant on the reality singing competition but he eventually became able to perform alongside some of the biggest names in country music. In 2013, McCreery made the same mistake that many other seasoned performers have made over the years when he fell off the stage during a concert in Iowa. Some of his pals in country music made sure to throw in some few jabs about his “epic fall”
7 Lauren Alaina
When Lauren Alaina first appeared as a contestant on the 2011 season of American Idol, she seemed far more like a rocker than a country star. From her ratted hair to her rocker-like look, she was far from the little farm girl plucked from the masses. Yet, once she was a regular on the series, she was quickly repackaged to fit the country mold. She wound up concluding her time on the show as the runner-up but that didn’t stop her from continuing to pursue a career in the music industry. She actually achieved quite a lot of success through her debut album and through a variety of hit singles. She is a mainstay for every ACM or CMA Awards show and she has lost an incredible amount of weight since she first appeared on television. She is currently working on new music and it seems like people haven’t seen the last of Lauren Alaina.
6 Colton Dixon
Colton Dixon competed on Season 7 of American Idol and quickly became a favorite amongst viewers. His signature style and look were reminiscent of a young Billy Idol and the young girls simply couldn’t get enough. So, when he placed seventh in the season, there were many hearts broken to see him exit the show. Yet, he wasn’t gone for long since he was able to reemerge with a more groomed persona and a signature style that helped to sell records. Nowadays, he looks practically unrecognizable compared to his much younger look. It wasn’t just his look that has evolved over the years since his vocal ability seems to be improved as well. He may not have achieved his full potential as a rock star so only time will tell whether the world will once again create buzz over this heartthrob rocker.
5 Jordin Sparks
Jordin Sparks became the winner of Season 6 of American Idol in 2007 after cultivating a squeaky clean persona that followed her throughout her music career. While she did maintain her “good girl” reputation for a time, she also took on a new reputation of being quite unspoken. While presenting an award, Sparks seemed quite angry at the podium when addressing the fascination over the Purity Rings worn by the Jonas Brothers. She later became romantically linked to Jason Derulo but the two split after three years of dating. The two received quite a lot of publicity through their relationship and even got the infamous “Marry Me” music video out of it. Yet, the breakup was far than amicable and it revealed another ugly side of Sparks. Once considered the American Idol darling, she is now adding quite a few names to her former boyfriend's list, having just announced the split from Sage the Gemini.
4 La’Porsha Renae
In 2015, American Idol had already received quite a lot of criticism for lackluster ratings and a saturated market for reality singing competition shows. As the fifteenth season of the series, it was decided that it would be the final season (or so they said). La’Porsha Renae quickly became a fan favorite due to her incredible singing ability, signature look and the adorable daughter she brought with her to the initial audition. As the end of the season drew nearer, people were speculating that it was inevitable that Renae would win due to her memorable performances. While she did not end up becoming the next American Idol, she did score a major record deal after the conclusion of the series. She signed with 19/Big Machine & Motown Records and almost immediately there were headlines surrounding new music. Yet, that was soon overshadowed by her comments regarding the LGBT community when she stated, “It’s a choice to be gay” and she “doesn’t agree” with the lifestyle. The result was a cloud that hung over the debut album, Already All Ready.
3 David Archuleta
David Archuleta first appeared on American Idol in Season 7 and he quickly became beloved by all the young fans of the show. When it came down to either him or David Cook, there were millions of little girls everywhere that were glued to their television screens in desperation. There were a number of videos that surfaced that showed the elation of groups of girls upon hearing the winner’s name, until the “wrong” David was chosen. Although he may not have won his season, that hasn’t stopped him from continuing to churn out music. He’s released six albums since 2008 and has performed at various concerts around the world. His entire career has been filled with nothing but good notes about his character and reputation and he even dropped everything to serve The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Santiago, Chile for two years. He returned to the U.S. in 2014 and remains a favorite former American Idol contestant in the minds of audiences.
2 Ruben Studdard
When Ruben Studdard appeared on the second season of American Idol, he didn’t exactly look like the next big superstar in the music industry. Kelly Clarkson had the perfect look when she won the first season and there was inevitably a good amount of pressure to repeat the show’s former success. Yet, both Studdard and the runner-up, Clay Aiken, didn’t portray the look of the music industry’s next big heartthrob. Studdard ended up winning and even released a few hit singles that featured his buttery and soothing tone. However, the main focus surrounding Studdard was the clear detriment of his health to remain at such a big size. Studdard went on The Biggest Loser during its 15th season but wasn’t able to efficiently lose the weight. Studdard continues to struggle with his weight but continues to work on new music.
1 Katharine McPhee
Katharine McPhee gained fame as the runner-up in Season 5 of American Idol but quickly proved that she was more than just a beautiful songbird. Although she’s had quite a lot of success as a songstress, she became far more famous for her ability to act. She performed on Smash (even though most know that role the best for the fact that she cheated on her husband with her Smash director) and most notably for her role on Scorpion. Few American Idol contestants have been able to achieve the amount of acting success as Katharine McPhee, in regards to consistent work on TV. Her most recent headlines involve the recently divorced, David Foster. Although over 30 years her senior, the two have been rumored to be dating and were even spotted kissing while out and about.
Sources: E! Online, Fox News, Los Angeles Times
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