American Idol Stars: Where are they now?
BY CAMERON TEANEY ON MARCH 21, 2013
I’m sure most of us are familiar with the ba da ba da ba da ba da baa tune that signifies the hit singing competition show American Idol. This vocal talent search show began around the turn of the century and is in the middle of its 13th season. But what becomes of these artists after the show ends and the initial attention starts to fade? Some of Idol’s winners have become nothing short of superstars, while others have struggled to make it big.
Let’s start from the beginning. Although it is ironic that a girl who auditioned in a shirt made out of a pair jeans became successful so fast, it is no surprise that season one’s winner, Kelly Clarkson, was able to win America over with her strong, powerhouse vocals and bubbly personality. This pop princess has produced six albums post-American Idol, all of which have been major hits. She is probably best known for her life-after-break-up ballads such as “Since U Been Gone,” which earned Clarkson one of her first Grammys, and her more recent hit “Stronger,” which quickly became one of the best-selling singles ever. Clarkson’s latest hit is her first Christmas album, which was released just last year and gave Clarkson the title of the first female to make the best-selling holiday album of a year. Needless to say, Clarkson well represented the title of the first American Idol.
A couple of seasons later, a small town country girl stole the hearts of America with her incredible voice and charming disposition. Season four’s winner, Carrie Underwood, has had countless successes in the music world, making her the top American Idol money maker. Her debut album, Some Hearts, which included major hits like “Jesus, Take the Wheel” and “Before He Cheats”, won three Grammys. Her most recent album, Blown Away, was released in 2012 and won Underwood another Grammy. Although music is her primary passion and gift, she has also dabbled in acting, most recently playing the part of Maria Von Trap in ABC’s remake of the Sound of Music.
While Clarkson and Underwood are no doubt forces to be reckoned with, it is not uncommon for non-winning Idol contestants to be just as (if not more) successful than the winners. For example, although Ruben Studdard won season two of American Idol, the first runner-up, Clay Aiken, sold more albums and gained more support than Studdard. Both performers are currently taking a break from the music industry. Studdard is taking time away to focus on losing weight after being a contestant on The Biggest Loser, and Aiken is entering the political arena, with plans to run for Congress. Season five was full of contestants who perpetuated Idol’s popularity. Since appearing on Idol, Kellie Pickler and Chris Daughtry have landed successful careers in the music world, while Katharine McPhee used the publicity she gained from the show to launch her into an acting career, marked by her lead role in NBC’s ‘Smash’. But let’s not forget season five’s winner, Taylor Hicks. Many were surprised when the gray-haired, bluesy artist beat the talented McPhee in the finale. Since the show, Hicks has released three albums and has made some TV appearances, but has more recently pursued other interests, such as the restaurant business. The accomplishments of these artists and several others make season five the most productive and popular season of the show.
However, this peak of popularity was short-lived, for the show’s rating began to drop as the original panel of judges, Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell left the show one by one. Since then, new judges have filled in, but there has yet to be a consistent panel as good as the original one. This season, Jennifer Lopez is returning after taking a break last season, joined by returning judge Keith Urban and brand new judge Harry Connick Jr. This group was selected to help bring the show back to its former glory, although some think it will be hard to make such a comeback due to similar shows like The Voice and the bad rep Idol has picked up for its rigged and overly dramatic nature. However, hope is not lost, for some of the show’s more recent winners like Scotty McCreery and Phillip Phillips have experienced quite a bit of publicity after leaving Idol. Season 13 began at the first of this year and so far, the finalists seem promising, especially North Carolina native Majesty York, who I think has a good chance of becoming the next American Idol.