The Most Successful American Idol Contestants

The Most Successful American Idol Contestants

It is a fact that American Idol is one of my biggest obsessions. If you click on my name at the top of the article and you click back on “older entries” you’ll see my Idol articles, stacked together like 90’s newspapers on an episode of Hoarding: Buried Alive. It was only fitting that I did a follow up on my previous article,“American Idol’s Best and Worst Winners”, so I decided to make a list of the most successful Idol contestants, ever. To all of the crazy people out there, please note that this list is not based on music sales alone, but is the cumulative achievements in all aspects of the entertainment industry.

Kelly Clarkson is by most accounts, the most successful American Idol contestant, ever. She won the first season of the popular talent show by beating her rival, Justin Guarini, in the finale. She went on to sell millions and millions of albums and have sold out tours, the world over. Her powerful vocals about female empowerment, gave rise to her popularity. She has some of the biggest worldwide album sales of any previous Idol contestant and is currently seen on the hit television talent show, Duets. Not even the worldwide fall of democracy will stop this woman.

Second on this list has to be Jennifer Hudson who went from racial controversy on her season and being ousted very early in the game, to an Academy Award winning actress. She has endured more emotional trauma than any sane person could handle, after almost her entire family was wiped out. If this isn’t a big up-yours to a talent show which has been labeled as a “machine”, then I don’t know what is.

Adam Lambert has been an enthralling fascination to music audiences ever since his second place finish on the show. His hybrid mix of synth-pop, glam rock and haunting ballads, has made him surprisingly fresh-faced for the current music industry. One of my very good friends is a staunch Glambert (a fan of Adam Lambert) and his profile avatars on all of his instant messaging applications are of Adam Lambert singing the freak out of something or another. His obsession is akin to a homeless alcoholic finding a truckload of cheap vodka on a lonely Christmas Eve.

The last on this list has to be Chris Daughtry who made us nostalgically weepy with his song, “Home”. This ousted contestant decided to follow his own route and plaster together a rock group which sounds like an improved version of Nickleback. Their self-titled debut album broke the record for the fastest selling rock debut album in music history and earned Chris Daughtry the title of “Coolest Person on the Planet. Ever.

Honourable mentions are reserved for Carrie Underwood, Jessica Sanchez, Katherine McPhee and Philip Phillips.

If you believe we left out a few Idols, please nominate them in the comments below and readers, if you feel like you need to get your bitch on, please use the swear words sparingly. I know I have cursed at American Idol like a mentally ill man at a “Moon Landing Is Real convention, but your respectful opinions will be appreciated.



  • lynayn

    mmmmm Carrie Underwood receives an honorable mention.
    I like Kelly Clarkson – a lot. but to put Carrie Underwood in an honorable mention position is kinda overlooking things like:

    American Music Awards

    Kelly Clarkson – 4
    Carrie Underwood – 6

    Billboard Music Awards

    KC – 12
    CU – 16

    Grammy Awards

    KC – 2
    CU – 5

    People’s Choice Awards

    KC – 2
    CU – 6

    Maybe your list of the most successful American Idols is based more on your personal musical preference than actual  cumulative achievements of the artists.

    • Renier Palland

      I agree wholeheartedly with you Lynayn. 

      There’s a reason I gave Carrie an honourable mention, even though I am a massive fan and love her to bits.

      In many of my previous articles, a debate was fired up about Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, with the basic theme being about Carrie Underwood being successful in the USA, but not worldwide, which I slightly tend to disagree with.

      Whatever the case may be, I tried to focus more on other Idol alum who did not win, excluding Kelly Clarkson. Obviously, I had to put Kelly on this list as she recently only got into judging the show, DUETS.

      Thank you for your comment, but I do not really prefer Chris Daughtry per say, above Carrie Underwood. I also strongly believe Carrie Underwood is one of the greatest Idol contestants ever.

      • lynayn

        I guess what is confusing then is the title to your artile. “The
        Most Successful American Idol Contestants”  and am also a bit confused by your reply.

         

        If I understand correctly Underwood is in an honorable
        mention position because she is not as well known world-wide, and she is not a
        judge on a TV show.

         

        BUT…

        The title of the article wasn’t “Which American Idol Contestant is More Known Worldwide and is a Judge on a TV Singing Show.”

         

        Underwood has sold more albums

        Underwood has won more awards including almost twice as many
        Best Female Vocalist or Entertainer of the Year

        Underwood has made almost twice as much $$

        Underwood has co- hosted numerous awards shows on television
        and appeared on “How I Met Your Mother” in 2010.

        She’s also been cast in a supporting role in a movie, “Soul
        Surfer.”

         

        I enjoy reading your articles on this site. In fact, your’re
        one of my favorites. I’m also a huge fan of both Kelly and Carrie, and would
        have a hard time choosing a personal favorite. But as far as who is the most
        successful American Idol, seriously by most accounts it’s Carrie Underwood, almost tied by Kelly Clarkson.

        And your argument just doesn’t hold up the title to the
        article.

        • Renier Palland

          Thank you for your very kind words Lynayn. I appreciate it.

          I understand your point with Carrie Underwood. It makes sense. 

  • Wheelincj350

    Carrie underwood is the top money maker…Also dont foget kelly pickler & Bucky covington they both had sucessful albums

  • wyl

    What about Constantine? He’s a Broadway Star these days, you know…

  • Jennifer

    I have to say I do think Carrie Underwood not being on the list is  kind of a slap in the face. She’s super successful in country, she hosts the CMT awards almost every year. I think  more people know who she is than Jennifer Hudson or Adam Lambert. Maybe it’s just me, but I can only name ONE Adam Lambert song and I can’t think of any Jennifer Hudson songs. I really only know who she is because of the Sex and the City movies and her terrible personal drama. 

  • http://twitter.com/RRRoro RoRo Williams

    I LOVE Adam Lambert! He is the only Idol contestant that I have cared enough about to see live in concert, buy his music and follow on a daily basis. Not only has he put out two great albums but is also on a short International tour with rock legends Queen (band members), as their frontman! So proud to be a Glambert!

  • Freelancesportswriter

    I would agree with the list. Underwood is a US success. Once her star fades in the US and she is replaced with someone younger and prettier her career will fade too. Those are the cold hard facts. She has not made it outside the US she is a pure product of the US. They tried to launch her in the UK but with not much success. Other countries are more sophisticated in their taste and realize what a load of garbage country music is. The others have achieved worldwide recognition. True success is not how many CD’s you’ve sold but how recognizable is your product around the world. People listing off awards that are American centric are so myopic. The world is a big place. Outside the US she is a non-entity. The only ones who recognize her name are the TV watching crowd who know her from American Idol. It would be the same as saying Olly Murs is a bigger success than Leona Lewis. Olly who? He’s huge in the UK but no one knows him outside the country. Leona is worldwide.

    • Renier Palland

      Thanks for your reply Freelance.

      I am an Olly Murs fan! 

      Have a good one.

  • Jennifer

    But the show is called AMERICAN Idol, not international idol. Why is success only defined internationally? Bottom line is, she’s probably more successful than most people in this list in the U.S. Which is the aim for AMERICAN Idol…

  • Jennifer

    But the show is called AMERICAN Idol, not international idol. Why is success only defined internationally? Bottom line is, she’s probably more successful than most people in this list in the U.S. Which is the aim for AMERICAN Idol…

  • funbunn40

    Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry and above all, Adam Lambert are my favorites and are well known worldwide. Adam’s Glamnation Tour was sold out worldwide when artists like Rihanna were cancelling concerts. His EMA performance in Belfast with Queen was magnificent and he is an artist that’s difficult to label, as he can sing rock, pop, blues, musical theatre, opera, all with authenticity and a real tribute to his years of professional vocal training and inate talent. Great list! Europe is not a big fan of country music and in the US is almost a separate entity.  funbunn40

  • funbunn40

    Kelly Clarkson, Daughtry and above all, Adam Lambert are my favorites and are well known worldwide. Adam’s Glamnation Tour was sold out worldwide when artists like Rihanna were cancelling concerts. His EMA performance in Belfast with Queen was magnificent and he is an artist that’s difficult to label, as he can sing rock, pop, blues, musical theatre, opera, all with authenticity and a real tribute to his years of professional vocal training and inate talent. Great list! Europe is not a big fan of country music and in the US is almost a separate entity.  funbunn40

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  • http://twitter.com/NidiaB1 Nidia Williams

    I totally agree with your #1 choice; Kelly Clarkson is the most talented and the best vocalist… the fact that she is also the most successful, is just icing on the cake!