American Idol has produced some of the biggest stars in music today. Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Jennifer Hudson have met great success following their stints on the show. But not all of the winners from the show’s 15 seasons have fared the same way. If their names don’t ring any bells, well, we’re not too surprised. Although these American Idol winners were immediately signed with record deals, many of them have dipped far below the radar. Check out the gallery to see what these American Idol winners have been up to since their appearances on the show. Some of them might surprise you!
A Promising Start
When American Idol debuted in 2002, the show seemed promising. Kelly Clarkson was the first winner, and a successful one at that. Her music — as well as her personality —was loved by all. On top of winning Idol, she holds three grammy’s, among countless other awards. So, it was safe to say that Idol seemed like a good way to generate a successful music career. But did all the winners’ careers pan out as well as Clarkson’s did? Go to the next slide and see for yourself.
Justin Guarini was Idol’s first runner-up, battling it out against Clarkson. Although he didn’t win, his talent seemed promising. He starred with Clarkson in From Justin to Kelly (2003), which by no means launched a successful acting career. He then released his debut, self-titled album, Justin Guarini, the same year. It sold a minor 146,000 copies, and that’s pretty much where his solo career ended. He has been featured in a few Broadway productions, however, so at least his time on Idol wasn’t all for nothing!
Studdard competed against Clay Aiken for his win, which was followed up by his No. 1 album, Soulful. It sold more than 1 million copies in pre-orders alone. Studdard didn’t keep the ball rolling, unfortunately, causing his label to drop him in 2007. In 2013, he competed again, but this time on The Biggest Loser. Studdard was adamant that his time away from music during the show wouldn’t negatively affect his career. He’s released a total of seven albums, but when’s the last time you heard his name, a song, or read a headline about him?
Bo Bice had a good run with winner, Carrie Underwood, making it seem like success would no doubt come his way. After Idol, he released an album called The Real Thing. It might’ve been a real thing, but it sure wasn’t a good thing. His label dropped him soon after.
Hicks surprisingly beat out Katherine McPhee in season five, which didn’t stop her from making a successful name for herself. When’s the last time you heard one of Hicks’ songs on the radio? Exactly. Although we don’t hear much from him musically, he’s put his creative pursuits elsewhere. Hicks co-owns Saw’s Juke Joint, an Alabama BBQ restaurant. He’s also hosted INSP’s show State Plate, where he tastes food throughout the country. Not such a bad gig.
DeWyze’s first album following his win, Live it Up, only sold 168,000 copies. Consequently, he was dropped from his deal with RCA records. Although the singer has been touring since his win, he began pursuing other ventures in 2017. He’s now signed to SONGS, a publishing company where he writes music for other people to sing.
At 17 years old, Jordin Sparks was Idol’s youngest female winner. After she nabbed the season six title, Sparks released some popular songs, including Grammy-nominated “No Air.” However, she decided to transition into acting, taking a long break from the music scene. Recently, she announced that she was secretly married, and expecting her first child. She may be busy for a while.
Another unexpected winner, David Cook triumphed over projected-winner David Archuleta. We haven’t heard much from Cook since his win 10 years ago, but he’s still kicking! The singer has been touring in preparation for the release of his new EP.
McCreery actually didn’t do so bad following his win. At 17 years old, he was the youngest male to win the show. His success can be seen in the country music world, where he’s released three singles that went platinum. That being said, he hasn’t done so great either.
A guy with the same first and last name practically begs for a successful career in entertainment, no? Phillips did seem promising. His song “Home” went triple platinum upon its release. However, legal troubles with his record company, 19 Entertainment, have kept him from furthering his career. He has said that once all the legal stuff is all sorted out, he’ll release a record. Fingers crossed!
Although her vocals were powerful, they weren’t enough to power her music career. However, you can catch her on SoundCloud and YouTube, where she’s released some music, including her own remix of Rihanna’s “Wild Thoughts.”
Caleb who? After two failed auditions, Johnson finally made some headway when he was accepted in the 13th season. His long-awaited win was followed by a still-long-awaited career. His albums haven’t sold very well, and he blames his record company, Interscope, for their failure. After parting ways with the label, the rocker used crowd-funding to create an EP that he released in 2016. In September 2017, Johnson announced that he’d be releasing a full-length studio album in the near future. Well, maybe this third time will actually be the charm.
Fradiani shocked even himself when he won season 14. He wasn’t favored to win, and his failure to launch a music career was proof of that. He initially signed to Big Machine Records, but left early in the year. Now, he’s focusing on recording his own songs and hopeful that his music will reach people and gain a following.