MANILA, Philippines – It’s the ultimate prize in reality television – the “American Idol” crown. Every year, thousands of hopefuls vie to become the next singing sensation, hoping to have the backing of the venerable “Idol” machine.
But winning “Idol” does not guarantee long-lasting success. The show’s champions may have immediate success with their first outings, but many don’t translate to long-term careers.
In many cases, runners-up and even eliminated contestants have more successful careers, overtaking even other winners in terms of chart success, awards, and earnings.
Here are some of “Idol’s” non-winners who succeeded despite their loss in the top-rated show.
CLAY AIKEN (Season 2, runner-up)
Spamalot and “Celebrity Apprentice”
He lost by a slim margin in the season 2 finale to Ruben Studdard – he got 49.4% of the 24 million votes. But he had more success outside “Idol” compared to Studdard: in record sales alone, he comes in as the show’s 4th most successful alumnus (4.9 million albums sold in the US), while Studdard is 6th (2.5 million). Aside from record sales, he has authored a New York Times bestselling book, had 10 tours, starred on Broadway (Spamalot, in 2009), and appeared more frequently in dozens of TV shows. He recently competed in “The Celebrity Apprentice’s” latest season – and lost again in the final, this time to Arsenio Hall.
CHRIS DAUGHTRY (Season 5, 4th place)
Rocking the house with Daughtry
He was booted out after singing “A Little Less Conversation” and “Suspicious Minds” during Elvis Presley week in Season 5, placing 4th. But with his band Daughtry (he is the band’s frontman), he released a wildly successful first single just months after his exit from Idol. Since then, he has sold 6.6 million records, the 3rd most successful alumnus of the show album-wise, with several Grammy nominations.
KATHARINE MCPHEE (Season 5, runner-up)
A “Smash” hit
It was the season of “Soul Patrol,” and Taylor Hicks’ fans outvoted McPhee’s in the finale. After “Idol,” she had a string of hits, starting with her first single “Over It.” She also returned to her acting roots (she was a struggling actress pre-“Idol”), co-starring in several TV and movie projects including 2008’s The House Bunny. Now, she’s having the best of both worlds, with a star billing in the hit TV show “Smash,” where she plays a Broadway ingenue vying for her star turn in a musical based on Marilyn Monroe.
KELLIE PICKLER (Season 6, 5th place)
Country music darling
Simon Cowell famously preferred her over season 4 winner Carrie Underwood, but she got eliminated after singing “Unchained Melody” in the Top 6 week of Season 6. However, the North Carolina native charmed people with her “ditzy demeanor” and was once dubbed by US Weekly as “the Next Jessica Simpson.” She pursued singing, went country, and her first outing, “Small Town Girl,” topped the charts in 2006. So far, she has sold 1.4 million albums, the 8th most successful “Idol” in terms of record sales.
CONSTANTINE MAROULIS (Season 4, 6th place)
Broadway (and sometime soap opera) star
Placing 6th in season 4, the Greek-American singer first set his sights on a music career – then Broadway beckoned. He first joined the cast of the musical The Wedding Singer, then starred in the musicals Jesus Christ Superstar, The Toxic Avenger, and Rock of Ages. His performance as Drew in Ages was received particularly well by critics and audiences, earning him a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical in 2009. He also starred in several TV shows, particularly the CBS daytime drama “The Bold and the Beautiful.” He will also be seen in the film adaptation of Ages, to be released this June.
DAVID ARCHULETA (Season 7, runner-up)
Charming tweens (and Filipinos)
Archuleta’s boy-next-door image won the hearts of millions of tweens in the US and abroad, including the Philippines. His first album, David Archuleta, sold more than 1.6 million in the US and internationally; his total album sales in the US is 1.1 million. Filipino fans, meanwhile, can’t get enough of him; he recently starred in a local TV show, TV5’s Nandito Ako. His career will be put on hold, though, as he becomes a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for 2 years.
ADAM LAMBERT (Season 8, runner-up)
“Glambert” was expectedly many “Idol” watchers to be the winner of season 8, but lost out to Kris Allen in the finale. He immediately launched his music career with his 2009 best-selling album For Your Entertainment, which debuted at number 3 on the Billboard 200. He then launched his own world tour, Glam Nation, selling out venues worldwide. Magazines with him on the cover sold millions, including a controversial Rolling Stone cover where he announced he is gay. His latest album, Trespassing, was released just this week, and he made history as the first openly gay male artist to top the Billboard charts, selling 77,000 copies. Who did he displace in the chart’s top spot? Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood’s album, Blown Away.
JENNIFER HUDSON (Season 3, 7th place)
From 7th place to Oscar glory
Hudson’s exit during season 3 was arguably the most shocking in the show’s history – she had been seen as the one to win it all, with her goosebumps-inducing renditions of songs such as “Weekend in New England,” “I Have Nothing,” and “Circle of Life.” Despite this, Hudson’s career took off: she won a Grammy for Best R&B Album for her debut album Jennifer Hudson; her two albums peaked at #2 in the Billboard charts; and sold a total of 1.2 million albums in the US alone since. She struck gold, however, in film: she has starred in several critically-acclaimed movies (Sex and the City, The Secret Life of Bees, and Winnie), including the 2006 megahit Dreamgirls. Her stunning performance as Effie White earned her 29 awards (out of 35 nominations), including the 2006 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. – Rappler.com
For more on American Idol, click on the links below.
- Smaller paychecks for Jessica Sanchez, other ‘Idol’ losers
- Phillip is America’s Idol but Jessica the world’s?
- Why Phillip Phillips won American Idol Season 11
- Pure divahood: Jennifer Holliday and Jessica Sanchez duet on AI
- 10 Memorable Pinoy moments on American Idol