For 16 years, America has watched and voted for their favorite singers on Fox’s beloved show
American Idol. As hopefuls from all over the country gathered each year to audition to move on to competition rounds and ultimately live performance shows, only a handful of singers have been crowned the next American Idol.
While the show has helped launch a few amazingly successful careers (let’s not forget the original winner was none other than Kelly Clarkson), some American Idol winners seem to have fallen off the face of the earth (or the music industry, at least). While not everyone has continued to grace the top of the music charts, you’ll love to see where they all ended up. Keep reading to see what all 16 winners of American Idol since being crowned the winner of their season.
Season 1: Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson was the very first person to be crowned the winner of American Idol back in 2002. Since she’s been gone from the show, she’s had one of the most successful careers following Idol! She immediately signed with RCA Records, and her debut single, “Before Your Love / A Moment Like This” was the best selling single in 2002 in the US. She’s released eight studio albums and has sold over 45 million singles worldwide. Oh, and she also has three Grammys, three MTV Music Video Awards, four AMA’s and two ACMA’s. Billboard once called her “one of pop music’s greatest singers” and, well, they’re not wrong. Most recently, she’s published children’s books (she has two children with husband Brandon Blackstock) and now serves as a coach on The Voice. On her first season as a coach, her team won the entire competition, so it’s safe to say TV singing competitions are kind of her thing.
Season 2: Ruben Studdard
Ruben Studdard beat out Clay Aiken for the crown in 2003. Since then, he’s released seven studio albums, a number of which have earned him Grammy nods. He also went on to have a recording career, and more recently he was cast in a national tour revival of Ain’t Misbehavin’. He’s been on a few national tours to accompany his albums, and his most recent 2018 tour included Lalah Hathaway. He also went back to television as the first celebrity contestant in 2013 on The Biggest Loser.
Season 3: Fantasia Barrino
Right after Fantasia Barrino won American Idol, she signed with J Records to get started on her music career. Her very first single, “I Believe,” hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100. In addition to five studio albums, Fantasia has sold over one million tracks in the US, which led VH1 to rank her 32 on their “100 Greatest Women in Music” list in 2012. She had a reality TV stint in 2010 with her VH1 show Fantasia For Real which followed her struggles to control both her personal and professional life. Now, with a Grammy award under her belt, she returned to Broadway (her first show was The Color Purple) for a role in the musical After Midnight.
Season 4: Carrie Underwood
Much like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood is one of the biggest successes to come from American Idol – Forbes data argues she is the most successful Idol winner, in fact. This small town country girl from Oklahoma was immediately launched into stardom after her 2005 win. Thirteen years, five studio albums, and countless awards (including seven Grammys, 10 BBMA’s, 14 ACM’s, 12 AMA’s and 8 CMA’s) later, she’s still one of music’s hottest artists today. She was the only country artist to ever have all five of her albums land in the first or second spot on the Billboard 200 chart. Billboard has called her country music’s “reigning queen,” and Rolling Stone called her “the female vocalist of her generation of any genre.” In addition to her musical success, she’s also an ambassador for Olay cosmetics and Almay cosmetics, and she recently launched a line of activewear, CALIA, for Dick’s Sporting Goods. She asked Jesus to take the wheel for her back in 2005 and TBH, it looks like he did a pretty good job for her.
Season 5: Taylor Hicks
Anyone remember Taylor Hicks? Granted, it must be hard for anyone to follow Carrie Underwood’s massive win, but Taylor took home first place in 2006. If you remember his signature grey hair, you’ll be happy to know he’s still rocking it today. He has a total of three studio albums out, and he actually has a dedicated fan base who call themselves “Soul Patrol” (in honor of the classic rock, blues and R&B; influence on his music). He’s also the first Idol winner to have a long-term residency in Las Vegas (he was there from 2012-2013). He performed on Broadway and the national tour of Grease as Teen Angel in 2008 and 2009, and he also appeared on Fox’s dating show The Choice in 2012. In 2017, he began hosting the farm-to-table food show called Slate Plate on INSP. He’s by no means done poorly for himself, but he’s not the household name other American Idol winners have become.
Season 6: Jordin Sparks
At just 17 years old, Jordin Sparks was the youngest person to win the series to this date. Right after winning, her debut album sold over 200 million copies around the world. You’ll probably remember her popular singles “No Air” with Chris Brown, “Tattoo,” and “S.O.S.” She’s received an NAACP award, a BET award, an AMA, and two Kids’ Choice Awards. In just the US, she’s sold over 10 million singles and a million albums, so she’s considered one of the more successful Idol winners. She starred on Broadway in In The Heights in 2010 and in the 2012 movie Sparkle. She’s also released perfumes – and after a five year break from her music career, she returned in 2014 with the mixtape #ByeFelicia and her third album Right Here Right Now in 2015.
Season 7: David Cook
David Cook beat out David Archuleta as the seventh winner back in 2008. His four studio albums since then have helped him break a number of chart records (he had 11 singles on the Hot 100 the week after winning Idol, which beat out Miley Cyrus’s record of six singles on the chart in 2006). His second album was certified platinum by RIAA, and in addition to touring the country for his albums, David made his Broadway debut as Charlie Price in Cyndi Lauper’s Kinky Boots from April 2018-May 2018.
Season 8: Kris Allen
Pop-rock crooner Kris Allen has had a number of successful singles since he won Idol in 2009. Songs like “No Boundaries,” “Heartless,” and “Live Like We’re Dying” all achieved chart success following his TV win. He released five studio albums – his latest, Letting You In, came out in 2016. He’s also been heavily involved in musical charity organizations like Music Empowers Foundation and Little Kids Rock, which work to provide solid music education in schools. He’s traveled globally to places like Rwanda, Haiti, and Kenya to continue his charity work.
Season 9: Lee DeWyze
Lee DeWyze actually had a solo career (with two independent albums) and his own band before he won Idol in 2010 – clearly it wasn’t his first rodeo. Since then, he’s released six total studio albums. Because of demands from his loyal fanbase, his record label even released an album composed of pre-Idol recordings that didn’t make it on to an album. He’s worked with several charity organizations as well, including The Heart Foundation, Gateway for Cancer Research, and Music in Schools Today.
Season 10: Scotty McCreery
Judges were blown away by Scotty McCreery at his Idol audition – remember how low his voice went for his rendition of “Your Man”? As a standout talent from the season, he won it all in 2011. The first album he released, Clear as Day, was certified platinum almost immediately. After releasing a Christmas album and another studio album, Scotty broke history in 2017 as the first country artist to have a single, “Five More Minutes,” to chart without having the backing of a record label. His most recent album, Seasons Change, was released in 2018. In his personal life, he married his longtime girlfriend in 2018 in the North Carolina mountains where he proposed to her.
Season 11: Phillip Phillips
Phillip Phillips impressed the judges with his unique guitar rendition of Michael Jackson’s Thriller for his audition in 2012. Fans loved it, because Phillip won the series and broke history, too – his “coronation” song, “Home,” is the best-selling song to ever come from American Idol. He’s released three studio albums since, and his latest, Collateral, came out in January 2018. In his personal life, he married Hannah Blackwell in 2015 and has thrown himself into charity organizations – he’s worked with DoSomething, National Park Foundation, Save the Music Foundation, and Habitat for Humanity.
Season 12: Candice Glover
The third time’s the charm for Candice Glover – she’s the only American Idol winner who had to audition three times before being cast for the live shows! Clearly, her hard work paid off, because she beat out the competition and finally won in 2013. After the success of her debut album, Music Speaks, she confirmed that she was planning on releasing a second with more R&B; influence. She’s also performed on Broadway for the show Home for the Holidays: Live on Broadway and has used her platform to be an activist for body positivity among young girls.
Season 13: Caleb Johnson
Like Candice Glover, Caleb Johnson had previously auditioned three times for American Idol – but he actually made it to the live rounds before being cut. By taking a year off to focus on his stage presence, he found success with his third try as he was crowned the winner of the 13th season. Within three weeks of winning the show, he released his first post-Idol album, Testify, which is the quickest any winner has released an album. After parting with his record label, he’s self-released a few singles including “Holding On” and “Hanging With the Band” while working on crowdfunding his next album, Born from Southern Ground.
Season 14: Nick Fradiani
Nick Fradiani won season 14 of American Idol, but it wasn’t his first time on TV or participating in a singing competition. He won Battle of the Bands at Mohegan Sun with his group Beach Avenue in 2011, which led them to compete on America’s Got Talent in 2014 – though they didn’t make it past “Judgement Week.” This set him up for success on Idol – after he won, he signed with Big Machine Records and released his album Hurricane, which reached #1 on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. After leaving his label, Nick released his EP Where We Left Off (written by Beach Avenue guitarist Nick Abraham) in 2017.
Season 15: Trent Harmon
Season 15 was the final season of American Idol for its original run on television, and Trent Harmon took home the “final” top spot (though it was later announced Idol would return to television two years later). Trent actually auditioned for The Voice in 2014 and said the rejection he faced on NBC’s talent show prepared him for American Idol (obviously it worked, since he won the whole thing). He signed to Big Machine Records after winning, and his first debut album, You Got ‘Em All, was released in May 2018.
Season 16: Maddie Poppe
American Idol was brought back for a revival season on ABC in 2018, just two years after the show “ended.” Twenty-year old Maddie Poppe was crowned the winner, and like a few other Idol winners, she, too, had auditioned for another talent competition before (she was rejected from The Voice in 2015). It was also announced during the finale show that she was dating fellow contestant and runner-up Caleb Lee Hutchinson. #Goals. While she had previously released her own album, Songs From The Basement, in 2016, her first post-Idol single titled “Going Going Gone” was released after her win in 2018 and peaked at #13 on Billboard’s Digital Songs chart.