Every Winner in American Idol History
For 15 years, American Idol captivated viewers with amazing singers and a rotating all-star judge panel that included Paula Abdul, Jennifer Lopez, Simon Cowell, Nicki Minaj, and Steven Tyler. Although it took a hiatus for 2017, American Idol's 16th season is set to premier this month with Lionel Richie, Luke Bryan, and Katy Perry as the eclectic moderating panel. In anticipation for the next great discovery, let's take a look back at the previous winners.
1. Kelly Clarkson
As American Idol's first winner, Kelly Clarkson certainly embodies the rags-to-riches fairytale. Unable to find a record studio that shared her vision, Clarkson worked odd jobs in Burleson, Texas, before taking a chance and auditioning for the show. Before Your Love/A Moment Like This wowed everyone, quickly rose to Billboard Hot 100's #1, and secured her win. Powerhouse artists such as Babyface and Diane Warren worked on her 2003 debut album, Thankful; since then, she has had multiple #1 hits, guested on The Voice, earned a spot on the “100 Greatest Women in Music” tally, and successfully established herself across several genres, including soul, pop, and country.
2. Ruben Studdard
Nicknamed the “Velvet Teddy Bear,” Ruben Studdard won admirers with his soulful rendition of The Carpenters' “Superstar.” That silky voice continued to make gospel and R&B hits (including 2014's well-praised Unconditional album), and helped secure Studdard's star turn in the 30th anniversary revival of the Ain't Misbehavin’ musical. Additionally, he has toured with former Idol rival Clay Aiken, had cameos in a few TV shows and the movie “Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed”, and was the first celebrity to appear on The Biggest Loser (during which he lost an impressive 119 pounds!)
Also know as Fantasia Taylor and Fantasia Barrino, this singer-songwriter went from being a teen mom at the age of 16, to audience adoration and record contracts three years later. She's won Billboard, Grammy, and ASCAP awards, holds a place in North Carolina's Music Hall of Fame, and earned glowing reviews for her Broadway stints in The Color Purple and After Midnight.
4. Carrie Underwood
Like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood had been working miscellaneous jobs and shelving her singing dreams when she appeared on American Idol. Her cover of Heart's Alone immediately made judges and viewers take notice, a bit ironically actually, because she has since established herself as one of the most successful country artists of all time. Underwood's Some Hearts debut album won three of the seven Grammys she possesses, which sit next to other career accolades including 8 Country Music, 10 Billboard Music, and 12 American Music awards. She has also ventured into occasional acting, starring as Maria Von Trappe in 2013's The Sound of Music Live!.
5. Taylor Hicks
Unlike other show winners who were still struggling to break into the music business, Taylor Hicks already had a small foot in it. But two independent albums and shows at Alabama bars and clubs still weren't getting him where he wanted to be, thus his audition. Post-Idol, he's released three albums, been “Teen Angel” in 2008's Grease Broadway run, had residencies in Vegas, and hosted INSP Channel's “State Plate” food series.
6. Jordin Sparks
Jordin Sparks has the additional Idol distinction of being the youngest winner throughout the series, claiming the title at the age of 17. Not bad for actually failing her first attempt at securing a coveted “golden ticket” for the show! She nabbed the winning votes for This is My Now, showing off a fantastic vocal range that has since paid tribute to legends Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross, and at Barack Obama's Inaugural Ball. Along with three studio albums and three EPs, Sparks also has a perfume line, and the “I'm M.A.D Are You?” young adult advocacy program to her credit.
7. David Cook
David Cook had some musical credits to his name before American Idol, including a solo album, an EP with Midwest Kings, and a few albums with Axium. He auditioned for the show after his brother failed to get in and took home the title with more than 10 million votes. Shortly after his victory, Cook's songs amassed almost 950,000 digital downloads. His fifth album is due out this year, as well as a gig on Broadway for the production of Kinky Boots.
8. Kris Allen
On his way to pursuing a business degree, Kris Allen got sidetracked into auditioning for the show, and the rest is history. As with David Cook, he also was originally at try-outs to support a brother who didn't make it in. Covers of Ain't No Sunshine, Falling Slowly, and an acoustic She Works Hard for the Money made him the show star, which has resulted in six albums to date.
9. Lee DeWyze
Lee DeWyze went from being an indie frontman of his eponymously named band, to winning the Teen Choice Award for “Male Reality/Variety Star.” Following Idol, he has released six albums and had his Blackbird Song featured in an episode of both Suits, and The Walking Dead.
10. Scotty McCreery
Despite some rough spots during Scott McCreery's Idol time, he not only walked away as winner, but as the second youngest. His I Love You This Big song quickly achieved gold certification, and his first album, Clear as Day, made country debut history for being #1 on Billboard's 200. An active participant of the City of Hope Celebrity Softball Games, his fourth album is due this year.
11. Phillip Phillips
Phillip Phillips has certainly made a name for himself that extends beyond the unforgettable moniker. Praise from Dave Matthews and Stevie Nicks made his win even more noteworthy, while three albums continue to attract fans. He has opened for Goo Goo Dolls, and Matchbox Twenty, and co-headlined with O.A.R. and Matt Nathanson.
12. Candice Glover
Exemplifying the motto never say never, Candice Glover's win came after two previous eliminations from seasons 9 and 11. Her voice shined through astounding covers varying from The Cure's Lovesong to Adele's Chasing Pavements, and she has crooned her way to audience delight in two albums. A vocal proponent for body positivity, Glover has also performed in 2017's Home for the Holidays, Live on Broadway.
13. Caleb Johnson
Caleb Johnson also persevered for an Idol title, losing in the 10th and 11th seasons before claiming the spotlight in season 13. He has a pre-Idol record with the 80s metal/70s Southern rock influenced band Elijah Hooker, and a post-win solo album, Testify.
14. Nick Fradiani
With a 2011 “Battle of the Bands” win for his group, Beach Avenue, and attention on 2014's America's Got Talent, Nick Fradiani was building attention, but his Idol win supercharged his success. His versions of Train's Drops of Jupiter and David Gray's Babylon propelled him to a win, and he released the Hurricane album in August 2016.
15. Trent Harmon
Almost one year after losing the chance to grab a spot on The Voice, Trent Harmon got his ticket for American Idol and won the series' most recent season. He's another performer who bounces from genres, smoothly going from Sia's Chandelier to Percy Sledge's When a Man Loves a Woman to Justin Timberlake's Drink You Away. His self-titled EP came out at the end of 2016.
Who will join these 15 legendary winners on the next season of American Idol? Tune in March 11th to meet all the hopefuls!