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Back again: my picks for most successful ‘Idol’ contestants of all time, 2010 edition


I’m on vacation so here  are some evergreen items for you to peruse. I may actually repeat this one later (and add more details, too) when more people are reading the blog. I kind of ran out of time to provide commentary for all 25.

A year ago, I posted my 25 most successful “Idol” contestants of all time.  This is as good a time as any to do this again. I based my rankings on an unholy mix of subjective feelings and actual accomplishments in venues such as music sales, acting and Broadway. While I try to look at overall post-”Idol” accomplishments, I am giving weight to more recent efforts. (Sorry, Josh Gracin!)

I am going to limit myself to the finalists from the first nine seasons, all 107 of them. I also realized only now that last year, I actually made a top 26 because I accidentally ranked both David Cook and Kellie Pickler at 8. Not surprisingly, season five (”Idol’s” most popular season) is most represented with seven finalists. No other season has more than three. Season six is represented by a mere one.

Here we go with last year’s rankings in parentheticals.

1. Carrie Underwood (2) – In the past year, she’s been everywhere. She got married right here in Georgia. She had a hugely successful tour. She garnered three top 4 country singles (”Undo It,” “Temporary Home,” “Mama’s Song”). She won all six American Country Music Awards earlier this month thanks to fan voting. Over five years since “Idol,” she has sold more than 11 million albums. In other words, Simon Cowell’s prediction that she’d be the biggest “Idol” ever remains true.

2. Jennifer Hudson (1) – She is the one singer who has truly moved beyond “Idol” by focusing on acting and with “Dreamgirls,” won an Oscar for best actress in 2007. She has since had roles in “The Secret Life of Bees” and “Sex and the City.” In what could be her most challenging role yet, she will be playing Winnie Mandela in a biopic next year. She also finally released her first album in 2008 which generated one decent-sized hit and sold fairly well. This past year, she also became a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers and has lost a dutiful amount of weight.

3. Kelly Clarkson (3) – Kelly will  forever be known in our hearts as the first “American Idol.” And why we love her is not based on pure sentiment. Her down-to-earth nature and her soaring vocals make her endearingly likable. It’s even hard to get on her case about her weight. That just makes her more human. Although her take-my-stand-against-my-bosses album “My December” was a disappointment, she came back strong with “All I Ever Wanted.” She even has a second country duet hit on her hands with Jason Aldean that’s climbing the charts now. Our life would certainly suck without you.

4. Chris Daughtry (4) – His rock sensibility falls squarely in the “hot adult contemporary” realm. Adults who like a little edge (but not too much) in their music tend to like him. He is in that Lifehouse/Nickelback world and is happy to be there.

5. Adam Lambert (6)

6. Fantasia (5)

7. Clay Aiken  (7)

8. Kellie Pickler (8)

9. David Cook (8)

10. Katharine McPhee (15)

11. Ruben Studdard (10)

12. Kris Allen (13)

13. David Archuleta (11)

14.  Jordin Sparks (9)

15. Taylor Hicks (12)

16. Diana DeGarmo (20)

17. Constantine Maroulis (17)

18. Elliott Yamin (14)

19. Bucky Covington (19)

20. Lee DeWyze (new)

21. Bo Bice (18)

22. Chris Sligh  (24)

23. Justin Guarini (16)

24. Danny Gokey (new)

25. Carly Smithson  (new)

People who are just bubbling under: Ace Young, Syesha Mercado, Josh Gracin, Kimberley Locke, Kimberly Caldwell, Crystal Bowersox, Tamyra Gray, Mandisa, Sanjaya Malakar, Allison Iraheta

47 comments Add your comment


December 21st, 2010
8:16 am

Oh man, just to appease me, can’t we move Bo up above Lee DeWyze?


December 21st, 2010
8:31 am


December 21st, 2010
9:18 am

In the words of Keith Jackson (the greatest college football announcer ever)

whoooooooooooooooooooooooooah nelly!!


December 21st, 2010
9:26 am

Can we move Chris and Justin above Lee too?

Rodney Ho

December 21st, 2010
9:30 am

I placed Lee there simply because he won. We’ll see if he even makes the top 25 in a few months time…


December 21st, 2010
9:57 am

Nice list! And a lot of work.

I’m pretty much ok with the order of things except Lee. True, he won but…..ewww! Sorry Rosita.


December 21st, 2010
9:58 am

Rodney! Thanks for stopping by… but I’m telling.

Heather MacDonald

December 21st, 2010
10:06 am

My December was NOT a disappointment to Kelly’s fans! We loved it, but the company did not do enough to promote it, which sunk the sales. I think you can hardly blame Kelly for that.


December 21st, 2010
10:11 am

Hi Idol peeps. Just checking in.

… I’m still mad about that hack Lee winning.


December 21st, 2010
10:35 am

Good morning, and thanks, Rodney! I am really surprised that a couple of these folks have not done better.


December 21st, 2010
10:50 am

I agree with Heather Mac: “My December” is a helluva cd. Definitely should have been promoted better but I guess the label execs little feelings were hurt.

Thanks for moving Diana up a few notches. I know she’ll probably never make the top of this list but she’s #1 for me.


December 21st, 2010
10:53 am

Oh yeah, thanks for the lovely Carrie picture, Rodney. Can never have enough of those…

And from the previous thread (for Mercedes): Shania Twain’s ex is the appropriately named Robert “Mutt” Lange, super-producer.


December 21st, 2010
11:10 am

Good Morning All!

Just a quick peep, have lots to do.

Good list, but Lee needs to be moved down a notch or two. I know he won, but still???????????

“Christmas is a candle in the window with love and Christmas in your heart.”

Mercedes S.

December 21st, 2010
11:13 am

That list is a keeper, but why, Rodney, did your comments have to stop short of Adam and Fangtasia? List comments should keep us going into 2011.

Thanks, Wrecked, I read his name somewhere… but “Mutt”? I wouldn’t even call a supermixed dog by that name.


December 21st, 2010
12:06 pm

LOL, Mercedes. Don’t recall how he acquired the “Mutt” nickname. Pretty sure Shania called him worse when she found about his cheating with her supposed best friend!


December 21st, 2010
12:08 pm

You can call me “Mutt” if it gives me a shot at Shania.


December 21st, 2010
12:15 pm

Uh, me too.

And did Rodney really put Sanjaya in the “bubbling” under the top 25 category? Really? :-)


December 21st, 2010
12:50 pm

I don’t care what Shania calls me… as long as she calls me! ;-)


December 21st, 2010
1:34 pm

Hey y’all,

I’m back home. So busy working…can’t seem to take part in the fun. Boo. But I promise a recap of my meeting with the lovely Kelly in the next day or so. Which reminds me, . ditto what Heather and wreckedpizza mentioned about My December.

Speaking of Kelly and albums, and a sneak preview of our chat, she told me that her record executive is leaving (or left already). The album is ready, and was originally scheduled for a March release. That is now on hold until a new exec is in place. I complained, she laughed and agreed saying, “Trust me, I know. I’m bored!”

While I cannot disagree about Carrie being # 1 for the year, Kelly’s # 1 on mine. But you know, if Carrie wants to move up, I’m free for a meeting starting Thursday. ;)


December 21st, 2010
1:36 pm

PS. Constant and continued prayers for Little Porter, Rickster’s b-i-l, Memory and Maggie! And anyone and everyone who needs them. Hope y’all are enjoying the Holidays! :)


December 21st, 2010
2:56 pm

Good Afternoon!

Nice list Rodney. but like everyone else, i dont agree Lee being on your list. :-)

Happy Holidays everyone!


December 21st, 2010
4:22 pm

Ok, all you Lee-haters, I’m rescinding your friend privileges!!!


December 21st, 2010
4:31 pm

Had Fantasia not almost died I wonder if she’d still be that high


December 21st, 2010
4:40 pm

I would qualify that by adding “Had there not been a perception that Fantasia almost died…” because I don’t think she was quite knocking on… death’s door. However, it made for good ratings and album sales. Hmm go figure.

Oh Rosita, you know we like you. Heck, I’d even put you on that list. Above Lee of course.


December 21st, 2010
5:44 pm

Have a great evening, everyone. (And a good day to Sakura.)


December 21st, 2010
6:32 pm

Happy that the GlamRocker moved up to #5. Adam rocks!

Lee is the last winner so I can understand him being on the list for now.


December 21st, 2010
7:20 pm

Clearly Rodney forgot KLC’s hunting show and 3rd record deal.


December 21st, 2010
7:45 pm

Multi-talented Taylor Hicks (songwriter, arranger, band leader, instrumentaist – harmonica, guitar, keyboards, drums -, actor, and singer) is incredibly multifaceted and adaptable. His broad appeal to all ages, genders, and musical tastes makes him the most versatile of all the Idols winners.


December 21st, 2010
7:46 pm

What? Or should I say: Multi-what?


December 21st, 2010
8:26 pm

I hope Shania’s new man looks better than Mutt! I always thought Mutt was butt ugly!

I’m still here, just too busy like everyone else!

What do Falcons do? Falcons rise up!


December 21st, 2010
11:19 pm

Kelly really the 3rd most successful um no. I like JHud and she has had tons of success but Kelly is more successful than her, Kelly really is the most successful if you count all she accomplished worldwide which for some reason people don’t even mention which is crap. My December is not a disappointment, it’s Kelly’s best album to date period.


December 22nd, 2010
1:41 am

I agree cgreene, but then I can picture JHud pulling out Mr. Oscar and saying “meet my little friend”.


December 22nd, 2010
7:40 am

JTes, are you suggesting that JHud is a cross-dresser??!! Oh, wait, I get it!!! :-)


December 22nd, 2010
7:51 am


LOL! Rosita!

We all have our favorites and not everyone is going to be happy with a list but I think it’s a good way to remind us that our American Idols are doing well.

Spent all day yesterday baking. Christmas Eve is tomorrow at our house and Christmas morning will be celebrated on Friday morning since hubby has to work starting Friday afternoon.


December 22nd, 2010
7:56 am

Interesting list, and I agree for the most part!

Would definitely put Lee a lot lower-even thought he won, lowest seller of all time- half of what Kris, the previous low seller sold??

I would put Gokey up higher too, although since he hasn’t had a big radio hit yet and it is only 9 mos since his album release, probably have to see how album #2 and round two goes.


December 22nd, 2010
8:18 am

Good Morning All.

Looks like the holidays are taking its toll on here. But, not to worry, as we will crank it up in a few weeks.

About ready to leave to go pick up my dad and his new wife for Christmas. I just hope that I’m ready enough!!!!!!

In case that I’m not able to get back here before Christmas, I wish each and every one of you the most joyous and blessed Christmas. Have a safe holiday and enjoy your family.


December 22nd, 2010
8:38 am

New thread up!


December 22nd, 2010
8:57 am

American Idol Auditions We’d Like To Have Seen: Biz Marky (Just Friend)

Randy: “Dawg… for me… it was pitchy. It was all over the place. But you know what? That was so bad it was good.”

Paula: “That song is so sad. It hurts when you care about someone but they don’t feel the same about you, doesn’t it? Come here and let me give you a hug.”

Simon:”You keep singing like that, young man. And “just a friend” is all a girl will ever be. My advice. Don’t serenade a girl. Ever.”


December 22nd, 2010
9:48 am

How can Adam be ahead of people with multiple top 20 hits, and who have sold over a million albums? His album doesn’t even look like it will go platinum in the US, but Fantasia, Clay and Ruben have all sold over two million albums, for Clay, I think he’s sold somewhere between 5-6 million. Jordin has had four top 10 hit singles and her first album sold over 1 million copies, David Cook has had 2 to 10 hits, and also sold over a million copies of his debut album.


December 22nd, 2010
11:24 am

Adam and Fantasia are ranked way too high…Kelly should be above Jennifer and David Cook should be either tied with or right after Daughtry. He has been way more successful that Adam…Platinum album, 2 platinum singles, 1 gold single…I am really tired of people like you and the media trying to make Adam seem more successful that he actually is…other idol alum have also been way more successful…

Here’s to David’s next album coming in 2011!!!!


December 22nd, 2010
1:19 pm

I’d like to see if Fantasia, Clay, Ruben, Jordan or David could sell out 90% of a 70 show world-wide headlining tour right now like Adam just did. Thanks Rodney, for recognizing Adam on your list. I have no doubt in my mind that he will only be moving up.


December 24th, 2010
2:21 am

Hahah, this is a joke. I’ve been following Idol since day one and I feel like your “list” is just a load of bull. Then again, it IS your opinion but clearly very biased. Jennifer Hudson did nothing significant in the last year other than Weight Watchers. She’s been gearing up for 2011.. but in 2010, it wasn’t anything to land her at #2.

Clay Aiken, Katharine McPhee and Ruben Studdard did absolutely nothing newsworthy in the last year. Yeah.. the occasional shows here and there. But really? The girl recorded a Christmas album that sold 1,000 copies in the first week. Clay is dating some model and did a cheesy tour with Ruben that hit small markets.

Kris Allen is understandable as being so high up.. his single did give him some chart success. David Cook, who is one of my FAVORITES in Idol history did absolutely NOTHING this year in terms of success (although I’m sure he will next year).

Jordin Sparks seems to have been tossed around negatively on the list. She’s had her first #1 single (SOS Let The Music Play), a successful stint in “In The Heights,” appeared on Nickelodeon and other tween shows, her first House of Blues solo tour, a new charity campaign, a hugely successful Superbowl event, a hit single “Art of Love” with Guy Sebastian, etc. What did Katharine, Ruben, Clay, etc. do?

I’ll let David Archuleta slide. Although his album tanked, it’s full of great songs and he promoted his butt off. He was everywhere.

And thanks for supporting Diana DeGarmo. Although she might be the “forgotten” runner up, she has been working her rear end off over the last few years. Although no longer a Top 40 success, she has taken on some huge Broadway roles and her voice continues to soar.


December 24th, 2010
11:36 am

Diana is a quiet success. I’d give her a good shot at a Tony nomination if she gets to originate a lead role on Broadway. She proved with “Hair,” and now “9 to 5″ that she’s lead actress material. “Hair” also proved her to be gutsy and committed to her roles.


December 24th, 2010
9:50 pm

where is Jason Castro? Why is he not even in the bubbling under? But Syesha whatsherface is??


December 26th, 2010
3:48 pm

Don’t forget that Jordin also released a perfume “Because of You” (have any of the other Idols done that? Maybe Carrie? IDK). Within the last year she’s been on Got Milk campaigns, did a couple duets, SOS Let The Music Play was #1 on BB Dance, etc. Not to mention all 4 of her old singles are still considered recurrents on every Top 40 radio chart in America. I couldn’t even name one Jennifer Hudson song to you…


December 27th, 2010
6:08 am

No Mamasox on the actual list? Oh well. I guess my perpetual obsession with runners-up will continue. I don’t know what Clay has been up to but apart from his naked bf, I haven’t heard much from him.

I’m also proud of Diana, she’s a ATL homeskillet and deserves a lot of praise for her work. Don’t know where her country thing is going but I saw her in 9 to 5 in Atlanta and she was HILARIOUS! And she’s got a great country voice too, no wonder Dolly approves. I agree with Julie, she could easily nab a Tony nom once she originates something.

I really hope Kelly comes back with a bang a la Since U Been Gone and rides the success with tours.

linda peterson

December 27th, 2010
8:34 pm

Just a short note to the list. Clay Aiken has been very successful with sold out shows. He also did a PBS special that was very successful. His Christmas cd was again #1 on the charts. As for the so called (cheesy concert with Reuben) was very sucessful with sold out shows, so must not have been to bad.. His upcoming tour in 2011 he had to add extra cities, because of the demand. So be mature if your favorite is not at the top of his list that is fine, it is his personal opinion.