Being crowned the winner of American Idol doesn’t guarantee an illustrious musical career — or even hits for that matter. Heck, Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daughtry never even made it to finale night and their careers are doing just fine. So with the latest season about to kick off, let’s take a look back on all the past winners and runner ups and see how they’ve fared since their Idol days.
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#44 Jessica Sanchez, Season 11 Runner-Up
The 16-year-old and her alter ego, Bebe Chez, continuously wowed the judges with her pipes, getting comparisons to Mariah, Whitney and Celine.
#43 Jessica Sanchez Now
Her debut album is set to drop some time in the spring. In the mean time, catch her back on TV when she appears on Glee in a recurring role.
#42 Phillip Phillips, Season 11 Winner
The singer’s unique bluesy-rock sound that brought on comparisons to Dave Matthews helped him cruise to the top with songs like “U Got It Bad” and “Superstition.”
#41 Phillip Phillips Now
Phillips started his career off on a high note, as his post-Idol song, “Home,” is the best-selling post-Idol single of all time. His first album, The World from the Side of the Mood, released in November, debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200, and later this month, he’ll embark on a tour with Matchbox Twenty.
#40 Lauren Alaina, Season 10 Runner-Up
An early favorite of the judges, it’s no surprise her country performances like “If I Die Young” were some of the most memorable ones. She’s now a country artist.
#39 Lauren Alaina Now
Her debut studio album, Wildflower released in late 2011 and was well-received by critics. Lauren was named best new artist at the American Country Awards. She’s back in the studio working on her second album.
#38 Scotty McCreery, Season 10 Winner
The country crooner was a hit with judges and fans alike with standout performances like “Where Were You (when the World Stopped Turning)” and “Gone.”
#37 Scotty McCreery Now
Since Idol, McCreery was named best new artist at the American Country Awards — a year ahead of his season 10 counterpart, Lauren Alaina. His debut album, Clear as Day also went platinum. Now, he’s planning on working on a second.
#36 Crystal Bowersox, Season 9 Runner-Up
Her unique look and sound was unlike anything Idol had ever seen. She got judge Simon Cowell’s vote of confidence in the finale but finished second.
#35 Crystal Bowersox Now
After releasing her debut roots rock album, she was let go by her record label after it disbanded. However, she was picked up by another label and her next album, set to feature Jakob Dylan, is scheduled to be released in the spring.
#34 Lee DeWyze, Season 9 Winner
This rocker excelled when he brought out his softer side on tunes like “Hallelujah” and “Hey Jude” on his way to the top.
#33 Lee DeWyze Now
He’s a perfect example of the fact that winning the show doesn’t guarantee success. DeWyze released a debut album but then was dropped by the label. He’s still working on an album, calling it a progressive, indie folk sound.
#32 Adam Lambert, Season 8 Runner-Up
His incredible vocal range and theatrics brought on some of the most memorable performances in show history like “Mad World” and “Ring of Fire.”
#31 Adam Lambert Now
His debut album, For Your Entertainment, came in at No. 3 on the Billboard 300, and he became the first American Idol to headline a tour in the year after the contestant’s season. A Grammy nominee, he’s now in the process of working on a third album.
#30 Kris Allen, Season 8 Winner
Kris had the ability to change up songs and infuse them with his own style which helped him when it mattered the most: in the end with a stripped-down version of “Heartless.”
#29 Kris Allen Now
Allen released two albums since Idol, the most recent, Thank You Camellia, in the middle of last year. His debut album, self titled, charted to No. 11 on the Billboard 200. He’s also another Idol artist who parted ways with his label and signed with another.
#28 David Archuleta, Season 7 Runner-Up
Both judge Simon Cowell and eventual winner, David Cook, said Archuleta had won after his finale night songs of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and “Imagine.” He ended up receiving 44 percent of the votes.
#27 David Archuleta Now
His debut album shot up to No. 2 on the Billboard 200. He released three more albums, one only released in the Philippines. Since March 2012, he’s been out of the spotlight and in the middle of a missionary trip in Chile.
#26 David Cook, Season 7 Winner
This rocker’s strength was being able to turn songs into original arrangements like he did with “Hello” and “Always be My Baby,” just to name a few.
#25 David Cook Now
Since Idol, he released two albums, the first of which (self titled album) went platinum. Even then, he was not re-signed by his record label.
#24 Blake Lewis, Season 6 Runner-Up
Blake wasn’t afraid to take risks throughout the competition, either adding beat-boxing or creating original arrangements. He brought something new and different almost every time he took the stage.
#23 Blake Lewis Now
Post-Idol, his music has been dance/club/electronica. After coming out with an album that debuted at No. 10 on the Billboard 200, he was dropped by his record label. He released a second album in 2009 on a new label.
#22 Jordin Sparks, Season 6 Winner
She remains one of the youngest winners of the show (she and Scotty McCreery were both 17), and she’s the last female winner. She won on the strength of improving the most as the season went on.
#21 Jordin Sparks Now
Sparks has had two top 10 singles and a Grammy nomination. More recently she been busy acting on film (Sparkle was her feature film debut), on Broadway and working on a fragrance.
#20 Katharine McPhee, Season 5 Runner-Up
Although she escaped being in the bottom two twice, she was largely consistent throughout her run with strong songs like “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree.”
#19 Katharine McPhee Now
With three albums under her belt — the first of which debuted at No. 2 on Billboard 200 — McPhee can now be seen on the NBC musical series Smash.
#18 Taylor Hicks, Season 5 Winner
At 29, he was the oldest singer to win the show and also never made it to the bottom two. His style of blues, classic rock and R&B gained popularity, which was further buoyed by the Soul Patrol(his fan base), that was born early on during Idol.
#17 Taylor Hicks Now
Hicks released three albums and a memoir but might be more well-known for being on Broadway. He also was a contestant on the dating show The Choice.
#16 Bo Bice, Season 4 Runner-Up
He not only caught attention for being one of the original rockers the show but also for signing a cappella for his final three performances.
#15 Bo Bice Now
After three studio albums, Bice is bound for Broadway in the sprain revival of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” He can also be heard on the Blades of Glory soundtrack.
#14 Carrie Underwood, Season 4 Winner
The country sweetheart was a front-runner for the judges early on — and the fans agreed too, as she won each week by a safe margin and was never in the bottom two.
#13 Carrie Underwood Now
Arguably the most successful Idol, the bona fide superstar has collected Grammys, American Music Awards, is a two-time Academy of Country Music’s Entertainer of the Year and was even nominated for a Golden Globe.
#12 Diana DeGarmo, Season 3 Runner-Up
She was just 16 when she was on the show, never finishing in the bottom two once during her run.
#11 Diana DeGarmo Now
She released a debut album and two EPs since and also relocated to Nashville, going back to her country roots. DeGarmo may be more well-known for short stint on The Young and the Restless.
#10 Fantasia Barrino, Season 3 Winner
Despite being in the bottom two twice, Barrino emerged as the winner by more than 1 million votes. Her performances received praise from the judges consistently, especially with “Summertime.”
#9 Fantasia Barrino Now
She has been a household name in the R&B world, with eight Grammy nominations and one win. Her debut album went platinum, and her second album went gold. She also found success on Broadway, winning a Theatre World Award for her portrayal of Celie in “The Color Purple.”
#8 Clay Aiken, Season 2 Runner-Up
Aiken had led the fan vote since the wildcard week but just couldn’t make it count when it mattered — in the end.
#7 Clay Aiken Now
He’s been busy since the show, not only recording albums but writing a New York Times best-seller “Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life,” appearing on Broadway and various TV shows. Aiken was a runner-up on The Celebrity Apprentice season 5.
#6 Ruben Studdard, Season 2 Winner
His ability to infuse his R&B and gospel influences proved to be the winning combination — but but a small margin as just over 130,000 votes separated him and Aiken.
#5 Ruben Studdard Now
Studdard has continued to make albums — five — but hasn’t been able to find the early success following Idol, which included a Grammy nomination in 2003 for “Superstar.”
#4 Justin Guarini, Season 1 Runner-Up
His smooth vocals brought acclaim for both judges and critics after performances like “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” and “P.Y.T.”.
#3 Justin Guarini Now
Despite two studio albums, Guarini’s singing career has never really been able to take off despite being on Oprah, who told him that he has “it.” In 2007, Guarini found a regular gig with the TV Guide Network hosting Idol Wrap and Idol Tonight. In 2010 the singer appeared on Broadway.
#2 Kelly Clarkson, Season 1 Winner
Kelly Clarkson powered through the inaugural season of the competition with anthems like “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, “It’s Raining Men” and “Respect.”
#1 Kelly Clarkson Now
She’s one of the most successful Idols, racking up 79 No. 1 hits on Billboard and 11 No. 1 singles worldwide. She recently released a greatest hits album.