Diana DeGarmo's Blue SkiesDiana DeGarmo
“Blue Skies”
Released: Dec. 7, 2004
Idol finish: 2nd, Season 3

Diana was a spunky 16-year-old when she found herself in the Idol finals next to Fantasia. Her debut works best when she’s allowed to sing her age and with that attitude, which doesn’t happen nearly often enough. Witness the album-closing cover of “Don’t Cry Out Loud.” Yikes.

Download worthy: “Then I Woke Up,” “Boy Like You.”

Chart performance: The album debuted at number 52 on the Billboard 200, the lowest debut by an Idol finalist. The single, “Dreams,” reached number 14 on the Hot 100.

Grade: C-

Review
AllMusic.com: Gives Diana 2 stars out of 5

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Kelly Clarkson, BreakawayKelly Clarkson
“Breakaway”

Released: Nov. 30, 2004
Idol finish: 1st, Season 1

Let’s see. Four top 10 Billboard hits — “Breakaway,” “Because of You,” “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “Behind Those Hazel Eyes.” A fifth single, “Walk Away,” that peaked at number 12. Two Grammys, including Best Pop Vocal Album. Oh, and more than 13 million copies sold. What more can you say? Well, this album made Kelly the only Idol finalist who ever sold more copies of album number two than his or her debut.

Download worthy: Just buy the album, if you haven’t already.

Chart performance: The album peaked at number three on the Billboard 200 and spent 61 weeks in the top 20. The singles peaked as follows on the Hot 100: “Breakaway” (6), “Behind Those Hazel Eyes” (6), “Since U Been Gone” (4), “Because of You” (7).

Grade: A

Reviews:
AllMusic.com: Gives Kelly 4 stars out of 5

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Ruben Studdard's I Need An AngelRuben Studdard
“I Need an Angel”
Released: Nov. 24, 2004
Idol finish: 1st, Season 2

The title track kicks off the album, and Ruben sounds so good you’ll think this is the music he was born to sing. Unfortunately, this Christian album never rediscovers that magic on the subsequent 11 tracks; it doesn’t even come close, not even on “Amazing Grace,” which you’d expect Ruben to nail, but drags hopelessly along.

Download worthy: “I Need an Angel”

Grade: C-

Chart performance: The album hit number 20 on the Billboard 200, has been certified gold and topped Billboard’s gospel albums chart.

Review:
AllMusic.com: Gives Ruben 3 stars out of 5

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Fantasia's Free YourselfFantasia
“Free Yourself”
Released: Nov. 23, 2004
Idol finish: 1st, Season 3

Fortunately, the voice prevails, because the makers of this album tried their best to bury Fantasia with sleepy songs and second-rate R&B tunes. I mean, a spelling song? (“Baby, Mama”) For Fantasia? Come on, guys. Not nearly as good as her debut should have been.

Download worthy: “Selfish,” “Summertime,” “I Believe.”

Grade: C

Chart performance: The album peaked at number eight on the Billboard 200 and included four singles that made the Hot 100 — “I Believe” (1), “Truth Is” (21), “Baby Mama” (60) and “Free Yourself” (41).

Review:
AllMusic.com: Gives Fantasia 3 stars out of 5

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Josh Gracin's albumJosh Gracin
“Josh Gracin”
Released: June 15, 2004
Idol finish: 4th, Season 2

Josh was the first country singer to make the Idol finals, and this remains the best male country album to stem from the show. Even the obligatory album-closing tribute to the military is understandable coming from Josh, a Marine at the time. Not a clunker among the 12 tracks.

Download worthy: “Brass Bed,” “Wheels,” “I Would Look Good With You.”

Chart performance: The album peaked at number two on the county chart and number 11 on the Billboard 200. And it yielded three top 10 country singles, “Brass Bed” (5), “Nothin’ to Lose” (1) and “I Want to Live” (4).

Grade: B+

Review:
AllMusic.com: Gives Josh 3 stars out of 5

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Tamyra Gray's The DreamerTamyra Gray
“The Dreamer”
Released: May 25, 2004
Idol finish: 4th, Season 1

Pretty convincing proof that this Baltimore native belonged alongside Kelly Clarkson in Idol’s season one finals. Instead, she finished fourth. Impressive CD, especially considering she co-wrote 12 of the 13 tracks. Idol should have looked her up to write more than the coronation song for Fantasia’s first album.

Download worthy: “The Only Thing,” “Faces,” “Like a Child”

Grade: B+

Chart performance: Peaked at number 23 on the Billboard 200; number 16 on the Billboard R&B album chart.

Review:
AllMusic.com: Gives Tamyra 4 stars out of 5

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Kimberley Locke's One LoveKimberley Locke
“One Love”
Released: May 4, 2004
Idol finish: 3rd, Season 2

The debut from season two’s third-place finisher gets off to a great start with lead single “8th World Wonder,” but seldom matches that pop goodness through the rest of the album. Disc features a bombastic duet — “Without You” — with Clay Aiken.

Download worthy: “8th World Wonder,” “Coulda Been,” “Now I Can Fly.”

Chart performance: Peaked at 16 on the Billboard 200. “8th World Wonder” reached 49 on the Hot 100; “I Could” hit number eight on Billboard’s adult contemporary chart.

Grade: C+

Review:
AllMusic.com: Gives Kimberley 3 stars out of 5

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Ruben Studdard's SoulfulRuben Studdard
“Souful”
Released: Dec. 9, 2003
Idol finish: 1st, Season 2

Listen to this a couple of times, and you’re going to wonder how Ruben ever won Idol. Most of the ballads seem endless; the R&B tracks, complete with rap and other gimmicks, don’t sound like something the velvet teddybear should be singing. And “Sorry 2004” as the first track? A song based on the idea of giving a woman a sorry to last an entire year? When that’s the first track, you know you’re in trouble.

Download worthy: “Superstar,” which earned Ruben a Grammy nomination.

Chart performance: The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and has since gone platinum. “Flying Without Wings,” the Idol coronation song, is included as a bonus track and hit number two on the Hot 100.

Grade: D+

Reviews:
Entertainment Weekly: Gives Ruben a C
AllMusic.com: Gives Ruben 3 stars out of 5

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Clay Aiken, Measure of a ManClay Aiken
“Measure of a Man”

Released: Oct. 14, 2003
Idol finish: 2nd, Season 2

The debut album from the season two runnerup features about a half album worth of strong soft pop. The rest: Pure filler, a fact neither Clay’s voice or Clive Davis’ production can disguise. Still, the album debuted at number one and went platinum.

Download worthy: “Invisible” (the first single), “I Will Carry You,” “Touch.”

Chart performance: The album reached number one on the Billboard 200. “Invisible” reached number 37 on Billboard’s Hot 100.

Grade: B-

Reviews:
AllMusic.com: Gives Clay 3 stars out of 5
Entertainment Weekly: Gives Clay a C

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Justin Guarini's albumJustin Guarini
“Justin Guarini”
Released: June 10, 2003
Idol finish: 2nd, Season 1

A mess. Example: Tracks 3-5. A cover of “Unchained Melody” is sandwiched between two
R&B dance tunes best forgotten. One, “Be a Heartbreaker,” would be in the running for the
worst tune ever recorded by an Idol finalist.

Download worthy: “Inner Child,” “Timeless” (a duet with Kelly Clarkson from the infamous “From Justin to Kelly” film)

Chart performance: Debuted at number 20 on the Billboard 200.

Grade: D+

Reviews:
AllMusic.com: Gives Justin 3.5 stars out of 5
Entertainment Weekly: Gives Justin a B

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Kelly Clarkson's ThankfulKelly Clarkson
“Thankful”
Released: April 15, 2003
Idol finish: 1st, Season 1

On the first track, Kelly displays the vocal prowess that made her the only logical choice for the first American Idol. Yet the album is more a promise of what was to come than a classic on its own. Kelly has writing credits on four of the 10 base tracks.

Chart performance: Debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and has sold more than 4.5 million copies worldwide. “A Moment Like This” hit number one on the Hot 100; “Miss Independent” peaked at number nine.

Download worthy: Check out “You Thought Wrong,” which also features vocals by season one contestant Tamyra Gray; and “Anytime.”

Grade: B-

Other reviews:
AllMusic.com: Gives Kelly 4 stars out of 5
EW.com: Gives Kelly a B+
USA Today: Gives Kelly 2.5 stars out of 4

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