Taylor Hicks, first post-Idol albumTaylor Hicks
“Taylor Hicks”

Released: Dec. 12, 2006
Idol finish: 1st, Season 5

The charisma that helped Taylor Hicks capture Idols’ season five crown doesn’t translate easily to CD. The result: The poorest selling debut album from and Idol winner. Neither single climbed higher than number 19 on the Billboard charts. Two songs — “Soul Thing” and “The Deal” — are reworkings from a pre-Idol album.

Download worthy: “Just to Feel That Way,” “Soul Thing.”

Chart performance:  The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. “Just To Feel That Way” and “Heaven Knows” cracked the top 20, barely, on the adult contemporary singles chart.

Grade: C-

Reviews:
AllMusic.com: Gives Taylor 4 stars out of 5
Entertainment Weekly: Gives Taylor a C

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Fantasia's second albumFantasia
“Fantasia”
Released: Dec. 12, 2006
Idol finish: 1st, Season 3

I’ll never forget Simon’s confused, bemused and amused expression when Fantasia returned to Idol on season seven and sang “Bore Me.” You could read his mind: What’s happened to Fantasia. Well, she found the attitude that was sorely lacking on her debut album. And, for the most part, album number two is much better as a result.

Download worthy: “Hood Boy,” “When I See You,” “Not the Way I Do.”

Grade: B+

Chart performance: The album peaked at number 19 on the Billboard 200; number 3 on the Billboard R&B chart. “When I See U” was the most successful single, hitting number 32 on the Hot 100 and number 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart.

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

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Stories from Hollywood album cover Jon Peter LewisJon Peter Lewis
“Stories from Hollywood”

Idol finish: 8th, Season 3
Released: Nov. 27, 2006

An ambitious, independently released album of original songs starts out strong, but runs out of steam halfway through. The second half almost comes off as experimental rather than polished recordings.

Download worthy: “Boy Next Door,” “Gypsy Queen,” “Burning in Hello.”

Grade: C

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Daughtry's debut albumDaughtry
“Daughtry”
Released: Nov. 21, 2006
Idol finish: 4th, Season 5

Chris Daughtry might not have won season five of Idol, but he won when it counted: post-Idol album sales. The album has sold more than 5 million copies, won the band a 2007 American Music Award (favorite pop-rock album) and earned four Grammy nominations. Three singles — “It’s Not Over,” “Home” and “Feels Like Tonight” — hit number 1 on Billboard’s Hot Adult Contemporary chart.

Download worthy: Besides the hits, check out: “Used To,” “All These Lives”

Chart performance:  The album hit number one on the Billboard 200 and yielded five top 25 hits on the Billboard 200, including “It’s Not Over” (4), “Home” (5), “What About Now” (18), “Over You” (18) and “Feels Like Tonight” (24).

Grade: A-

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

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Kellie Pickler, Small Town GirlKellie Pickler
“Small Town Girl”

Released: Oct. 31, 2006
Idol finish: 6th, Season 5

A surprising sweetheart of a debut album from the season five Idol contestant you can’t help but like. Kellie sings about eating calamari, about the mother who abandoned her, about the grandmother who raised her. The result: An album that produced three top-20 country hits and has outsold anything released so far by Idol’s top two finishers that season.

Besides the hits, check out: “Small Town Girl,” “Wild Ponies”

Chart performance: The album hit number one on the country chart and number nine on the Billboard 200. “I Wonder” was the most successful single, hitting number 14. The other top 20s: “Red High Heels” (15) and “Things that Never Cross a Man’s Mind” (16).

Grade: B+

Reviews:
AllMusic.com: Gives Kellie 3 stars out of 5

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My Struggle album cover, Vonzell SolomonVonzell Solomon
“My Struggle”

Idol finish: 3rd, Season 4
Released: Oct. 23, 2006

Your struggle will be getting through these nine tracks. If you didn’t stop the music during the dreadful third track, “Do Ya Thing,” thinking there must be a payoff later … joke’s on you.

Download worthy: Nothing. Everyone involved should head back to Music 101.

Grade: F

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Ruben Studdard's The ReturnRuben Studdard
“The Return”
Released: Oct. 17, 2006
Idol finish: 1st, Season 2

The best moment of this third album from season two winner’s comes when the final note of “If Only for One Night” fades away, because the nightmare is finally over, after 14 tracks that will repeatedly make you want to hit the eject button. The material isn’t much; Ruben can’t do much with it. Easily the worst album from an Idol winner.

Download worthy: “The Return (of the Velvet Teddy Bear)” for a small sample of how bad this is.

Grade: F

Chart performance: The album debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200. “Change Me” was the only single to hit the Hot 100, peaking at number 94.

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

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Clay Aiken's A Thousand Different WaysClay Aiken
“A Thousand Different Ways”
Released: Sept. 19, 2006
Idol finish: 2nd, Season 2

If ever an Idol needed Simon Cowell around shaking his head and saying, “No, no no,” it was Clay when he released this turkey. Three years since his post-Idol debut and the best he could muster is an album with 10 covers among it’s 14 tracks, including bad renditions of “Everything I Do” and “Right Here Waiting?”

Download worthy: “Lonely No More,” “Everything I Have,” “Broken Wings”

Chart performance: The album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, spent 14 weeks on the chart, but failed to yield a hit single. The album has been certified gold.

Grade: D+

Reviews:
About.com: Gives Clay 3 stars out of 5
AllMusic.com: Gives Clay 2.5 stars out of 5

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Joanna Pacitti album This Crazy LifeJoanna Pacitti
“This Crazy Life”
Released: August 2006
Idol finish: Disqualified Season 8

The pre-Idol CD from the gal unceremoniously booted from season eight’s final 36. It’s lightweight pop fare and features the single “Let It Slide.” Fans apparently did; U.S. sales for the CD checked in at about 16,000, according to Wikipedia. Joanna shares writing credits on six of the 12 tracks.

Download worthy: “This Crazy Life,: “Just When You’re Leaving,” “Miracle.”

Chart performance: Did not chart.

Grade: C-

Reviews:
ING Music: 3.7 out of 10
All Music Guide: 3 out of 5

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