The cover looks like this CD belongs in the bargain bin. The music on this underrated debut album certainly doesn’t. If conformity was expected from Idol finalists when they went into the recording studio, someone forgot to tell Blake, who has writing credit on 12 of the 13 tracks.
Download worthy: “Break Anotha,” “How Many Words,” “Here’s My Hello.”
Chart performance: The album debuted at number 10 on the Billboard 200; “How Many Words,” the first single” peaked at number eight on Billboard’s dance/club play chart.
Released: Nov. 27, 2007
Idol finish: 1st, Season 6
Jordin Sparks’ challenge as the winner of Idol season six: Proving Idol fans could still pick a winner after the debut album flops from season five finalists Taylor Hicks and Katharine McPhee. No problem. With the addictive single “Tattoo” leading the way, Jordin’s debut has sold more than 1.5 million copies and proved her win on Idol wasn’t a fluke.
Download worthy: Besides the hits, check out: “Shy Boy,” “See My Side.”
Chart performance: The album hit number 10 on the Billboard 200 and included four top 20 singles on Billboard’s Hot 100 — “This Is My Now” (the Idol coronation song at 15), “Tattoo” (8), “No Air” (3) and “One Step at a Time” (17).
Released: Oct. 23, 2007
Idol finish: 1st, Season 4
Album number two from Idol’s queen of country hasn’t sold quite as well as 2005’s “Some Hearts,” but most performers would kill for a sophomore slump like this. The album produced four number one country hits, and Carrie shares writing credit on three — “So Small,” “All-American Girl” and “Last Name” — after co-writing just one song on her debut album.
Download worthy: Besides the hits, check out: “Crazy Dreams,” “The More Boys I Meet”
Chart performance: The album hit number one on the Billboard 200 and country album charts. The fourth number one single was “Just a Dream.” And a fifth song from the album, “I Told You So,” released as a duet with Randy Travis, climbed to number two.
“See the Light”
Released: Oct. 23, 2007
Idol finish: 2nd, Season 4
Welcome back, Bo Bice. He shares writing credits on all 10 songs on the CD and sounds a whole lot more like the southern rocker who finished second on season four of Idol than he did in his 2005 debut album. He really hits his stride on a powerful second half of the album.
Download worthy: “Sinner In a Sin,” “This Train,” “Whiskey, Women and Time.”
Chart performance: The album reached number 150 on the Billboard 200.
AllMusic.com: Gives Bo 3 stars out of 5
Idol’s first blond country cutie was 22 when her debut album was released. It works best when she’s allowed to sound young and when she’s singing fun songs. Love “Spend that Money” — “Through his jeans, I saw it / A big, fat wallet / Full of cash / Ah, hah, this night might just last.”
Download worthy: “Love Will Wait,” “Spend that Money,” “You Scare Me to Death.”
Chart performance: “Nothin’ Like Summer” was released as a single and failed to chart; apparently, so did the album.
AllMusic.com: Gives Carmen 2.5 stars out of 5
Idol finish: 6th, Season 4
Released: Aug. 7, 2007
Before his starring role on Broadway’s “Rock of Ages” and his Tony nomination, the guy who appeared on “The Bold and the Beautiful” soap opera after Idol released this pop CD. Yes, pop; not rock (too many na-na-nas to qualify). But also not nearly as bad as one might expect. Think Constantine can’t sing? Listen to the stripped-down “So Long.”
Download worthy: “Girl Like You,” “Heaven Help the Lonely,” “So Long.”
Chart performance: The album debuted at number 75 on the Billboard 200.
Several Idol contestants have recorded Christian music, none more impressively or with more success than Mandisa (9th in season five). And this Grammy-nominated CD might be the best Christian album to stem from the show, earnest and entertaining at the same time. Check out the vocal on her cover of Mary Mary’s hit, “Shackles (Praise You).” Wow!
Download worthy: “Only the World,” “Voice of a Savior,” “Oh, My Lord,” “Shackles (Praise You)”
Chart performance: Debuted at number one on the Billboard Christian albums chart, at number 43 in the Billboard 200. Two singles cracked the top 30 on the Christian singles chart — “Only the World” (7) and “God Speaking” (26)
Released: June 26, 2007
Idol finish: 1st, Season 1
Less pop, more rock. That much-debated decision resulted in fewer record sales for the original Idol’s third album. But this still ranks among the best CDs from the show’s alum, and all the more impressive because Kelly had a hand in writing every track. And despite the detractors, it still went platinum.
Download worthy: “Never Again,” “Maybe,” “Can I Have a Kiss”
Chart performance: And album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. “Never Again” was the lone single to chart on the Hot 100, climbing to number eight.
Five years after she finished third on season one of Idol, Nikki finally released her rock album. In truth, there’s enough material here for a very good EP, and that doesn’t include a cover of “To Be with You” that should have been ditched. If nothing else, the attitude-filled “If I Was a Boy” is great fun. Now, about that album cover: It screams — “Low budget. Do not buy.”
Download worthy: “Electrik,” “If I Was a Boy,” “Save What’s Left of Me”
Chart performance: Failed to chart or produce a hit single.
Paris’ debut works much better when she’s being playful than introspective (like on “Daddy” and “Best Friends”). The album includes guest appearances by fellow season five contestant Kevin Covais (on “Let Me Rap” and her mom (on “Best Friends”), which I’m pretty sure was an Idol first. The song mom co-wrote (“Get Bizzy”) is better.
Download worthy: “My Boyfriend’s Back,” “Get Bizzy,” “Caught Up.”
Chart performance: The album peaked at 133 on the Billboard 200 and 47 on the Billboard R&B album chart. The single “Ordinary Love” failed to chart.
If ever an contestant exceeded expectations post-Idol, it was Bucky — the country singer from season five not named Kellie. He finished eighth, then turned out a debut album that churned out three top 11 country hits. He never sounded this good on the show. A solid CD, start to finish.
Download worthy: “A Different World,” “When We Were Gods,” “I’m Good,” “The Bible and the Belt.”
Chart performance: The album hit number one on the Billboard country albums chart, number four on the Billboard 200. The hits peaked on the country singles chart as follows: “It’s Good to Be Us” (11), “A Different World” (6), “I’ Walk” (10).
Released: March 20, 2007
Idol finish: 3rd, Season 5
This surprisingly successful debut from the third-place finisher in season five debuted at number three on the Billboard Hot 200, went gold and finished 2007 as the year’s third most popular independent album. The hit “Wait for You” fueled that success, but was far from the album’s only highlight.
Download worthy: “Wait for You,” “Train Wreck,” “You Are the One”
Chart performance: In addition to the album peaking at number three, “Wait For You” hit number 13 on the Billboard Hot 100 and a second single, “Movin’ On,” cracked the same chart at 61.
Two of Kats signature performances on Idol came when she was sitting (“Somewhere Over the Rainbow”) and kneeling (“Black Horse and a Cherry Tree”) so someone decided a dance album would be a wise debut. End result: The CD cover turned out better than the music, though there are a couple of shining moments.
Download worthy: “Open Toes,” “Dangerous,” “Better Off Alone.”
Chart performance: Debuted at number two on the Billboard 200. “Over It,” the lead single, reached number 29 on the Hot 100.