Released: Dec. 10, 2008
Idol finish: 11th, Season 7
Amanda, the 11th-place finisher in season seven, wrote and arranged all 12 songs on this independently released debut album, ranging from the hard-driving “Call Your Mama,” to the playful “Varmint Rifle” to the almost plaintive “A Long Time.” Given her early exit on Idol, you will be surprised. Solidify is a solid rock effort.
Download worthy: The entire album, if you like southern rock. If not, “Varmint Rifle,” “Iroquois Lane,” “Hole in the Wall.”
Chart performance: Failed to chart.
Released: Nov. 18, 2008
Idol finish: 1st, Season 7
The first album from the season seven winner went platinum within three months and has already produced two top 10 singles, “Light On” and “Time of My Life.” Album benefits from a slew of potential pop-rock hits; album suffers from too many songs that follow the same formula, soft opening building to crashing chorus.
Download worthy: The third single, “Come Back to Me,” “Avalanche,” “Permanent,” “Light On.”
Chart performance: The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and went platinum. Four singles cracked the Hot 100; three peaked at 30 or higher, including “Time of My Life” (3), “Light On” (17) and “Permanent” (24).
A perfectly competent pop album from a season seven runner-up quite capable of living up to his Idol hype vocally. Hardly trend-setting, but filled with tunes likely to get stuck in your head. Which isn’t a bad thing in most cases.
Download worthy: “Touch My Hand,” “A Little Too Not Over You,” “Desperate.”
Chart performance: The album peaked at number two on the Billboard 200; the lead single, “Crush,” peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. The album has since gone gold, indicating sales in excess of 500,000.
Released: Sept. 30, 2008
Idol finish: 6th, Season 5
Album number two from the country cutie from Albemarle, N.C., lacks the simple charm of her debut effort. And fans might feel cheated by a disc that includes just 10 tracks and checks in at less than 36 minutes. (An extended 13-track version is available for download from iTunes). But “Rocks Instead of Rice,” which Kellie co-wrote, is a brilliant match of singer and song, and it’s not the only highlight.
Download worthy: “Best Days of Your Life,” “Rocks Instead of Rice,” “Lucky Girl”
Chart performance: Album peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200 and number one on the country album chart. Four singles cracked the country top 30, including “Don’t You Know You’re Beautiful” (21), “Best Days of Your Life” (9) and “Didn’t You Know How Much I Loved You” (14).
AllMusic.com: Gives Kellie 2 stars out of 5
Sure better than you’d expect from a seventh-place finisher on Idol, and good enough to win the 2009 Grammy for R&B Album of the Year. Her vocals elevate even the lesser songs on the album. The CD includes “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” from Jennifer’s Oscar-winning role on “Dreamgirls.”
Download worthy: “Spotlight,” “Can’t Stop the Rain,” “Pocketbook”
Chart performance: Debuted at number two on the Billboard 200 and has been certified gold in the U.S. Three songs hit the Hot 100: “Spotlight” (24), “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” (22) and “If This Isn’t Love” (63). The first two also hit number one on the R&B singles chart.
Kristy Lee Cook
Released: September 16, 2008
Idol finish: 7th, Season 7
The second CD and first post-Idol CD by the season seven contestant. The 10-track album proves Simon Cowell was right in comparing Kristy Lee’s singing to musical wallpaper in that “you notice it, but you don’t remember it.” “15 Minutes of Shame” was released as a single; Kristy Lee and Arista Nashville have since parted ways.
Download worthy: “I Think Too Much,” “Not Tonight” and “Hoping to Find.” Carrie Underwood shares a songwriting credit on “Not Tonight.”
Chart performance: The album peaked at number eight on the country album chart; number 49 on the Billboard 200. Lead single “Fifteen Minutes of Shame” made it to number 28 on the country singles chart.
Nikko sings about cheating on his girlfriend and worrying about what him mom would think on the ill-advised first track of this eight-song CD. By track two, he’s forgotten all about mom, singing instead to dance beats about partying with women who sound like … well, not girlfriends. Despite boasting about being on the “top of his game” in the painful “Hollywood Party,” Nikko isn’t. At least not often enough to make this effort wholly successful. Oh, if you forgot, Nikko placed ninth in season four.
Download worthy: “Exotic,” “3 A.M.”
Chart performance: Did not chart.
A pleasant surprise, smattered with catchy original pop tunes and sounding a whole lot more cohesive than the 2006 debut from the guy who was nicknamed JPL on Season 3 of Idol. Also includes splendid cover of “Make You Feel My Love.”
Download worthy: “Bridges,” “Winning Streak,” “Things I Didn’t Know.”
Released: July 15, 2008
Idol finish: 7th, Season 5
About: Ace’s Website touts his debut album as “a model for the future of the recording industry.” Ah, not so much. Not that there aren’t bright spots. The single “Addicted” is sort of addictive. But the ballads serve as a good reminder of why Ace finished seventh in season five despite being one of Idol’s all-time hunkiest contestants.
Download worthy: “Addicted,” “Fast Life.”
Chart performance: The album hit 160 on the Billboard 200. None of the singles charted on Billboard’s Hot 100.
AllMusic.com: 2 1/2 stars out of 5
Clay serves up a mix of decent pop songs and elevator music, and manages to make it all sound like a pleasing, if not particularly memorable, way to spend 50 minutes. It’s impossible to listen to “The Real Me” without thinking of Clay’s disclosure to People just a couple months after this album was released.
Download worthy: “On My Way Here,” “The Real Me,” “Ashes”
Chart performance: The album debuted at number four on the Billboard 200; “On My Way Here” failed to crack Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart.
AllMusic.com: Gives Clay 3 stars out of 5
Chris performed Christian music before finishing 10th on season six of Idol and returned to the genre post-show. Perhaps that’s why he sounds so comfortable on his “debut” album, though too many songs are similar in theme and sound for the CD to be wholly successful, or very memorable.
Download worthy: “Loaded Gun,” “Vessel”
Chart performance: The first single, “Empty Me,” cracked the top 10 on Billboard’s Christian singles chart. “Arise” cracked the top 30.
AllMusic.com: Gives Chris 3 stars out of 5
Having Phil go country after season six was among the dumbest Idol ideas ever hatched. He doesn’t come close to pulling it off vocally. Give yourself a gold star for perseverance if you make it through the entire album without pulling the plug. “Still Going Through” includes the lyrics, “I have no clue.” That about sums up the song and the album.
Download worthy: Nothing. Really.
Chart performance: The album peaked at number eight on the country albums chart and at number 43 on the Billboard 200. The lone single, “If You Didn’t Love Me,” climbed to 28 on the country singles chart.
AllMusic.com: Gives Phil 2 stars out of 5
More proof that Josh is the best male country vocalist to come off Idol. Not as hit-filled as his debut, but still a treat. It’s just a shame fans had to wait four years for album number two. One has to wonder how much career momentum Josh lost in the meantime.
Download worthy: “Found,” “Favorite State of Mind,” “Telluride.”
Chart performance: The album debuted at number four on the country charts. The title track reached number 10 on the Billboard country singles chart; “Favorite State of Mind” peaked at 19.
AllMusic.com: Gives Josh 3.5 stars out of 5