Allison Iraheta's Just Like YouAllison Iraheta
“Just Like You”
Released: Dec. 1, 2009
Idol finish: 4th, Season 8

The vocal chops Allison used to finish fourth on Idol are evident here, even if some of the songs seem aimed at a Disney-aged audience. Be sure to check out the ballad “Scars,” one of the best season eight songs released so far. “Don’t Waste the Pretty” was released as a single with Orianthi as a featured guest. An underrated album.

Download worthy: “Scars,” “Don’t Waste the Pretty,” “Holiday”

Chart performance: The album debuted at number 14 on the Billboard 200 but stayed on the chart just five weeks.

Grade: B-

Reviews:
Entertainment Weekly: Gives Allison an A-
USA Today: Gives Allison 3 stars out of 4
AllMusic.com: Gives Allison 3 stars out of 5

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Adam Lambert's For Your EntertainmentAdam Lambert
“For Your Entertainment”
Released: Nov. 24, 2009
Idol finish: 2nd, Season 8

Adam promised a “sonic dress-up party” with his first album, and his voice sure soars all over the place. Sometimes that’s good, like on the title single. Sometimes that’s great, like on the catchy dance tune, “If I Had You.” Sometimes it’s not so good, like on the overblown “Aftermath.” Give Adam this, the music is hard to ignore.

Download worthy: “Fever,” “If I Had You,” “Sure Fire Winners,” “Strut.”

Chart performance: The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and is still on the chart. “Whataya Want from Me” has been the most successful single, reaching number 10 on the Hot 100.

Grade: B

Reviews:
AllMusic.com: Gives Adam 4 stars out of 5
Los Angeles Times: Gives Adam 3 stars out of 4

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Kris Allen's debut albumKris Allen
“Kris Allen”
Released: Nov. 17, 2009
Idol finish: 1st, Season 8

There’s nothing very special about the debut release from Idol’s Season 8 winner. Lots of OK songs, but no sure-fire hits. No tunes you’re going to want to listen to over and over again. Kanye West’s “Heartless,” Kris’ signature cover song on Idol, is here. But even it sounded better on the show.

Download worthy: “Red Guitar,” “Alright with Me”

Chart performance: Debuted at number 11 on Billboard 200, lowest debut yet by an Idol winner. Stayed on the Billboard 200 through March. The lead single, “Live Like We’re Dying,” peaked at 18 on the Hot 100.

Grade: D

Reviews:
Los Angeles Times: Gives Kris 1.5 stars out of 4
AllMusic.com: Gives Kris 3 stars out of 5

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Play On, Carrie UnderwoodCarrie Underwood
“Play On”
Released: Nov. 3, 2009
Idol finish: 1st, Season 4

Combine Carrie with a familiar producer (Mark Bright) and some unusual collaborators and she plays on, with a third album sure to spawn hits that will keep her on the country singles chart until album number four comes out. The formula hasn’t changed since her debut, ranging from sassy, girl-done-wrong Carrie (“Undo It” and “Songs Like This”) to tearjerker ballad Carrie (“Someday When I Stop Loving You” and “Tempoary Home”).

Download worthy: “Cowboy Casanova,” “Change” and the aforementioned ballads.

Chart performance: The album debuted at number one on Billboard 200 and the county album chart, staying in the top spot on the latter chart for three weeks. It spent eight weeks in the top 10 on the Billboard 200, longer than any other Idol album in 2009. Three singles — “Cowboy Casanova,” “Temporary Home” and “Undo It” reached number one on the country chart.

Grade: B

Reviews:
Entertainment Weekly: Gives Carrie a B
AllMusic.com: Gives Carrie 2.5 stars out of 5

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Christmas From the Heart, David ArchuletaDavid Archuleta
“Christmas From the Heart”
Released: Oct. 13, 2009
Idol finish: 2nd, Season 7

Gotta say, I predicted a Christmas album would be in young David’s future when season seven of Idol ended. Here it is, showcasing his impressive vocals while showing Christmas classics the respect they deserve. Nothing fancy, just a solid holiday CD, with one new song — “Melodies of Christmas” — co-written by David.

Download worthy: “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (duet with Charice Pempengco), “Pat-a-pan” and “What Child Is This.”

Chart performance: Debuted at number 30 on the Billboard 200 and stayed in the upper half of the chart for 10 weeks, straight through the holiday season.

Grade: B

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Heartbreak on Vinyl, Blake LewisBlake Lewis
“Heartbreak on Vinyl”
Released: Oct. 6, 2009
Idol finish: 2nd, Season 6

On album number two, Blake serves up enough “electro-pop goodness” (his words, not mine) for a great EP. Of course, this is a full-length CD. Tracks range from the wonderfully infectious “Love or Torture” to “Rebel Without a Cause,” which sounds more like noise without a clue. Trivia: The “Sad Song” video co-stars Idol semifinalist Casey Carlson.

Download worthy: “Sad Song,” “Rhythm of the Heart,””Love or Torture.”

Chart performance: The album debuted at number 135 on the Billboard 200 and spent just one week on the chart. The title track reached number one on Billboard’s dance/club play chart; “Sad Song” reached number 11 on the same chart.

Grade: C.

Review
AllMusic.com: Gives Blake 3.5 stars out of 5

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Phil Stacey's Into the LightPhil Stacey
“Into the Light”
Released: Aug. 25, 2009
Idol finish: 5th, Season 6

Something of a performer without a genre on Idol, Phil released a country album in 2008, then went Christian pop with CD number two, with pretty pleasing results. The single “You’re Not Shaken” cracked the top 20 on Billboard’s Christian singles chart.

Download worthy: “Inside Out,” “You’re Not Shaken, “Into the Light.”

Chart performance: The album reached number 27 on Billboard’s Christian albums chart.

Grade: C+

Review:
AllMusic.com: Gives Phil 3.5 stars out of 5

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Brooke White's High Hopes and HeartbreakBrooke White
“High Hopes & Heartbreak”
Released: July 21, 2009
Idol finish: 5th, Season 7

A charming second CD (first post-Idol) in which producer David Cobb wisely eschews overblown productions and keeps Brooke’s unqiue voice front and center. If you liked Brooke on Idol, you should love the album. The second half is simply superb. But what was with that boring first single?

Download worthy: “Smile,” “Little Bird,” “High Hopes & Heartbreak,” “Sometimes Love.”

Chart performance: Debuted at number 50 on the Billboard 200, but dropped to 93 the next week.

Grade: B+

Review:
AllMusic.com: Gives Brooke 3.5 stars out of 5

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Battlefield, Jordin SparksJordin Sparks
“Battlefield”
Released: July 21, 2009
Idol finish: 1st, Season 6

A tweener of a second album from Jordin, age 19. Better than second albums from some Idol winners (say Taylor and Ruben), but not nearly as good as others (say Kelly and Carrie). Nine of the first 10 tracks are about love gone bad, love going badly or boyfriends behaving badly. By the time Jordin belts out “Faith” in the album’s 11th slot, any gals listening closely will sure need some.

Download worthy: “Emergency (911),” “S.O.S. (Let the Music Play),” “Battlefield.”

Chart performance: The album debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200. “Battlefield” the single peaked at number 10 on the Hot 100; “S.O.S.” made it all the way to number one on Billboard’s dance/club play chart.

Grade: C+

Reviews:
AllMusic.com: Gives Jordin 3 stars out of 5
Entertainment Weekly: Gives Jordin an A-

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Leave This Town, DaughtryDaughtry
“Leave This Town”
Released: July 15, 2009
Idol finish: 4th, Season 5

Why mess with a formula that sold 5 million CDs first time around? Daughtry and frontman Chris don’t, serving up an ear-pleasing mix of rockers and power ballads. And, just to change things up, there’s the country-tinged “Tennessee Line,” with Vince Gill providing background vocals.

Download worthy: “Tennessee Line,” “No Surprise,” “Ghosts of Me.”

Chart performance: Debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 and spent six weeks in the top 10. Three singles have cracked the top 40 on the Hot 100 (“No Surprise” at 15, “Life After You” at 36 and “September” at 36).

Grade: A-

Reviews:
AllMusic.com: Gives Daughtry  3 stars out of 5
Entertainment Weekly: Gives Daughtry a B
Dallas Morning News: Gives Daughtry a B

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Michael Johns, Hold Back My HeartMichael Johns
“Hold Back My Heart”
Released: June 23, 2009
Idol finish: 8th, Season 7

This album sounds more like a sophisticated, self-assured CD from a singing/songwriting veteran (well, Michael is 30) than a first post-Idol album from a guy who finished eighth on the show. Michael shares writing credits on six songs and says his goal was a rock-soul sound, “like Joe Cocker meets Otis Redding.” Mission accomplished.

Download worthy: “Fire,” “It’s Too Late,” “Turn to You”

Chart performance: Debuted at number 97 on the Billboard 200.

Grade: A-

Review:
AllMusic.com: Gives Michael 3.5 stars out of 5

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LaKisha Jones, So Glad I'm MeLaKisha Jones
“So Glad I’m Me”
Released: May 19, 2009
Idol finish: 4th, Season 6

The oft-delayed debut album from the powerhouse singer who finished fourth on Idol season six. It drags in spots, the sign of too many songs that sound more like filler than potential hits, but LaKisha also reminds us why she was an Idol frontrunner, especially on “Just As I Am.” Two dance-flavored tunes, “Let’s Go Celebrate” and “So Glad I’m Me” were released as singles.

Download worthy: “So Glad I’m Me,” “Nothing,” “Just As I Am”

Chart performance: The album peaked at number 47 on the R&B/Hip-Hop album chart.

Grade: D+

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Ruben Studdard, Love IsRuben Studdard
“Love Is”
Released: May 19, 2009
Idol finish: 1st, Season 2

The season two winner delivers an album of love songs sure to please his fans, but unlikely to return him to platinum-selling star status. The covers are particularly hit-and-miss. “More Than Words” and “For the Good Times” will leave you yearning for the originals; “The Long and Winding Road” and “It’s Your Love” (Ruben does country very well) won’t. The latter is a bonus track on the Target version of the CD, one of four versions available.

Download worthy: “Together,” “How You Make Me Feel,” “My Love Is a Rock,” “It’s Your Love.”

Chart performance: The album debuted at number 36 on the Billboard 200 and number eight on the R&B/Hip-Hop album chart.

Grade: C-

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

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Elliott Yamin Fight For LoveElliott Yamin
“Fight for Love”
Released: May 5, 2009
Idol finish: 3rd, Season 5

The third-place finisher from season five delivers a strong, smooth sophomore effort and shares writing credits on seven of the 12 non-bonus tracks. One of Idol’s all-time good guys, Elliott dedicates the album to his deceased mom. And the final track, “Someday,” is clearly a tribute to her as well.

Download worthy: “You,” “Let Love Be,” “Cold Heart,” “You Say.”

Chart performance: Debuted at number 26 on the Billboard 200. The lead single “Fight for Love” failed to chart on the Hot 100.

Grade: C

Review:
AllMusic.com: Gives Elliott 2.5 stars out of 5

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George HuffGeorge Huff
“George Huff”
Released: April 6, 2009
Idol finish: 5th, Season 3

Back in season three of Idol (the Fantasia year), George was the last male standing, finishing fifth. The breath of fresh air on his second Christian music CD is “Here With Me” with its reggae beat. It’s also the last track and getting there takes a while since four songs clock in at more than 5 minutes … and seem to last a lot longer.

Download worthy: “Here with Me.” That’s it.

Chart performance: Did not chart.

Grade: D-

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Mandisa's album FreedomMandisa
“Freedom”
Released: March 24, 2009
Idol finish: 9th, Season 5

The second full-length Christian album from the ninth-place finisher on Idol season five features 11 songs in a variety of musical styles, from the hymn-like “Freedom Song” to the pop sound of “How Much” to the dance-driven beat of “The Definition of Me.” Another song with an R&B pop flavor, “My Deliverer” was released as the first single.

Download worthy: “How Much,” “Not Guilty,” “The Definition of Me.”

Chart performance: Debuted at number 83 on the Billboard 200. The lead single, “My Deliverer,” reached number nine on Billboad’s Christian singles chart.

Grade: B-

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

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Kelly Clarkson's All I Ever WantedKelly Clarkson
“All I Ever Wanted”
Released: March 10, 2009
Idol finish: 1st, Season 1

Gone is angst-ridden rocker Kelly, the gal in the blood red gown on the cover of 2007’s “My December.” Back for another go round is pop princess Kelly. The relationships in her songs still might be far from be perfect. But, hey, that doesn’t mean the original Idol can’t have fun singing about them. The result: What’s sure to be a smash success, at least commercially.

Download worthy: The entire album if you can stand that much pop. If not, “My Life Would Suck Without You,” the title track, “Long Shot” and “Tip of the Tongue” (a bonus track on the deluxe album).

Chart peformance: Debuted and spent two weeks at number one on the Billboard 200. Yielded three top 20 singles on the Hot 100 — “MLWSWY” (1), “Already Gone” (13) and “I Do Not Hook Up” (20).

Grade: A

Review:
AllMusic.com: Gives Kelly 3.5 stars out of 5

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Taylor Hick's The DistanceTaylor Hicks
“The Distance”
Released: March 10, 2009
Idol finish: 1st, Season 5

The season five winner released his second album on his own label, and it’s unlikely to close the distance between Taylor and some of Idol’s more successful champs. For every solid song, there’s one where the Soul Patrol should have tapped Taylor on the shoulder and said, “Not a good idea, bro.”

Download worthy: “What’s Right is Right,” “Nineteen.”

Chart performance: Debuted at number 56 on the Billboard 200, but stayed in the top half of the chart only two weeks.

Grade: D

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

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Melinda Doolittle album Coming Back to YouMelinda Doolittle
“Coming Back to You”
Released: Feb. 3, 2009
Idol finish: 3rd, Season 6

The first album from the former background singer who finished third on season six. The 13 tracks serve as a reminder of how she can sing circles around many past Idol contestants. “It’s Your Love” was released as the first single.

Download worthy: “Dust My Broom;” “I Will Be;” “Walkin’ Blues.”

Chart performance: Debuted at number 58 on the Billboard 200.

Grade: B-

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

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Don't Look Down soundtrack albumMichael Johns
“Don’t Look Down” soundtrack
Released: Jan. 20, 2009
Idol finish: 8th, Season 7

CD features 17 tracks and served as soundtrack for a documentary following snowboarder Shaun White during his quest for an Olympic gold medal. Ten tracks feature vocals; the music was written by season seven contestant Michael Johns, Rye Randa and Jeff Foxworth.

Download worthy: “Come On, Come On,” “You Are Here,” “River of Life,” featuring Michael on vocals. Even better: “Life is Okay,” a duet by Michael and former season seven contestant Brooke White.

Chart performance:

Grade: B

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Sanjaya Malakar album Dancing to the Music in My HeadSanjaya Malakar
“Dancing to the Music in My Head”
Released: Jan. 20, 2009
Idol finish: 7th, Season 6

This EP, available through Amazon.com was released in conjunction with Sanjaya’s not-exactly-tell-all book about his time on season six of American Idol. In the book, you’ll find out how the ponyhawk hairdo came about. Listen to the five tracks on the LP and you’ll be amazed all over again that Sanjaya survived so long on Idol.

Download worthy: “Rainy Day” is bearable thanks to the background singers.

Chart performance: Are you kidding?

Grade: F

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NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR THE FINALS?

Voice Season 12 comeback artist Johnny Hayes turned in this performance during Tuesday night's live playoffs, yet somehow missed out on the show's finals. For a recap of the Team Adam oversight, head here.

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