David Hernandez
“I Am Who I Am” EP
Released: Dec. 27, 2001
Idol finish: 12th, Season 7

Those who barely remember David from his short stint on Idol Season 7 will be surprised by the solid vocals here. But the material is hit or miss, and the vocals aren’t good enough to salvage the misses.

Download worthy: “Follow,” “Deliver Me,” “She’s Coming Undone”

Chart performance: Did not chart

Grade: C

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Daughtry
“Break the Spell’
Released: Nov. 22, 2011
Idol finish: 4th, Season 5

Like a well-oiled machine, Chris and the band deliver another solid CD. It’s probably too familiar to rope in legions of new fans, but it sure shouldn’t disappoint those who have followed Daughtry since its 2006 debut became a smash hit.

Download worthy: “Renegade,” “Outta My Head,” “Gone Too Soon”

Chart performance: Debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200; lead single “Crawling Back to You” cracked top 10 on the adult contemporary chart.

Grade: B

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James Durbin
“Memories of a Beautiful Disaster”

Released: Nov. 21, 2011
Idol finish: 4th, Season 10

On Idol, he pleaded with us to “give metal a chance.” Now he’s given us reason to do just that with a promising debut album. And he doesn’t even feel the need to shriek on every track. The base album of 11 songs includes four Durbin co-writes.

Download worthy: “May,” “Screaming,” “Higher than Heaven.”

Chart performance: Debuted at number 36 on the Billboard 200.

Grade: B-

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Josh Gracin
“Redemption”

Released: Nov. 6, 2011
Idol finish: 4th, Season 2

Long-awaited third album includes 16 tracks and a remix. A couple less tunes and a few more hooks would have helped. The album works best when Josh sticks to his traditional country roots.

Download worthy: “Can’t Say Goodbye,” “My Life,” “Only When it Rains” (duet with Shelagh Brown)

Chart performance: Peaked at number 39 on Billboard’s country albums chart

Grade: C

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Kelly Clarkson
Stronger

Released: Oct. 24, 2011
Idol finish: 1st, Season 1

An anthem to fit every gal done wrong on an album that should have been called “My Life Sure Sucked with You.” Check out this line from “Einstein”: “Dumb plus dumb equals you.” Ouch! Fortunately, Kelly’s doing the singing, so 10 songs saying the same thing — you’re a jerk, but I’ll be fine — works … well, just fine.

Download worthy: “Mr. Know it All,” “What Doesn’t Kill You,” “Einstein,” “I Forgive You.”

Chart performance: Debuted at number two on the Billboard 200; lead single “Mr. Know It All” reached number one on the adult pop chart.

Grade: B

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Lauren Alaina
“Wildflower”
Released: Oct. 11, 2011
Idol finish: 2nd, Season 10

With a rowdy opening track (“Georgia Peaches”), Lauren grabs your attention, tugs and says, “Come on, let’s have some fun.” It’s far more than a tease. On “The Locket,” she proves adept at ballads, too. Nashville just might have found a winner in Idol’s season 10 runner-up.

Download worthy: “Georgia Peaches,” “Growing Her Wings,” “One of Those Boys,” “The Locket.”

Chart performance: Debuted at number five on the Billboard 200 and number two on the country album chart behind Scotty McCreery.

Grade: B

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Scotty McCreery
“Clear As Day”
Released: Oct. 4, 2011
Idol finish: 1st, Season 10

Predictable. That about sums up this G-rated debut album from Scotty, who was 17 when it was released. The good news is that there are better songs on the album than the first two singles and that Scotty sings them all quite capably. The bad news: It’s all too country-by-formula to be wholly successful.

Download worthy: “Clear As Day,” “Better Than That,” “Summertime.”

Chart performance: Debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200 and the country album charts, the first Idol debut to accomplish the former feat since Season 2.  Spent12 weeks at eight number one or two on the country albums chart. Certified platinum in January.

Grade: C+

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Jack and White
“Gemini” EP
Released: Aug. 23, 2011
Idol finish: 5th, Season 7

Musical delight from former Idol contestant Brooke White and former Self Against City guitarist Jack Matranga. This six-track EP sprang from what was supposed to be a song-writing session for a Brooke White solo against. Of the six, only “Feathers” strikes the wrong chord.

Download worthy: Just get the EP, but “Double Trouble” and “Telephone Games” are especially good.

Chart performance: Did not chart

Grade: B+

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David Cook's new album, "This Loud Morning," will be released in June.David Cook
“This Loud Morning”
Released: June 28, 2011
Idol finish: 1st, Season 7

A disappointment. Individual songs succeed; David sounds great throughout. The album fails because every track leads to the same bombastic chorus. A CD sorely in need of some change of pace, like a couple of “loud” rockers.

Download worthy: “The Last Goodbye,” “We Believe,” “Goodbye to the Girl”

Chart performance: Debuted at number 7 on Billboard 200, spent 7 weeks on chart.

Grade: C+

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Kimberley Locke
“Four on the Floor” EP
Released: July 19, 2011
Idol finish: 3rd, Season 2

Kimberley scored a top 10 dance hit with “Strobelight” last year. Now she’s back with four more dance tunes, including the sexy “Sirens.”  That immediately makes her more musically relevant than either of the guys who finished in front of her in season two.  But can she find her way back to the charts on her own label?

Download worthy: “Sirens,” “I Can’t Get Enough.”

Chart performance: Did not chart

Grade: C+

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Lacey Brown
“Let It Go” EP
Released: May 31, 2011
Idol finish: 12th, Season 9

The musical surprise of the year, Idol wise. Lacey and her quirky voice are a delight on a five-track EP that’s shows she’s much better using that slightly quirky voice on her own material. The only complaint: We only get five tracks?

Download worthy: It’s $3.99. Just buy the thing.

Chart performance: Did not chart.

Grade: A-

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Without Regret, Kimberly Caldwell's debut albumKimberly Caldwell
“Without Regret”
Released: April 15, 2011
Idol finish: 7th, Season 2

Give Kimberly an A+ for perseverance because this oft-delayed debut album came eight years after her Idol ouster. She’s at her best when she’s rocking it out. And “Desperate Girls and Stupid Boys” deserved to be a hit, though there’s a remix EP out there that you should avoid like the plague.

Download worthy: “Desperate Girls and Stupid Boys,” “Mess of You,” “Hotter Without You.”

Chart performance: Did not chart on Billboard 200.

Grade: C+

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Mandisa's What If We Were RealMandisa
“What If We Were Real”
Released: April 1, 2011
Idol finish: 9th, Season 5

Here’s an Idol given: Mandisa Hundley releases a new album; it will be well done, with touches of vocal magic (check out “Just Cry”). Which explains why she’s the most successful Christian artist to graduate from the show. She’s done it again, and thrown in some auto-tune and rap to keep things current.

Download worthy: “Stronger,” “Just Cry,” “Free,” “Temporary Fills”

Chart performance: Spent 20 weeks in top 25 on Billboard’s Christian albums chart, peeking at number 2. Nominated for a Grammy. Lead single “Stronger” hit number 1 on Christian singles chart. Second single, “Waiting for Tomorrow,” has cracked the top 10 on that chart.

Grade: B

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Anoop Desai 's "Zero.0"Anoop Desai
“Zero.0”
Released: May 11, 2011
Idol Finish: 6th, Season 8

More pizzazz than you’ll find on 2010’s “All Is Fair,” but still a little sleepy unless you’re a big fan of Anoop and his admittedly silky-smooth vocals. A CD saved by its mid-tempo pop songs, not by lines like “other girls taste like OJ and toothpaste / you taste like birthday cake.”

Download: “Worth the Wait,” “OoWee”

Chart performance: Did not chart.

Grade: C

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Phil Stacey
“Faith”
Released: March 29, 2011
Idol finish: 5th, Season 6

A second Christian album from a guy who wishing made the switch from country music for 2009’s “Into the Light.” Unfortunately, this is a step in the wrong direction, with the best tracks being songs we’ve already heard, like a new version of “Be Good to Each Other” from his self-titled debut.

Download worthy: “Have a Little Faith in Me,” “Be Good to Each Other”

Chart performance: Did not chart.

Grade: C-

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Jennifer Hudson's "I Remember Me"Jennifer Hudson
“I Remember Me”
Released: March 22, 2011
Idol finish: 7th, Season 3

Her first album won a Grammy for best R&B album from a female; her second album is better and more radio friendly. And a new CD from new-look Jennifer wouldn’t be complete without a cover of “Feeling Good,” her Weight Watchers anthem. Check out that fabulous a cappella opening.

Download worthy: “I Got This,” “I Remember Me,” “Feeling Good,” “Gone.”

Chart performance: Spent 23 weeks on Billboard 200, peeking at number two. Has yielded two singles that cracked the Hot 100 so far.

Grade: B

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Adam Lambert's Glam Nation LiveAdam Lambert
“Glam Nation Live”
Released: March 15, 2011
Idol finish: 2nd, Season 8

Who better to release the first live album from a former Idol finalist? Adam’s vocals sizzle from beginning to end, even enlivening the less intriguing tracks — like “Sleepwalker” — from his debut album. Listen and marvel all over again at how someone with so much charisma and vocal talent failed to win Season 8. Silly Idol voters.

Download worthy: Just get the CD.

Chart performance: Did not chart on Billboard 200.

Grade: A-
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Anwar Robinson
“Everything”

Released: Jan. 25, 2011
Idol finish: 7th, Season 4

Play this ballad-heavy CD as nice background music for a romantic evening at home. There’s nothing wrong with Anwar’s silky-smooth vocals; they just don’t demand your attention. Unfortunately, neither do many of the 10 tracks on a debut album that comes six years after his appearance on Idol.

Download worthy: “All About You,” “L.O.T.P.”

Chart performance: Did not chart.

Grade: C-

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