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Ranking 14 seasons of contestants on American Idol


American Idol has served up lots of memorable moments over its past 14 seasons, moments we’re likely to be reminded of during Tuesday’s special look back at the show’s history.

Some seasons have certainly been more entertaining than others. Some have produced more post-show success stories than others.

As a fun way to look back, I’ve ranked the show’s first 14 casts of finalists.

Season 51. SEASON 5: If ever there was a season that proved you didn’t have to win Idol to enjoy post-show fame, this was it. Chris Daughtry became the most successful rocker the show ever produced. Kellie Pickler remains a country celebrity. Katharine McPhee is a TV star. Bucky Covington enjoyed fleeting country chart success. And when his album sales slowed, Taylor Hicks headed off to a headliner role in Vegas.

1. Taylor Hicks
2. Katharine McPhee
3. Elliott Yamin
4. Chris Daughtry
5. Paris Bennett
6. Kellie Pickler
7. Ace Young
8. Bucky Covington
9. Mandisa
10. Lisa Tucker
11. Kevin Covais
12. Melissa McGhee

American Idol's Season 7 cast2. SEASON 7: My personal favorite because of that evenly matched finale featuring the Davids – either would have been a deserving winner — and the superb post show music the season produced. In addition to David Cook and David Archuleta, that came from Brooke White, Jason Castro and even some of the contestants I wasn’t so high on at the time, like Michael Johns, Carly Smithson (with We Are the Fallen) and Amanda Overmyer.

1. David Cook
2. David Archuleta
3. Syesha Mercado
4. Jason Castro
5. Brooke White
6. Carly Smithson
7. Kristy Lee Cook
8. Michael Johns
9. Ramiele Malubay
10. Chikezie
11. Amanda Overmyer
12. David Hernandez

American Idol's Season 10 cast. 3. SEASON 10: Idol got the teen country showdown it wanted between Scotty and Lauren, and both were warmly welcomed by country music fans when they released new music. But it’s the depth of this cast that’s most impressive, with James, Casey, Paul and Haley all releasing fine post-show music. Still wondering if we’ll ever get more than a song or two from Pia.

1. Scotty McCreery
2. Lauren Alaina
3. Haley Reinhart
4. James Durbin
5. Jacob Lusk
6. Casey Abrams
7. Stefano Langone
8. Paul McDonald
9. Pia Toscano
10. Naima Adedapo
10. Thia Megia
12. Karen Rodriguez
13. Ashthon Jones

American Idol's Season 4 cast4. SEASON 4: Carrie became the second mega-star launched by Idol. She owns seven of the 13 Grammys won by former Idol contestants and shows no shine of slowing down. Bo Bice, now singing lead for the classic rock band Blood, Sweat and Tears, remains one of the most underrated Idol finalists. The season’s other breakout star proved to be rocker Constantine Maroulis, who hit the big time playing a rock star on Broadway.

1. Carrie Underwood
2. Bo Bice
3. Vonzell Solomon
4. Anthony Fedorov
5. Scott Savol
6. Constantine Maroulis
7. Anwar Robinson
8. Nadia Turner
9. Nikko Smith
10. Jessica Sierra
11. Mikalah Gordon
12. Lindsay Cardinale

American Idol's Season 2 cast5. SEASON 2: Sure their musical stars have dimmed, but let’s not forget that Ruben and Clay both hit number one on the Billboard 200 with their debut albums. Oh, and they also gave us one of the most dramatic finales in Idol history. And you might have forgotten that Josh Gracin’s debut album yielded three top 10 country hits.

1. Ruben Studdard
2. Clay Aiken
3. Kimberley Locke
4. Josh Gracin
5. Trenyce
6. Carmen Rasmusen
7. Kimberly Caldwell
8. Rickey Smith
9. Corey Clark
10. Julia DeMato
11. Charles Grigsby
12. Vanessa Olivarez

American Idol's Season 8 cast6. SEASON 8: I’m still bewildered: Adam Lambert did not win. How is that possible? Oh, well, he became the season’s biggest post-show success, both with his own music and fronting Queen. After a brief foray into country music, Danny Gokey found a home where I always knew he would, Christian music. Kris Allen has released his best music after his post-show debut sorta fizzled.

1. Kris Allen
2. Adam Lambert
3. Danny Gokey
4. Allison Iraheta
5. Matt Giraud
6. Anoop Desai
6. Lil Rounds
8. Scott MacIntyre
9. Megan Joy
10. Michael Sarver
11. Alexis Grace
12. Jorge Nunez
12. Jasmine Murray

American Idol's Season 3 cast7. SEASON 3: There wasn’t a whole lot of suspense in Season 3. Fantasia was that good. But the season wound up yielding a second superstar in Jennifer Hudson, who remains the only former Idol contestant with a Grammy and an Oscar to her credit. Nine years later, Jon Peter Lewis showed up on The Voice as one half of Midas Whale with buddy Ryan Hayes.

1. Fantasia Barrino
2. Diana DeGarmo
3. Jasmine Trias
4. La Toya London
5. George Huff
6. John Stevens
7. Jennifer Hudson
8. Jon Peter Lewis
9. Camile Velasco
10. Amy Adams
11. Matthew Rogers
12. Leah LaBelle

American Idol Season 1 cast8. SEASON 1: Post-show chart success eluded everyone but the original Idol. But, hey, Kelly managed to nab 12 Grammy nominations and three Grammys all on her own. And she sure proved she can still deliver magic with that performance of “Piece by Piece” earlier this season, not to mention an impressive guest judging stint. I’ve always wondered what happened to Idol’s original hottie, aspiring rocker Ryan Starr, who wound up releasing fewer songs than the number of post-Idol reality shows in which she appeared.

1. Kelly Clarkson
2. Justin Guarini
3. Nikki McKibbin
4. Tamyra Gray
5. R.J. Helton
6. Christina Christian
7. Ryan Starr
8. A.J. Gill
9. Jim Varraros
9. EJay Day

American Idol's Season 11 cast.9. SEASON 11: Phillip is apparently the only Idol winner who won’t be at the finale because he’s suing 19 Entertainment. I’m not sure he ever appreciated the favor Idol did him by handing over the greatest coronation song in the show’s history. Jessica and Joshua were better singers, but have had trouble translating that into post-show stardom. No such problem for Colton, a fixture on the Christian music charts.

1. Phillip Phillips
2. Jessica Sanchez
3. Joshua Ledet
4. Hollie Cavanagh
5. Syklar Laine
6. Elise Testone
7. Colton Dixon
8. DeAndre Brackensick
9. Heejun Han
10. Erika Van Pelt
11. Shannon Magrane
12. Jermaine Jones (DQ)
13. Jeremy Rosado

American Idol's Season 9 cast10. SEASON 9: The first sign that winning Idol wouldn’t always guarantee chart success. Both the debut album from Lee DeWyze and an even better one from Crystal Bowersox failed to crack the Top 20 on the Billboard 200. Heartthrob Casey James enjoyed some initial success as a country singer, but that was short-lived, too. Speaking of success, Katie Stevens found it on TV, with a starring role in MTV’s “Faking It.”

1. Lee DeWyze
2. Crystal Bowersox
3. Casey James
4. Michael Lynche
5. Aaron Kelly
6. Siobhan Magnus
7. Tim Urban
8. Katie Stevens
9. Andrew Garcia
10. Didi Benami
11. Paige Miles
12. Lacey Brown

American Idol's Season 6 cast11. SEASON 6: An odd season because the show’s popularity was near its zenith, yet chart success eluded everyone but Jordin, whose debut album hit number 10 on the Billboard 200 and whose followup did even better. Blake Lewis and Melinda Doolittle delivered excellent debut albums, too, but they failed to catch on.

1. Jordin Sparks
2. Blake Lewis
3. Melinda Doolittle
4. Lakisha Jones
5. Phil Stacey
5. Chris Richardson
7. Sanjaya Malakar
8. Haley Scarnato
9. Gina Glocksen
10. Chris Sligh
11. Stephanie Edwards
12. Brandon Rogers

American Idol's Season 13 cast.12. SEASON 13: The jury’s still out. Caleb’s debut album wasn’t bad, it just didn’t sell. His new single is impressive. So is the small sample of new music we’ve gotten so far from Alex Preston, Jessica Meuse and Sam Woolf. “Unbreakable” Jena is back to using her last name (Asciutto) and promising new music beyond “Unbreakable” in the form of an EP and album later this year.

1. Caleb Johnson
2. Jena Irene (Asciutto)
3. Alex Preston
4. Jessica Meuse
5. Sam Woolf
6. C.J. Harris
7. Dexter Roberts
8. Malaya Watson
9. Majesty Rose
10. M.K. Nobilette
11. Ben Briley
12. Emily Piriz
13. Kristen O’Connor

American Idol's Season 12 cast13. SEASON 12: I still suspect Idol stacked this season’s cast to ensure a female winner. Given fans’ voting history, how else do you explain an all-female Top 5 and Lazaro Arbos as the “top” male contender? Candice’s debut album flopped; Kree is working on hers and curiously doesn’t even mention American Idol in her website bio. This season also featured the Nicki Minaj-Mariah Carey experiment.

1. Candice Glover
2, Kree Harrison
3. Angie Miller
4. Amber Holcomb
5. Janelle Arthur
6. Lazaro Arbos
7. Burnell Taylor
8. Devin Velez
9. Paul Jolley
10. Curtis Finch Jr.

American Idol's Season 14 cast.14. SEASON 14: They land here because of a lack of a track record as much as anything. I still think Jax should have won, and her post-show single “La La Land” wasn’t only perfectly timed for Idol’s last season, but also sorta confirmed that. I’m wondering if we’ll even get a debut album from Nick Fradiani. But I am looking forward to hearing more from Quentin, Joey, Clark and Maddie, now a member of a country quartet, known as South Haven.

1. Nick Fradiani
2. Clark Beckham
3. Jax
4. Rayvon Owen
5. Tyanna Jones
6. Quentin Alexander
7. Joey Cook
8. Qaasim Middleton
9. Daniel Seavey
10. Maddie Walker
10. Adanna Duru
11. Sarina-Joi Crowe

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