Daughtry "Baptized"Daughtry

Released: Nov. 15, 2013
Idol finish: 4th, Season 5

OK, it takes a while to get used to Chris Daughtry singing “boom-boom-boom-ba-boom-boom-boom” on the ill-conceived “Battleships,” but this album isn’t nearly as bad as the critics would have you believe. The album offers up plenty of earworms, especially during its first half.

Check out: “Baptized,” “Waiting for Superman,” “Wild Heart,” “Long Live Rock and Roll.”

Chart performance: The album debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 and number three on Billboard’s rock chart.

Grade: B-


Melinda Doolittle "You're the Reason" EPMelinda Doolittle
“You’re the Reason” EP

Released: Nov. 12, 2013
Idol finish: 3rd, Season 6

Melinda’s fabulous vocals made her a favorite back on Season 6 of Idol. But the contemporary flavor on this seven-track effort isn’t nearly as successful as the throwback sound of her superior 2009 “Coming Back to You” debut.

Check out: “Never Giving Up,” “Give”

Chart performance: Did not chart

Grade: C


Kellie Pickler's "The Woman I Am"Kellie Pickler
“The Woman I Am”

Released: Nov. 11, 2013
Idol finish: 6th, Season 5

Kellie finds a sassy middle ground between the fun-loving flavor of her first two albums and the traditional country sound of her third. The result is probably her best yet; “Someone Somewhere Tonight” is certainly one of her best vocals.

Check out: “Ring for Sale,” “Bonnie and Clyde,” “Where Did Your Love Go,” “Someone Somewhere Tonight.”

Chart performance: Debuted at number 19 on the Billboard 200 and number four on Billboard’s country album chart.

Grade: B+


Kelly Clarkson "Wrapped in Red"Kelly Clarkson
“Wrapped in Red”

Released: Oct. 25, 2013
Idol finish: 1st, Season 1

Kelly delivers her first Christmas album and isn’t content to just cover the classics. The 14=track album includes five originals; she shares songwriting credits on all five — “Underneath the Tree,” “Every Christmas,” “Winter Dreams,” “4 Carats” and the title track. She also gets an assist from country music pals Ronnie Dunn, Reba McEntire and Trisha Yearwood.

Check out: “Run, Run Rudolph,” “Every Christmas,” “4 Carats,” “Silent Night”

Chart performance: The album debuted at number three on the Billboard 200 and was one of the most successful holiday album releases of 2013.

Grade: None


Scotty McCreery's "See You Tonight"Scotty McCreery
“See You Tonight”

Released: Oct. 15, 2013
Idol finish: 1st, Season 10

After tapping into pretty much every country cliche on his debut album, what’s left for Scotty to sing about? Girls, girls and more girls. Girls in blue jeans; girls in tank tops. Girls under porch lights and girls by the ocean. And a surprising number of summer songs for an album released in October. To his credit, Scotty sorta pulls it all off.

Check out: “Don’t Want to be Your Friend,” “Feelin’ It,” “Blue Jean Baby,” “Carolina Moon.”

Chart performance: The album debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 and at number one on Billboard’s country albums chart.

Grade: B-


Erika Van Pelt My IndependenceErika Van Pelt
“My Independence”

Released: Oct. 7, 2013
Idol finish: 10th, Season 11

Erika shows a nice knack for a hook on an 11-track debut album that arrived within two weeks of raising $20,000 to help fund it via Kickstarter. “Listen, Learn, Then Delete” was the lead single and we get two versions of the album’s best song, “I Choose You.”

Check out: “I Choose You,” “My Independence”

Chart performance: Did not chart

Grade: C


Kendall Beard All Around Girl-250Kendall Beard
“All-Around Girl”

Released: Sept. 17,2013
Season 8 semifinalist

A much better independent country album than you’d expect from someone who failed to survive Idol’s mangled Season 8 semifinals. “Drinkin'” makes for a great debut single from Kendall, and the second half of the album is especially strong.

Check out: “Drinkin’,” “The Fall,” “Out of My Skin”

Chart performance: Did not chart

Grade: C+


Mandisa's "Overcomer"Mandisa

Released: Aug. 27, 2013
Idol finish: 9th, Season 5

Mandisa sounds great on Christian album number four, and the title track is probably her catchiest single yet. It also became a number one Christian single. If there’s a downfall, it’s that the album isn’t quite as diverse as 2011’s “What If We Were Real.” Still, it was nominated for a Grammy.

Check out: “Overcomer,” “Face to Face,” “Dear John.”

Chart performance: The album debuted at number one on Billboard’s Christian chart and number 29 on the Billboard 200, the latter marking Mandisa’s best chart showing to date.

Grade: B


Lee DeWyze's "Frames"Lee DeWyze

Released: Aug. 20, 2013
Idol finish: 1st, Season 9

Three of the first four tracks are better than Lee’s post-Idol debut single. The Season 9 Idol winner can’t quite keep up that pace, but anyone who gave up on him after 2010’s “Live It Up,” should listen to this 13-track offering. Plus, Lee delivers an acoustic version of the album for just a couple extra bucks.

Check out: “Fight,” “Silver Lining,” “Frames,” “Don’t Be Afraid,” “Little Did I Know.”

Chart performance: The album debuted at number 116 on the Billboard 200.

Grade: B+


Brooke White "Banner 4th of July" EPBrooke White
“Banner 4th of July” EP

Released: June 25, 2013
Idol finish: 5th, Season 7

“Banner 4th of July” marked the second TV movie for Brooke, and the EP includes two of her originals that were part of the movie, plus a pair of tunes featured on previous EPs she released with Jack Matranga as Jack and White. If you missed the EPs, released in 2011 and 2012, do yourself a favor and check them out.

Check out: “Fly, Fly, Fly”

Chart performance: Did not chart

Grade: Incomplete, but “Fly, Fly, Fly” is one of Brooke’s best tunes yet.


Jessica Sanchez "Me, You & the Music"Jessica Sanchez
“Me, You & the Music”

Released: April 30, 2013
Idol finish: 2nd, Season 11

Jessica wisely trades some of the big ballads she was known for on Idol for some dance beats. But the result is hit (“Gentlemen”) and miss (“Drive By”), and releasing the album a full year after her Idol run clearly did not work.

Check out: “Gentlemen,” “Plastic Roses,” “Tonight” (featuring Ne-Yo).

Chart performance: Debuted at number 26 on Billboard 200. Disappeared from that chart two weeks later.

Grade: C+


Fantasia's "Side Effects of You"Fantasia
“Side Effects of You”

Released: April 19, 2013
Idol finish: 1st, Season 3

Fantasia said she was hoping using one producer (Harmony Samuels) for an entire album would result in a more cohesive R&B/rock sound on album number four. Mission accomplished as the Season 3 winner delivers her most accessible album yet. Her unmistakable voice takes flight, especially on the solid second half of the album.

Check out: “Side Effects of You,” “Get It Right,” “Lose to Win,” “Supernatural Love.”

Chart performance: The Grammy-nominated album landed at number two on the Billboard 200 and number one on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart.

Grade: A-


Crystal Bowersox -- All That for ThisCrystal Bowersox
“All That for This”

Released: March 26, 2013
Idol finish: 2nd, Season 9

Solid sophomore album from Crystal, who wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 12 tracks, including “Stitches,” a duet with Jakob Dylan. The only complaint: Her first release with Shanachie Entertainment is a touch more sedate than her angst-driven 2010 debut, “Farmer’s Daughter.”

Check out: “Til the Whiskey’s Gone,” “Dead Weight,” “Everything Falls into Place”

Chart performance: Debuted at number 71 on the Billboard 200. Stayed on the chart for two weeks.

Grade: B


David Archuleta's "No Matter How Far"David Archuleta
“No Matter How Far”

Released: March 26, 2013
Idol finish: 2nd, Season 7

As good as you can expect from an album that’s more of a placeholder while the Season 7 finalist was off on a two-year church mission than an album that represents the next step in his musical career. The album consists mostly of previously unreleased pop songs and includes the title track from his 2012 Filipino album.

Check out: “Don’t Run Away,” “Heart Falls Out”

Chart performance: Debuted at number 101 on the Billboard 200 and was on the chart for just one week.

Grade: C+


Colton Dixon "A Messenger"Colton Dixon
“A Messenger”

Released: Jan. 25, 2013
Idol finish: 7th, Season 11

Colton made it clear he intended to release a Christian pop-rock album post-Idol and he delivered with this 13-track effort. Of the songs on the album, Colton wrote or co-wrote all but one. Badly needed: Stronger hooks and more musical diversity. Things just sound too repetitive after awhile.

Check out: “You Are,” “In and Out of Time.”

Chart performance: The album debuted at number one on Billboard’s Christian albums chart and number 15 on the Billboard 200.

Grade: C


Jason Castro's "Only a Mountain" Jason Castro
“Only a Mountain”

Released: Jan. 15, 2013
Idol finish: 4th, Season 7

A perfectly serviceable Christian pop album, though it seldom matches the best of Jason’s 2010 post-Idol debut. One exception: The lovely “Same Kind of Broken” duet with fellow Christian artist Moriah Peters.

Check out: “Same Kind of Broken,” “I Believe,” “Life is Beautiful” (the latter is a bonus track.

Chart performance: NA

Grade: B-


2013 Singles (not included on EPs or albums)

Allison Ireheta and Halo Circus "Gone"Allison Iraheta and Halo Circus
“Gone” — Oct. 8

Angie Miller
“You Set Me Free” — May 17

Blake Lewis
“Your Touch” — Feb. 26

Candice Glover
“Cried” — Nov. 25
“I Am Beautiful” — May 17

Casey Abrams
“Simple Little Song” — Jan. 23

David Cook's "Laying Me Low"David Cook
“Laying Me Low” — April 30

DeAndre (Brackensick)
“Her Crazy” — June 4

Elise Testone
“I Will Not Break” — Sept. 10

Heejan (Han)
“Bring the Love Back” — Sept. 17
“Treasure” (with Jason Chen) — July 3

Hollie Cavanagh
“Outer Limit” — July 15
James Durbin's "Parachute"“Girlfriend” — Nov. 25

James Durbin
“Parachute” — Nov. 22

Jennifer Hudson
“I Can’t Describe (The Way I Feel)” — Sept. 24

Josh Gracin
“Drink It Gone” — May 28

Kree Harrison
“All Cried Out” — May 17

Kristy Lee Cook
Leah LaBelle "Lolita"“Wherever Love Goes” (featuring Randy Houser) — Aug. 13

Lauren Alaina
“Barefoot and Buckwild” — May 7

Leah LaBelle
“Lolita” — May 7

Megan Joy
“Double Life” — Sept. 11

“Honey” — July 23

Nikko Smith
Stefano "Yes to Love"“Goin’ In” — July 20

Ruben Studdard
“Meant To Be” — Nov. 19

Stefano Langone
“Yes to Love” — Feb. 12

“Fever” — Dec. 3
“In the End (Alright)” — Dec. 3

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