Ranking the most successful American Idol contestants is a bit tricky. For example, we really wanted to add Ace Young to the list because he was so successful at making us swoon. (Sigh. We love us some Ace Young.) But in the end, we had to come back to sales* and chart rankings because, well, numbers never lie.
The following talented guys and girls are currently the most successful American Idol contestants of all time:
1. Carrie Underwood (Season 4)
Carrie Underwood remains American Idol’s most successful contestant. This small-town-girl has turned into country music superstar!
- With more than 11.5 million albums in the U.S., she leads all American Idol alum in album sales.
- She was named the Entertainer of the Year two times by the Academy of Country Music.
- She is the first country music star in history to achieve ten number one singles from her first two albums alone.
- She has a trophy case full of awards, including Country Music Awards, Billboard Awards, American Music Awards, People’s Choice Awards, and Grammy Awards.
- She was inducted into to Grand Old Opry.
2. Kelly Clarkson (Season 1)
Kelly Clarkson proved that reality TV shows really can produce pop stars when she topped the charts as the first American Idol.
- She sold more than 10.6 million albums in the U.S.
- She has released eight Billboard Top 10 singles.
- She won an arm-full of Grammys, VMAs, and American Music Awards.
- She remained on the charts for two years with the same hit album “Breakaway.”
3. Chris Daughtry (Season 5)
Even though he finished American Idol’s fifth season in fourth place, Chris Daughtry has kicked Idol butt on the music charts, surpassing Season 5 winner Taylor Hicks and many other Idol champs.
- He achieved two consecutive number one albums on the Billboard charts.
- He sold more than 5.7 million albums in America
- His album Daughtry was certified the fastest-selling album in the history of Soundscan.
- He has been nominated for Grammy Awards and won several American Music Awards.
4. Clay Aiken (Season 2)
Thanks to his devoted Claymates, Clay Aiken’s career was molded into a success story after he made it to second place in Idol’s second season.
- His first single “This is the Night” debut at number one on the Billboard chart, selling almost 400,000 copies in its first week.
- His debut album, Measure of a Man, also shot to number one in the charts in its first week – selling 613,000 copies.
- His Christmas album, Merry Christmas With Love, made Soundscan history when it debuted at number one on the Top Holiday Albums Chart.
- He has sold more than 4.9 million albums in the US.
5. Jordin Sparks (Season 6)
Jordin Sparks still has many years ahead of her in the music biz (after all, she won Season 6 when she was only 17), but her post-Idol career soared to impressive heights.
- She sold more than 9 million copies of her singles in the US and more than 1.3 million albums.
- Her hit single “No Air,” performed with Chris Brown, climbed to No. 3 on the Billboard charts.
- She won BET Awards, an American Music Award, and a People’s Choice Award.
- She became a Broadway star when she joined the cast of the play “The Heights.”
6. David Cook (Season 7)
Since winning American Idol ’s seventh season, David Cook has been busy raising awareness for brain cancer, a disease his brother Adam sadly battled and lost. The talented rocker has also been making an impact on the music industry.
- He has sold more than 1.3 million albums in the US and 3.9 million singles.
- After his successful run on Idol, he almost matched a record set by the Beatles in 1964 when 11 of his songs debut on the Billboard’s Hot 100 chart — all in the same week!
- He won a Teen Choice Award for Best Reality/Variety Star.
7. Fantasia (Season 3)
After winning in Season 3, Fantasia starred in a movie based her own life, acted on Broadway, and landed her own VH1 reality show. She remains one of Idol’s most memorable stars.
- She was the first new artist in history to debut at number one with her first single, “I Believe.”
- She has been nominated for 11 Grammy Awards.
- She has sold more than 2.3 million albums in the US.
- Her single “When I See You” was a number one R&B hit.
8. Kellie Pickler (Season 5)
Don’t let her ditzy behavior fool you. Season 5 finalist Kelly Pickler has been an impressive player in the country music world after making it all the way to the AI top six.
- She sold more than 1.3 million albums in the US and more than 2.9 million singles.
- Her single “Red High Heels” was a country hit, climbing to number 15 on the Billboard country chart.
- She has opened for top country acts including Brad Paisley, Taylor Swift, and Rascal Flatts.
9. David Archuleta (Season 7)
He might have lost to David Cook in Season 7’s battle of the Davids, but David Archuleta went on to enjoy a pretty sweet career after AI.
- He sold more than 3 million singles and more than 968,000 albums.
- His first single “Crush” debut at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
- He has won several Teen Choice Awards, including “Most Fanatic Fans” and “Breakout Artist.”
10. Ruben Studdard (Season 2)
Season 2 winner Ruben was supposed to be the next Luther Vandross, but his career hasn’t been been quite as successful as that. Even so, the Velvet Teddy Bear remains an R&B favorite.
- He sold more than 2.6 million albums since winning American Idol.
- His debut album, Soulful, boasted two top ten hits.
- His gospel album, Send Me An Angel, was a hit on the gospel charts. Amen to that!
*Record sales reflect sales numbers in April 2010.
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