Success after American Idol isn’t only for the victors. With her potent voice and oodles of charisma, we’re certain Season 11 runner-up Jessica Sanchez has a future in the music business. In fact, second place finishers from previous years have gone on to outsell and outshine their winning counterparts. Not that we wish any ill on winner Phillip Phillips — the music biz is more than big enough for the two of them!
Here’s a rundown of some of the most successful Idol runner-ups from seasons past:
Adam Lambert, Season 8
“Glambert” may not have taken home the Idol title, but he’s become one of the most successful contestants in recent memory. His debut album, For Your Entertainment, has sold almost two million copies to date (more than six times that of the first album from Season 8 winner Kris Allen) and earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance last year. Adams’ follow-up, titled Trespassing, debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 chart. An openly gay musician, he’s also been a strong advocate for LGBT rights.
Katharine McPhee, Season 5
Although Taylor Hicks was crowned the winner of Season 5, Katharine’s star has shone the brightest since leaving the competition six years ago. Her first self-titled album debuted at number two on the Billboard 200, spawning the certified gold single “Over It.” Katharine wisely made the transition from music to acting when she played a hippie sorority sister in the 2008 movie The House Bunny, which also starred Anna Faris, Emma Stone, and Rumer Willis. You can now catch Katharine on the NBC musical drama Smash.
Clay Aiken, Season 2
Ruben Studdard bested him to win the second season of Idol, but Clay has gone on to release a series of successful albums, win multiple American Music and Billboard Awards, pen a New York Times best-selling book, dabble in musical theater (playing Sir Robin in Monty Python’s Spamalot), and make guest appearances on TV shows like 30 Rock and Scrubs. Not too shabby for a former substitute teacher! Clay was recently named the runner-up to Arsenio Hall on The Celebrity Apprentice.
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