I will be honest with you. I am not an avid watcher of American Idol (my former roommate would disown me if she read this blog, which she probably does). I could not tell you the names of the top five contestants for last year, or the year before, so it is not uncommon that I listen to songs on the radio and completely forget that these singers were once American Idol hopefuls. They once stood in ungodly long lines to sing for the insolent Simon Cowell or Randy “yo dawg” Jackson. Like it or not, American Idol has bred successful pop stars that hold their own beyond the show. With the new season beginning, I wonder who will be added to the following list of success stories.
Kelly Clarkson started the craze of overnight musical success stories back in 2003 when she became the first winner of American Idol. She released “Miss Independent,” part of her debut album, Thankful, with unprecedented success. With five albums and millions of songs sold, this platinum pop star has become a household name, social icon, and dynamic influence on single women everywhere.
A public rivalry sparked between Carrie Underwood and that other country diva, Faith Hill, soon after Carrie’s rise to stardom, and when Faith Hill has a problem with you, you know you’ve made it big. Since her stint on Idol, Carrie has won several Grammy Awards, appeared on the CBS television show How I Met Your Mother, and even found herself in the Guinness Book of World Records for having twelve number one hits on Billboard.
Some American Idol alumni choose to go beyond the solo career and find creative success in a band. Daughtry is a prime example. “Feels Like Tonight” off of Daughtry’s self-titled debut album put the band into quadruple platinum territory. This notoriety has allowed the pop band to tour the world, due in part to the lead singer’s stint on Idol.
I was in an AMC movie theater the other night, waiting in line to pay inordinate amounts of money for a small popcorn before seeing The Hobbit (go see it! GO. SEE. IT.), and Phillip Phillip’s new song began playing through the speakers. I stopped to listen, trying to decide if it sounded more like Fleet Foxes or Grouplove. I Shazam’d it, naturally, and, much to my surprise, this Idol winner’s name appeared on my iPhone. His song styling is refreshing in comparison to the other more pop-based genres coming out of Idol, and let us not ignore his catchy name.
Has anyone watched the hit NBC television show Smash recently? Apparently it’s very good, and one American Idol contestant proves that you do not have to be a winner to make it big. Katharine McPhee, a contestant on Season 5, finished runner-up, but has garnered much praise for her role as Karen Cartwright, a talented, naive ensemble member of a Broadway cast. She made her mark on the screen and on the charts when her self-titled debut record released at #2 on the Billboard 200 in 2007. McPhee makes good music and is in equally good company with her fellow Idol alumni.