Typically “American Idol” results shows that air on Thursday nights are all the same: dramatically long with awkward pre-made videos and group performances. All of it stupid enough that I wished I hadn’t wasted my time in the first place. But this past Thursday, I was actually surprised and upset by the elimination of Pia Toscano, the young singer many people picked as their favorite to win the whole season. The crowd booed and Twitter tweeted with people’s outrage over her early exit, but I couldn’t help but think maybe it was good for her. If you are that talented, maybe not being the next American Idol isn’t such a bad thing.
Maybe if you get out now, American Idol won’t own you and a percentage of your earnings for the rest of your life. Maybe if you get out now, you can get an endorsement deal and a day in your town named after you too. In the past ten seasons of Idol, there have been a number of people who were pegged as being eliminated too soon. While some went on to obscurity (Justin Guarini), some went on to greatness, despite not being the big winner (hello, Jennifer Hudson). Here’s a look at American Idol cast-offs who in the long run, were better off without the big trophy.
Chris Daughtry made his debut on the fifth season of “American Idol” in 2006. Daughtry was the third runner up in the competition, eventualy losing out to Taylor Hicks. Shortly after being eliminated, Daughtry signed with RCA records where he released his debut album, “Daughtry.”
The album is the fastest selling debut rock album in history, selling over one million copies in just five weeks. Adding to his impressive post-Idol resume, Daughtry was nominated for a Grammy in 2008 for “It’s Not Over.” Daughtry has been the most successful Idol castoff in terms of album sales. Only Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood eclipse him as former Idol contestants, but they both won their respective seasons.
One of the Idol’s youngest stars, David Archuleta was just 16-years-old when he charmed audiences (and most tween girls) across the nation, with his voice and boyish charm. Archuleta’s run stretched all the way until the seventh season finale, losing out only to winner David Cook. Post-Idol, Archuleta signed with Jive records and released a self-titled debut album which went on to sell over 900,000 copies worldwide, and almost 2 million digital downloads. In 2008 he was named alongside Idol winner, David Cook, as one of Forbes magazines “Breakout Stars of 2008.” He has now released three studio albums and a best-selling memoir.
Katharine McPhee was runner-up in season five of “American Idol,” losing out, like Daughtry, to Taylor Hicks. McPhee was signed to RCA records following the show, and released her self-titled album, which debuted at number two on the Billboard chart. In early 2009, it was announced that McPhee and RCA had parted ways, but she quickly signed a new contract under Verve Forecast Records.
Not just a singer, but also an aspiring actress, McPhee starred in the 2008 comedy “The House Bunny” with Emma Stone and Anna Farris. She has also filmed roles on “CSI,””Ugly Betty,” and “Community.” On Feb. 13, it was announced that McPhee landed a role on NBC’s new show “Smash,” which also stars Debra Messing. Steven Spielberg will serve as an executive producer on the show, which follows a group of people who get together to put on a Broadway musical.
Adam Lambert lost the eighth season of “American Idol” to Kris Allen, a title most viewers, and even Allen himself, thought was sure to go to the 29-year-old from San Diego. Following Idol, Lambert released his debut album “For Your Entertainment,” which debuted at number three, and sold 198,000 copies in the first week. In 2010, Lambert was nominated for a Grammy for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, for his single “Whataya Want From Me.”
Kellie Pickler was the fifth runner-up in the fifth season of “American Idol,” losing out on the glory of being named winner. Simon Cowell even called her one of his favorites, and said he liked her even better than previous Idol winner Carrie Underwood. But the pop-heavy world the reality show targets wasn’t quite right for Pickler, who comes from a small town in North Carolina. Pickler went on to find success after Idol in country music, releasing two albums under RCA. Her first album “Small Town Girl” went gold and sold over 800,000 copies.
Even though he lost to Ruben Studdard in the second season of Idol, Clay Aiken has gone on to sell double platinum albums, star in a Broadway show, and write a New York Times bestselling book. After Idol, Aiken released his first album “Measure of A Man,” which topped the Billboard chart, and sold 613,000 copies in the first week, the highest for any Idol-alum ever. The album has since sold over 2.8 million copies. Signed to RCA, Aiken released three more albums, including the best-selling holiday record of the year “Merry Christmas With Love.”
Aiken has since toured nationally, and performed for sold-out stadiums. As mentioned, he’s even written a best-selling memoir called “Learning to Sing: Hearing the Music in Your Life.” The book focused on his influential relationships and the meaning of religion in his life. Aiken has also tried his hand on Broadway, making his acting debut in Monty Python’s “Spamalot” playing Sir Robin.
Arguably Idol’s biggest star (who didn’t win the title) is Jennifer Hudson, the singer/actress who finished in seventh place in Idol’s third season. Hudson may have been eliminated early, but that didn’t stop her from becoming one of Hollywood’s most successful young actresses and singers. Hudson was cast in “Dreamgirls,” a movie based on the Broadway musical, where she played Effie White. Hudson’s first time on the screen proved to be jaw-dropping and goosebump worthy. Her performance of the show stopper “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going” was beautiful and Oscar-worthy. Hudson went on to win for Best Supporting Actress at all the major awards shows of the 2006 season, including the Academy Award, the SAG, the Golden Globes, and BAFTA.
Hudson’s music career hasn’t been too shabby either. Her debut album “Jennifer Hudson” hit number two on the Billboard charts upon release and earned her three Grammy nominations. On March 22, Hudson released her second album “I Remember Me.”