American Idol Winners With The Most Successful Music Careers

Talent shows around the world have given us many of our favorite artists. From One Direction and Little Mix to Zara Larsson and Susan Boyle, it's fair to say those names have made an impact on the charts. One of the original singing competition shows on television that paved the way was Simon Cowell's "American Idol," which debuted in 2002. To this day, the program is still a hit and has actively been on our screens for two whole decades.

As expected, "American Idol" has introduced a variety of talents that the public fell in love with. During Season 3 in 2004, a 21-year-old Jennifer Hudson auditioned with an Aretha Franklin song and blew the judges away. However, she only placed seventh. Fast forward to 2022 and Hudson is one of the most adored stars in the world. Currently, she has her own talk show, "Jennifer Hudson Show," and became the 17th person to achieve EGOT status, per Rolling Stone. In 2009, Adam Lambert auditioned for Season 9 with Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" and became that year's runner-up. Since his time on the show, Lambert has embarked on a huge solo career and has teamed up with Queen to become their lead vocalist on tour.

Hudson and Lambert are two examples of singers who proved they didn't need to win the show to become superstars. In fact, not everyone who won "American Idol" found success. However, here are eight who did.

Simon Cowell predicted Carrie Underwood's huge success

When Simon Cowell boldly predicted on "American Idol" that Carrie Underwood would not only "win the show" but would "sell more records than any other previous Idol winner," he wasn't completely wrong. Underwood, of course, ended up winning Season 4 and has since been on a whirlwind of a journey. Her debut single, "Inside Your Heaven," became her first chart-topper on the US Hot 100 and has been followed up by many other hits: "Before He Cheats," "Blown Away," and "Jesus, Take The Wheel," to name a few. On the album front, Underwood has released nine studio LPs and one compilation, four of which peaked at No. 1 on the US Billboard 200, while the rest still entered the top 10.

With a voice like Underwood's, it's no surprise that she's also a substantial touring artist. Throughout 2019, the "Good Girl" powerhouse embarked on a huge world tour across North America and Europe. As reported by Billboard, Underwood's first 20 shows earned her an impressive $17.5 million. From 62 shows, Touring Data revealed that the tour grossed $51,859,737. Now with a huge back catalogue of music, Underwood kicked off her first-ever Las Vegas residency, "Reflection," in December 2021 at Resorts World Theater.

Underwood's talent has also been recognized at award shows, taking home eight Grammy Awards, 16 ACM Awards, 17 American Music Awards, and seven CMA Awards. Per People, she has won 23 CMT Music Awards, a record yet to be broken.

Fantasia Barrino became a leading lady in R&B

Season 3 winner Fantasia Barrino was an instant hit with fans. Her debut single, "I Believe," became her first No. 1 single on the US Hot 100 and has since achieved double platinum status in Canada, per Music Canada. To date, Barrino has released seven studio albums, four of which have entered the top 10 and spent many weeks on the US Billboard 200. Her first LP, "Free Yourself," was certified platinum in the US by RIAA after 1 million sales.

The "When I See U" hitmaker's talent wasn't only recognized by those rooting for her to win, but also by music heavyweights who have since collaborated with the R&B powerhouse. In 2006, Barrino teamed up with OutKast member Big Boi to release the single "Hood Boy," while Kelly Rowland and Missy Elliott featured on her 2013 hit "Without Me." After years of being nominated for Grammy Awards, Barrino finally won a golden trophy for her song "Bittersweet" in 2011 at their 53rd annual ceremony for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times in 2016, Barrino expressed that she still has a lot more to offer the world of music, insisting her career has a "long way to go." She said: "I feel like I'm just getting started. I've been doing it for 12 years ... I'm not going to allow the industry or people to take me out."

Jordin Sparks was an instant hitmaker

In 2007, Jordin Sparks became "American Idol's" youngest-ever winner at 17, per Reuters. Unlike the winners already mentioned, Sparks' international appeal was more instant. Her 2008 self-titled debut album peaked at No. 10 on the US Billboard 200 and remained on the charts for 54 weeks, selling over 1 million copies and being certified platinum by RIAA. The LP's most noteworthy single, "No Air" with Chris Brown, earned the singer a Grammy Award nomination and a top 3 hit in the US and became a No. 1 smash in Australia and New Zealand, per ACharts.

Other hits from the star include "Tattoo," "One Step At A Time," and "Battlefield." Overall, Sparks' music faired well in the U.K., spending a total of 74 weeks in the top 75 singles chart. As noted by USA Today, the "Sparkle" actor has sold over 10 million digital downloads and 1.2 million albums.

Outside of her own material, Sparks has also contributed another major hit. According to SecondHandSongs, she helped pen Ariana Grande's single "The Way," which featured Mac Miller. On the US Hot 100, the song peaked at No. 9 and remained on the charts for six months. Following its huge success, "The Way" has been certified triple platinum by RIAA for selling over 3 million in the U.S. alone and won Sparks a BMI Award. In March 2022, Sparks stated in an Instagram video that the song is "something I'm so proud of."

It seems we can't get enough of Kelly Clarkson

When referring to "American Idol" winners, it's hard not to immediately think of Kelly Clarkson. After all, she was the show's very first winner. Not only did Clarkson pave the way for future stars, she also set the bar really high. Following her win, she's had a two-decade-long career that continues to re-peak. So far, the "Already Gone" hitmaker has had 11 top 10 hits and 3 chart-toppers on the US Hot 100. Clarkson has released nine studio albums to date, three of which debuted at No. 1 on the US Billboard 200.

Out of her 15 Grammy Award nominations, she has taken home three. Per Forbes, Clarkson and Adele both hold the record for being the only female acts to win Best Pop Vocal Album more than once. Internationally, Clarkson's also a powerhouse. In the U.K., she has spent over 243 weeks within the top 75 singles chart and racked up nine top 10 hits as well as a No. 1. As noted by ChartMasters in 2018, she had 34.9 million equivalent album sales around the world. In recent years, it seems everyone still can't get enough of Clarkson, as she collaborated with Ariana Grande in 2021 for a new festive smash titled "Santa, Can You Hear Me."

Reflecting on the 20th anniversary of her "American Idol" win, Clarkson shared on Instagram that "it forever changed the course of my life" and thanked everyone who voted for her.

Ruben Studdard is still grateful for Idol

Season 2 winner Ruben Studdard had a lot of expectations to live up to, especially since his win came straight after Kelly Clarkson's. While the German-born singer's music career hasn't been as sought-after as some of the other contestants', he still found his fair share of success. His 2003 debut album, "Soulful," made its way to the top of the charts on the US Billboard 200 and has been certified platinum by RIAA for over 1 million sales in the U.S. The single, "Superstar," received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. His sophomore release the following year, "I Need an Angel," may have only just managed to peak within the top 20, but its sales of over 500,000 allowed Studdard to earn himself a gold plaque. His third album, "The Return," however, entered the top 10 at No. 8.

It's been a number of years since Studdard last released an album. But he has still remained busy in the world of entertainment. In 2018, he teamed up with "American Idol" runner-up Clay Aiken to make his Broadway debut in "Ruben & Clay's First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show," per Playbill. For "American Idol's" 20th anniversary, Studdard returned to the show with other previous contestants and expressed on Instagram that he is "so thankful that God used this platform to allow my talent to shine!!"

David Cook made some coin from touring

David Cook brought the rock edge to "American Idol" and was crowned Season 7's winner. His first album following the show, "Analog Heart," was a huge success, earning him a platinum certification by RIAA for both the album itself and its lead single, "Light On." While Cook may be considered more of a low-key winner from the show, his net worth is still said to be a whopping $5 million, according to Celebrity Net Worth. In addition to releasing hit records, Cook has made a fortune from touring. As previously reported by Just Richest, Cook's debut tour saw the Missouri-born singer perform 152 shows, where on average he was taking home $46,263 per concert.

In promotion for his 2021 EP, "The Looking Glass," Cook sat down with The Signal and discussed how "American Idol" impacted him as an artist. "I think my experience with Idol reinforced my confidence in my ability. To have something of that caliber acknowledge me as a singer and performer was huge," he explained. "I've been riding that wave ever since. Not with arrogance or anything. Just knowing that I can bring something to the table, creatively."

Scotty McCreery is a big country star

Scotty McCreery is one of "American Idol's" more recent success stories, selling over 5 million albums, per Music Mayhem Magazine. After winning Season 10, the North Carolina-born singer has proven to be one of country music's most noteworthy stars. To date, McCreery has released five studio albums, three of which reached the top spot on the US Top Country Albums chart. However, his debut, "Clear as Day," outsold every album from all genres in its first week, debuting at No. 1 on the US Billboard 200. According to Billboard, he became the first country artist in history to go straight to the top with a debut record. At age 18, McCreery was also the youngest male to ever achieve this and the first "Idol" winner in eight years to hit the top spot with their first album.

Outside of the charts, McCreery has taken home several prestigious awards. After receiving the New Artist of the Year award at the American Country Awards in 2011, he won Breakthrough Artist of the Year two years later, per UMG Nashville. At the 2012 CMT Music Awards, McCreery was awarded USA Weekend Breakthrough Video of the Year for "The Trouble with Girls."

In an interview with Smooth Radio, the "This Is It" hitmaker said that if his success ever ended, he would still continue as a performer. "No matter if it's five people listening or 5,000 — I'll be singing. I love what I do," he explained.

The debut single from Phillip Phillips topped multiple charts

Season 12 winner Phillip Phillips has one of the most recognizable hits from the past decade. His debut 2012 single, "Home," saw him instantly hit it big and out-sell many of his competition. As reported by Billboard, he earned the highest debut on the Digital Songs chart in May 2012 with 278,000 sales from just downloads. According to the outlet, it had the second-biggest digital sales week out of all the previous "American Idol" winners, behind Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson. On the US Hot 100, "Home" peaked at No. 6 and reached the top spot on the Adult Contemporary, Adult Pop Airplay, and Adult Alternative Airplay charts. For its 4 million sales in the U.S., it has been certified four-times platinum by RIAA.

Out of Phillips' three studio albums, two of them have entered the top 10 on the US Billboard 200. His first LP, "The World from the Side of the Moon," has gone platinum for selling over 1 million copies. In addition to "Home," the record also contained another big hit, titled "Gone, Gone, Gone."

Phillips is still active on the music scene and currently has over 3.5 million monthly listeners on Spotify. In a 2015 interview with Isthmus, he explained where he would like to see his career continue in the following years. "I just want to keep gaining fans for years to come and be able to tour like Bruce Springsteen," he said.