American Idol Contestants Fans Wanted To Win It All

"American Idol" premiered in 2002, bringing singers from around the country in front of the camera to show their talent and prove they had everything it takes to become the next singing star. Led by host Ryan Seacrest and judges Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, and Randy Jackson, it quickly became a fan-favorite contest.

For two decades, fans have been talking about the show, their favorite contestants, and the most embarrassing moments. As social media grew, so did their comments on different platforms, praising the show. The fandom became very vocal about their opinions. "'American Idol' keeps getting even better with each passing episode and week," a fan once gushed on Twitter.

With new judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie brought in the mix in 2018, the singing competition continues to succeed. They have crowned singers like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Kris Allen, but there are other talented singers the fans wish would have won it all.

Fans adored Clay Aiken's personality

Clay Aiken was a contestant during "American Idol" Season 2 and fans were sad when he didn't become the winner. Although many outlets mention him on their lists of contestants who should have won, the biggest support comes from fans who continue to have discussions about how watching him win would have been great. One user on Reddit declared, "He had more personality and stage presence than his Top 2 opponent ... Aiken would have had maybe two successful singles before venturing into other areas such as activism and acting."

Activism has certainly kept the singer in the spotlight in recent years, however. In 2022, Aiken announced he was running for Congress, and his first campaign stop was on "The View." When asked why he decided to run, Aiken shared, "We've gotten so divided over the past six years, even more so than we were in 2014 ... It just really upsets me that our state has become represented by these people who don't represent me."

Chris Daughtry did just fine without winning American Idol

Losing "American Idol" doesn't mean you won't have a successful career, and Chris Daughtry is living proof of that. Since his appearance on Season 5, Daughtry has toured the world with his band — and continues to do so.

But even with his incredible success, fans of the show still talk about how deserving he was of the title during his season. Some Reddit users have added Daughtry to their lists of people who should have won, while another user reminisced, "Season 5 was an iconic season, and one that many remember. Daughtry was my favorite of the guys that season, and he brought it to a new level each week."

In 2009, Daughtry was asked by "WSYD 1300" if he believed winning the title would have changed anything about his career and success. "No. I don't know how it could have got any better. We've sold almost six million records. So I'm not sure where the title makes that any better."

Adam Lambert's performances wowed viewers

In 2020, one Reddit user mentioned Adam Lambert as someone who should have won Season 8, "Adam. I have to say though when rewatching I started appreciating Kris a lot more and I can see why he won, whereas at the time I was shocked it wasn't Adam." And the feeling resonated with many.

During his time on "American Idol," Lambert's love and admiration for Lady Gaga was obvious. "I would love to get a $20 Lady Gaga ticket," he said when asked by "iHeartRadio" what show he would like to see if he had to choose one. But this man needs no tickets to Lady Gaga as he has achieved one of his biggest dreams and performed with her and Queen on stage. Of the latter, his collaboration with the legendary band began in 2011, and he's performed with the "Bohemian Rhapsody" hitmakers on and off in the years since. Just like Chris Daughtry, he continues to tour the world with his music, putting on incredibly impressive shows.

Haley Reinhart was a fan-favorite

During Season 10 of "American Idol," there were some extremely angry fans when it came to Haley Reinhart's loss – particularly with judge Jennifer Lopez. "The reason why I hate JLO so much was because of the unfair treatment they had with Haley. She was obviously the best singer in the top 3 and should have won," announced one Reddit user. But they weren't the only ones upset. Another fan shared, "Haley was hands down the best. Terrible winner: Casey, Lauren, Paul were all better than Scotty."

However, after Reinhart's appearance, she signed a record deal with Interscope Records. Sadly, in 2012 it was revealed that she was dropped from the label. Lucky for her fans, this hasn't stopped the artist from releasing new music and putting on concerts around the US.

A lot of the crooner's success came from an Elvis cover of "Can't Help Falling in Love" that she did, which radios picked up. "With Elvis ... I knew that commercial would pretty much blow up, but I didn't expect it to get to radio and have it be such a nice precursor to the album coming up and it's just been incredible," she told "106.7 LITE FM."

Fans echoed Simon Cowell's sentiments about Elliott Yamin

Aside from Chris Daughtry, Season 5 of "American Idol" brought other names to the list of contestants who should have gone home with the title. One of them was Elliott Yamin who first auditioned singing "A Song for You" by Donny Hathaway.

Many fans voiced their disgruntled opinions that Yamin should have been the winner. "I love his voice a lot and I thought [he had] one of the best voices in 'American Idol' ever. 'A Song For You' just like what Simon said is a vocal masterclass," declared one Reddit user.

Since his time on "American Idol," Yamin has been a vocal activist for diabetes as he has Type 1 Diabetes. "I'm a positive guy, I like to put out good vibes. And I like to get out as much as I can about diabetes and helping bring it to the forefront and do my part," he shared with "Diabetes Health TV." In 2010, he had a scary experience while in Santiago, Chile, where he was stranded after an earthquake and worried he didn't have enough insulin. As he explained to ABC News, "For those with Type 1 diabetes, running out of insulin becomes extremely dangerous within a day or two."

David Archuleta's longtime fans still love his music

When NPR made their list of "American Idol" contestants who should have won, they were quick to mention Season 7 contestant David Archuleta for having come in second place and still having a singing career. However, his success didn't stop fans from taking to social media to discuss how disappointed they were that he didn't take home the title. "I wanted David Archuleta to win, his voice is incredible... Still a big fan, his new album, 'Therapy Sessions,' is soulful pop at its finest," one user mused on Reddit.

His career has grown since the competition, becoming a very successful singer. Archuleta has also used his platform to discuss topics of importance. In 2021, he did so when he came out as queer. The conversation for him centered around his sexuality and his religious upbringing, something a lot of queer individuals struggle with. He told Good Morning America, "You're trying to decide what's worse. Is it worse for this feeling of being desiring men to finally explode where I can't control it anymore and you look at it as that's Satan trying to take over my soul? Or is it better for me to end my life and, that way, I'm free from that temptation?"

To this day, fans think about Jennifer Hudson's performances

Jennifer Hudson is probably one of the biggest names to come out of "American Idol." Even though she didn't take the trophy home, she has led an extremely successful career that includes an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for 2006's "Dreamgirls." She has also won an Emmy and Grammy (among other awards), adding Hudson to the exclusive club of EGOT winners.

Besides being on several world-renowned movies, Hudson became the host of her own TV show in 2022: "The Jennifer Hudson Show." Even so, people still talk about her performance on "American Idol" and how deserving she was of the title. "Hudson's ambition and ability to sing anything from classic soul to pop made her a household name in the third season," said one Reddit user.

On the "Late Show with David Letterman,"  Letterman himself declared that "America clearly was wrong" when Hudson joined him in 2006 to discuss "Dreamgirls." "You're not even the big winner on 'American Idol' and you steal the whole movie," he told the singer. As we all know, she has stolen many movies and shows since then.

Alex Preston's Ed Sheeran comparison

"Season 13 should've been Alex Preston," announced one Reddit user about the Season 13 contestant in 2020. "He was riding the wave of the singer songwriter that Ed Sheeran and Mumford had started riding, and I think he genuinely could've done a lot in the music industry with the right people behind him but his career has been tough to follow on the internet at least," they added. 

Although Preston didn't take the title home, life has been smiling at him ever since. In 2021, he announced through Instagram that he was engaged to his best friend. Emily Philbrick has been his partner since he was part of "American Idol" and has watched his career grow — adorable, we know. In November 2022, the two finally tied the knot and the singer/songwriter celebrated it with an Instagram post that read, "time for a lifetime of adventures."

However, his personal life isn't the only thing thriving. In 2019, the singer took to Facebook to celebrate an Emmy win. "Still stoked about winning this Emmy from the [New England Emmy Awards] ceremony this weekend," he gushed, adding how blessed he felt.

Viewers thought Melinda Doolittle was 'flawless'

It is indisputable that Jordin Sparks was the well-deserved winner of "American Idol" Season 6 at the age of 17 — making her the youngest winner in the show's history, as of this writing. "I can't thank you for keeping me around. And thank you so much for everything," said the then-teenager when she won. Nevertheless, there were some fans who would have chosen other singers to take home the title.

There were quite a few vocal fans who spoke about this on social media, mentioning none other than Melinda Doolittle who was the third place finalist. "She was flawless. Amazing song choices and has perfect phrasing in every song she sings. 'My Funny Valentine' is still one of my favorite performances," wrote one user on Reddit.

The songstress has also carried on her career by going on tour in the US — which she does to this day. Through it all, she always remembers where she started. "'Idol' not only changed my life, it changed our culture. It involved the viewer in the process, and because of that, I have people all over the world who have a personal connection to me and my music," Doolittle shared with Buzzfeed.

Casey Abrams was a topic of discussion

"American Idol" Season 10 stirred up the conversation as fans all over the country wanted different contestants to win. Scotty McCreery was a talented winner, but more than one contestant caught everyone's attention. Casey Abrams was one of those who people believed deserved better than he got.

One "American Idol" viewer shared on Reddit that Abrams was the reason they started watching the show in the first place. "I love his vocals and his musical abilities and was captivated by his performance ability ... While he has enjoyed smaller forms of success since the show I do wonder what he could've been with a major label behind him." The user then went on to muse that Season 10 had multiple people who would have seen better professional success had they won the competition.

It is true that since his season aired, Abrams has found musical success on his own. He has done several concerts in which he delights the audience with his voice and his incredible talent playing different instruments. As for his time on the show, Abrams told PopMatters that he got over his initial nerves, and embraced the amount of listeners exposed to his music. "I felt like I could stand out from those ten thousand people," he recalled.

Pia Toscano feels incredibly 'privileged' after American Idol

Joining Casey Abrams and Haley Reinhart on the list of Season 10 contestants who should have won is Pia Toscano. Many outlets included her in their roundups of contestants who should have won and labeled her exit as surprising. However, they weren't the only ones to be shocked after the news. Fans took to Reddit to discuss the loss as well, with one user putting Toscano as their number one contender of people who should have won "American Idol." 

Toscano finally released her first album titled "I'm Good" in 2022. Upon its release, many listeners found the eponymous single from her album to be incredibly empowering. When describing the album she told "KTLA 5 Morning News," "It's just basically the soundtrack to the past few years of my life."

Those past few years of her life have definitely been marked by her participation in the singing contest, and Toscano recognized this when she spoke to Buzzfeed, "Without 'American Idol,' many of us wouldn't have been privileged with the opportunities that show presented us with, and I am forever grateful."

Katharine McPhee reminisced about her time on American Idol with Kelly Clarkson

Katharine McPhee joined Jennifer Hudson on the list of "American Idol" contestants who also ended up taking over the screen. After her appearance on Season 5 and being the runner-up, McPhee appeared on several TV shows including "CSI: NY," "Community," "Country Comfort," and "Smash" for 32 episodes as Karen Cartwright.

Although she has gone on to have incredible success, fans of the singing competition remember her fondly and believe she should have taken the title home with her. "She's still one of my favourite contestants from all seasons," said one user on Reddit.

When she joined "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson on "The Kelly Clarkson Show" in 2021, the two reminisced about what it was like to be on such a huge show compared to what the singing competition is now. "We were all in [what seemed like a] camp together, in high school together, or like a performing arts school together ... I think especially back then, too, they made it so hard," she recalled, with Clarkson enthusiastically agreeing. 

American Idol fans are still discussing Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon

"American Idol" has definitely come a long way from when it started back in 2002, but the pull it has on the audience and the discussions surrounding the show have remained strong. The newer contestants make it on discussion boards, as well with fans who continue to voice who they believe should have won many moons ago.

The name Jeremiah Lloyd Harmon comes up quite often on social media, with several Reddit users mentioning him. "Leagues above the rest vocally, made great choices, one of the most undeserved eliminations in recent history. Probably rivals Pia in how undeserved it was," one fan remembered. Since leaving "American Idol," Harmon has released several EPs and singles, and performed in different states across the US.

Harmon's time on "American Idol" also left a huge impact on fans because of his coming out journey and the relationship with his family as the son of a pastor. "I think everybody was a little jolted by how transparent I was being," he shared with Yahoo! Entertainment. "I even surprised myself in some ways. It's kind of been an all-at-once experience. None of us, me or my family, have ever been in the public eye like this before. So I think everyone is just processing it in their own way, and at their own pace," Harmon added.