The second batch of my top ‘Idol’ contestants to date features five season champs and one Oscar winner. This post also features four contestants from season 3, which is also my favorite season to date. Check out 20-11 below to see where your favorites rank.
20. Fantasia Barrino (Season 3 – 1st Place)
Even though Fantasia cried and broke her shoe during her crowning ‘Idol’ moment, she had a rough season up against the likes of LaToya London and Diana DeGarmo, who both placed first twice during their stint on the show. I really love Fantasia’s voice, but ‘Idol’ wasn’t the best place to showcase her real talent. Luckily for us fans, Fantasia’s fourth album ‘The Side Effects Of You’ hits stores on March 12, 2013.
Favorite Performance: Julie Andrews’s “What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life” (Big Band Week)
19. Allison Iraheta (Season 8 – 4th Place)
Rock/pop starlet Allison Iraheta was known as the “female Adam Lambert” with her raspy, strong performances. For most of her ‘Idol’ tenure, she chose stadium-like ballads that won her a spot in the top four of the eighth season. After releasing her debut album ‘Just Like You’ in 2009, she opened for Lambert on his 2010 ‘Glam Nation Live’ tour.
Favorite Performance: Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (Year They Were Born Week)
18. Diana DeGarmo (Season 3 – 2nd Place)
Despite week after week of #fashionmishaps, Diana DeGarmo was the only singer in season 3 that was seen as Fantasia’s weekly direct competition. Her powerful, Celine-esque vocals brought a shattering high-note to American living rooms each week, respectfully earning her #runnerupstatus. DeGarmo has released one debut album (‘Blue Skies’) produced by Kara DioGuardi and has a recurring role on ‘The Young And The Restless’. She plans to marry season 5 veteran (7th place) Ace Young this June.
Favorite Performance: Melissa Manchester’s “Don’t Cry Out Loud” (Clive Davis Week)
17. Phillip Phillips (Season 11 – 1st Place)
Phillip Phillips, the most recent winner of ‘Idol’ is without question one of the best male vocalists to come from the show. His Southern twang brought new spins to soul and rock classics such as Usher’s “U Got It Bad” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. Phillips was also the only male on his season that never reached the bottom 3. His first single “Home” is the best-selling coronation single from any ‘Idol’, surpassing Fantasia’s “I Believe” by a groundbreaking two million copies.
Favorite Performance: Maroon 5’s “Give A Little More” (Songs From The 2010s Week)
16. George Huff (Season 3 – 5th Place)
George brought an adult contemporary vocal to the show’s third season, as his mature song choices won the hearts of older voters each week. Huff was a favorite of all three judges, but especially Paula, referring to him as “the next Luther Vandross”. Post-Idol, George has been a staple back-up singer for Jennifer Hudson since the release of her self-titled debut in 2008. He has also released a gospel album which was nominated for an NAACP Image Award.
Favorite Performance: Billy Paul’s “Me And Mrs. Jones” (Season 3 Soul Classics Album)
15. Katharine McPhee (Season 5 – 2nd Place)
Katharine McPhee definitely should’ve won her season with her powerhouse voice. I loved that she was brave enough to take on so many Whitney Houston songs, and also the fact that she wasn’t afraid to cry with her more emotional performances. Currently, McPhee stars on the NBC musical show ‘Smash’.
Favorite Performance: Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” (Love Songs Week)
14. Nikko Smith (Season 4 – 9th Place)
Dubbed the ‘Comeback Kid’, Nikko Smith was originally voted off during the semi-finals of the fourth season. Due to Mario Vasquez leaving the show, Simon Cowell personally invited Smith to return to the competition, rightfully earning a spot in the top 12. Nikko’s smooth vocals and dance moves reminded me of an early Ne-Yo, and placed second during his first week on the live voting shows. To date, Nikko has released one self-produced album entitled ‘Revolution’ and has a large fanbase on Youtube following his string of modern R&B covers.
Favorite Performance: Stevie Wonder’s “All I Do” (First Audition)
13. Kelly Clarkson (Season 1 – 1st Place)
Kelly Clarkson’s win on the first season of ‘Idol’ will always be historic, as she set the landscape for future winners of the competition. The then-unknown soul vocalist belted out some of R&B’s biggest classics and won my heart over early in the season. Her Post-Idol career has been especially massive, as each of her albums reached double-platinum status (or beyond) as well as multiple Grammy Nominations (and two wins to date).
Favorite Performance: Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” (Finale Week)
12. Carrie Underwood (Season 4 – 1st Place)
Season four winner Carrie Underwood might have been raised in the country, but her true musical roots lie within being a soul singer. It’s the mesh of the two genres that made Underwood successful on ‘Idol’, as she was the first female to win first place four weeks in a row. After the show, Carrie went on to produce four platinum albums and also won five Grammys (including 2007’s Best New Artist).
Favorite Performance: Heart’s “Alone” (Billboard Number Ones Week)
11. Jennifer Hudson (Season 3 – 7th Place)
For me, Jennifer Hudson didn’t get a chance to showcase her true singing abilities on a platform such as ‘Idol’. The week she was in the bottom three alongside Fantasia and LaToya, it was clear she was the worst of the three despite all of their talents. Either way, Hudson has shown that sometimes you don’t need to win a competition to prove your worth, as she joins an elite margin of artists who have won both Grammys and Oscars.
Favorite Performance: Elton John’s “The Circle of Life” (Elton John Week)