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The Best-Selling Non-Winning 'American Idol' Finalists
As rumors abound over Pia Toscano's possible record deal with Interscope (and, in juicier news, an alleged romance with a fellow reality show hopeful), "American Idol" viewers this week face the first episode following the power ballad vocalist's surprising elimination Thursday (April 7).
Still, Toscano can find comfort in the impressive sales - and additional achievements - of prior "Idol" contestants who fell short of donning the contest's crown.
Here is a look at the five best-selling non-winning "American Idol" finalists ranked by total U.S. album sales, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
5, Jennifer Hudson
Not only has Hudson twice reached No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, with "Jennifer Hudson" (2008) and "I Remember Me" (two weeks ago), but she also won an Academy Award and a Golden Globe following her big screen introduction in "Dreamgirls" in 2006. Hudson finished seventh in the third season of "American Idol" in 2004.
4, David Archuleta
Despite placing second to David Cook in the series' 2008 campaign, Archuleta logged a higher Billboard peak (No. 2) with his self-titled debut album than Cook (No. 3) (although Cook's album has sold more: 1.3 million to 765,000). Archuleta has also charted higher on the Billboard Hot 100; his "Crush" peaked at No. 2, Cook's "The Time of My Life," No. 3.
3, Kellie Pickler
Bowing out as the sixth-place finalist in the 2006 "American Idol" season didn't dampen Pickler's chart fortunes. Both of her studio albums, "Small Town Girl" (2006) and "Kellie Pickler" (2008), have topped Billboard's Country Albums chart (and tallied matching No. 9 Billboard 200 peaks). She wrote her top-charting Country Songs hit, "Best Days of Your Life" (No. 9, 2009), with newly-anointed Academy of Country Music Entertainer of the Year (and video co-star) Taylor Swift.
2, Clay Aiken
Ruben Studdard (with sales of 2.6 million) claimed the 2003 "Idol" title, but the feats of Clay, in addition to a best-selling book and acting roles on network TV and Broadway, include five top 10 Billboard 200 albums, the most among all of the series' competitors. Aiken's "This Is the Night" (two weeks, 2003) is the only song by a non-victorious "Idol" finalist to rule the Hot 100.
Led by Chris Daughtry, who, like Toscano, endured an unexpected early exit in the 2006 season, finishing fourth, the band has topped the Billboard 200 with each of its studio albums: "Daughtry" (2007) and "Leave This Town" (2009). Among all "Idol" finalists, only 2002 victor Kelly Clarkson (10.7 million) and 2005 queen, and overall top-seller, Carrie Underwood (12.3 million) have totaled higher U.S. album sales.