A countdown of "American Idol" alums' biggest Hot 100 hits ever - and the untold stories behind the songs.
"And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going" - Jennifer Hudson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 60 (2007)
Producer Harvey Mason, Jr. had already recorded most of the "Dreamgirls" soundtrack when Jennifer Hudson was cast as Effie White, a role played by Jennifer Holliday on the Broadway stage. "We wanted to stand apart from the Jennifer Holliday version," Mason says. "We took great care to be similar but we wanted to do our own version of the song." Hudson came to the studio and performed the song perfectly in one take. "One woman sitting in the studio started crying after Jennifer's performance," Mason recalls. "I looked over at the director, Bill Condon, and said, 'What are we going to do now?'"
"Baby Mama" – Fantasia
Hot 100 Peak: No. 60 (2005)
This was a very personal song for Fantasia, who was 17 when she became pregnant with her daughter. Some found the lyrics controversial but Fantasia pointed out it was not about encouraging teen motherhood. The writing credits included the team of Barbara Acklin and Eugene Record because the track samples their 1974 composition, "There Will Never Be Any Peace (Until God Is Seated at the Conference Table)," No. 63 on the Hot 100 for Record's group, the Chi-Lites.
"Heartless" - Kris Allen
Hot 100 Peak: No. 16 (2009)
Asked why he chose to sing this song on "Idol," Allen explains, "Adam [Lambert] and I would always run ideas by each other and I asked him, 'What if I did "Heartless" by Kanye?' and he said, 'I think it would be genius.' That gave me the confidence to run with it. And seriously, once I got into it, it was one of the easiest things that I've done. I just played it my way and sang it my way."
"Low" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 58 (2003)
Jimmy Harry had a falling out with his girlfriend. "I went and got drunk and when I woke up, the chorus was there on my computer. I thought no one is ever going to do that song. I played it acoustically for my publisher. He wanted me to demo the song. I avoided it, but finally it got cut. I hadn't thought about who should sing it, but knew it should be pitched more to girls. Danielle Brisebois, who wrote 'Unwritten,' did me a favor and sang on the demo." Harry wasn't that familiar with Clarkson. "I didn't know anything about her. I had seen one show. I thought, 'If somebody's going to do that song, cool.'"
"This Is My Now" - Jordin Sparks
Hot 100 Peak: No. 15 (2007)
Jeff Peabody was a worship leader and then a pastor when he started writing songs with a member of his congregation, Scott Krippayne. Peabody was watching season six of "American Idol" and saw the announcement of a songwriting contest to pick the coronation song for the winner. He told Krippayne they should enter, and they submitted a song called "Don’t You Dare." Then Peabody asked Krippayne if they should take one more shot. "Jeff sent me a good portion of the lyric. I came up with the melody and we finished it through phone and email. He sent me the lyric one morning and I was doing the demo by the end of the day." Peabody adds, "It was surreal, hearing we made it through each different round." When their song was named the winner, the two writers were flown to Los Angeles to be interviewed by the press and walk the red carpet at the season finale.
"Dreams" - Diana DeGarmo
Hot 100 Peak: No. 14 (2004)
Even though DeGarmo was only 16 years old when she recorded this song with producer Desmond Child, the session was a reunion for both of them. She was a seventh grader when a mutual friend arranged for her to audition for Child in his West Palm Beach home, singing "My Heart Will Go On" in his living room. "I always wanted to record one of his songs but it didn't happen until four years later, when I was on 'Idol,'" says DeGarmo.
"You Give Love a Bad Name" - Blake Lewis
Hot 100 Peak: No. 18 (2007)
"I've never been into Bon Jovi but I loved that song," says Lewis. "Not the original, but the remix Orbital did in a mash-up with Belinda Carlisle. Dave [Bryan] and Richie [Sambora] were stoked because they have kids and actually watch ["Idol"]. Jon Bon Jovi was skeptical, probably thinking, 'He's going to ruin my song,' which was very legitimate. I did this 12-bar beatbox breakdown in the middle of his rock song. I did the whole thing half time. I cut out half the bass line and put keyboards in it. I had so much fun – I arranged all my own music on the show."
"Come Back to Me" - David Cook
Hot 100 Peak: No. 63 (2009)
"'If you love something let it go' is always a romantic sentiment," says Cook. "I still love the arc of this song. It was written by a good friend of mine, Zac Malloy, along with Espionage (the Norwegian production team of Espen Lind and Amund Bjørklund). I knew Zac before 'Idol' when we both lived in Tulsa for a minute." Cook credits the songwriters as well as producer Rob Cavallo for the success of "Come Back to Me." "The song starts so delicately very sweet and gradually builds and builds and builds."
"No Boundaries" - Kris Allen
Hot 100 Peak: No. 11 (2009)
For the first time in the series' history, an "Idol" judge wrote the season finale coronation song. "[Executive producer] Simon Fuller asked me if I wanted to take a stab at it," says Kara DioGuardi, who joined the show in season eight. "It was a disaster," she says candidly. "They put me together with Cathy Dennis. It was an odd pairing and it didn't gel. The writing process was not easy. The main problem is that it was written for a female. If Alison [Iraheta] had won, it would have been a different story." Instead, the song was recorded by both Kris Allen and Adam Lambert. "It wasn't the guys' fault," DioGuardi believes. "The vocal range worked really well for a female but not a male. It was not the high point of my life."
"The Trouble with Girls" - Scotty McCreery
Hot 100 Peak: No. 55 (2012)
Chris Tompkins almost always writes songs in his own Nashville office, but when Philip White called and invited him to his place, Tompkins thought a change of scenery would be good. When he arrived at White's office at Universal Music, he found that White had the title "The Trouble with Girls" and the first verse. "He sang the melody to me and I sat down at the piano and we fell into a chorus that sounded like a hit. We didn't have Scotty in mind. We were just writing a song." Tompkins did a piano vocal for the demo, which White produced. They were happy that McCreery recorded it. "Whenever I would talk to my family or people from my hometown, they said they were watching Scotty on 'American Idol.' He's got this confidence thing going for him and he loves what he does. And girls like that deep voice."