A countdown of "American Idol" alums' biggest Hot 100 hits ever - and the untold stories behind the songs.
"Just a Dream" - Carrie Underwood
Hot 100 Peak: No. 29 (2008)
"Gordie Sampson, Steven McEwan and I would camp out and just write," says Hillary Lindsey. "I think the music was [composed previously]. We had the music and the melody and the verses started flying out. It was clear it was about a girl going to a wedding but she was really going to a funeral. I called my mom about what you put in a shoe. If I'm writing a redneck song about rednecks fishing, I'll call my dad. We had the chorus with the hook, 'It was just a dream.' We were worried it was too clichéd, but then decided who cares if it's a cliché, when it's the truth."
"Catch My Breath" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 19 (2013)
Eric Olson scrapped seven early versions of this song before he finally came up with the opening piano part. "It was a two-week process to get the riff," he says, "and then it only took four or five hours to get the music down." After he and Clarkson's musical director, Jason Halbert, wrote the music they sent the song to Clarkson. "Within a day or two, she had the full song written." Two weeks later, they recorded "Breath" during Clarkson's tour rehearsals. "Kelly was on crutches," Olson remembers. "So she sang the whole song sitting down. Even her worst takes were amazing – she was in and out in an hour and a half."
"I Told You So" - Carrie Underwood ft. Randy Travis
Hot 100 Peak: No. 9 (2009)
Travis first appeared on the Hot 100 in 1998 but he never reached the top 10 until his duet with Underwood peaked at No. 9 in 2009. He first cut his self-penned "I Told You So" in 1983, on a live album he recorded as Randy Ray. A studio version appeared on his 1988 album "Always & Forever" and a single went to No. 1 on the country chart. It was one of Underwood's favorite songs growing up and she recorded a cover version for her album "Carnival Ride." First issued as a solo single, it was quickly followed by a duet version that paired Underwood with Travis.
"I'll Stand By You" - Carrie Underwood
Hot 100 Peak: No. 6 (2007)
Billy Steinberg was a huge fan of the Pretenders and Chrissie Hynde and dreamt of working with her but thought she was too self-contained to collaborate with outside writers. "Tom Kelly and I threw out the idea that we would like to write for her and she said she wanted a hit and was open to writing with us." The result was "I'll Stand By You," which peaked at No. 16 in 1994. Some 13 years later, Underwood's single debuted at No. 6 after she performed it on the first "Idol Gives Back," during the sixth season of the Fox-TV series. Over 300,000 downloads were sold during the brief period the song was available, with all profits going to charity.
"Feels Like Tonight" - Daughtry
Hot 100 Peak: No. 24 (2008)
Chris Daughtry's initial reaction to "Feels Like Tonight" was that he didn't want to record it. "But I ended up loving the song. It has such a great melody with a simple lyric. Once I started singing it, I realized it's actually a fun song to sing." It was the fourth single to chart from Daughtry's debut album and the first not to list Chris in the writing credits. It was also the only single from the album to miss the top 20 of the Hot 100, peaking at No. 24.
"I Do Not Hook Up" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 20 (2009)
Katy Perry and Greg Wells were working on this song before Perry signed with Capitol, and then it was finished much later. "Katy came over to my house and we sat on the kitchen floor and wrote the rest of it," says Kara DioGuardi. "Kelly changed one of the lines. She wouldn't say, 'keep your thing in your pants.'" The new lyric: "Keep your hand in my hand."
"Spotlight" - Jennifer Hudson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 24 (2008)
After her success with "Dreamgirls," Hudson was signed to Arista. The first single from her debut album was written by Ne-Yo with Mikkel Eriksen and Tor Erik Hermanson, the two members of the Norwegian production team known as Stargate. "Spotlight" spent two weeks at No. 1 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. Hudson is only the second Idol to top this chart, after Fantasia, who did it with "When I See U."
"Undo It" - Carrie Underwood
Hot 100 Peak: No. 23 (2010)
Kara DioGuardi, Marti Frederikson, Luke Laird and Carrie Underwood wrote "Undo It" and the follow-up, "Mama's Song," in one five-hour stretch. "Undo It" was born in DioGuardi's bathroom. "I had this idea in the shower, put it down on my Dictaphone, brought it in and Carrie really liked it," says DioGuardi. The session marked the first time DioGuardi met Underwood and they spent part of the five hours just getting to know each other. "It's important to talk and make sure you have a common denominator, that you've gone through similar experiences," says DioGuardi. "We ordered some wine. We needed to vibe, and open up a dialogue on subjects everyone's been through."
"So Small" - Carrie Underwood
Hot 100 Peak: No. 17 (2007)
Luke Laird remembers the second day he got together with Hillary Lindsey and Carrie Underwood to write songs. "Hillary was playing mandolin and I was playing guitar." Lindsey explains, "I can't really play the mandolin but I can make a sound. I started playing a lick while Luke was on the phone and he pointed at me to keep playing so I wouldn't forget it. We had a melody but no idea. A friend's father had passed away and as we were talking, someone said, 'That's what matters. It makes everything else so small.'" Laird continues: "I woke up in the middle of the night, put on my headphones, listened to it and thought, 'This feels really special.'"
"Inside Your Heaven" - Bo Bice
Hot 100 Peak: No. 2 (2005)
When this single debuted at No. 2 on the Hot 100 the week of July 9, 2005, Carrie Underwood's version of the same song fell 1-3. It was the first time in the history of this chart that the same song occupied two of the top three positions. "I had to stand toe-to-toe with Carrie on the finale, singing the same song," says Bice. "Her version was so impressive and that's definitely when I realized what a tough competition this was."