When a singer wins "American Idol," it's undoubtedly his or her biggest music moment to-date. But as we've seen time and time again, winning "Idol" does not necessarily mean that one's career will follow the trajectories of
Album Sales: 222,000 Track Sales: 295,000 Radio Plays: 2,000 YouTube Plays: 1,308,832
Mama Sox was described as a breath of fresh air to many during her run on "Idol" season nine, recalling the likes of Janis Joplin, Tracy Chapman and other soulful, bluesy females. The Ohioan released debut record "Farmer's Daughter" in 2010, and the album debuted at No. 28 on the Billboard 200. Though quiet in the months since, Bowersox recently took to Twitter, explaining, "I tend to hush up when I'm in focused creative mode." Does that mean a new album is in the works? Stay tuned.
Album Sales: 241,000 Track Sales: 340,000 Radio Plays: 246,000 YouTube Plays: 615,281
Post-"Idol," Locke has scored three No. 1s on both the Hot Adult Contemporary (all Christmas covers) and Dance/Club Play ("Fall," "Change," "Band of Gold") song charts. In 2011, Locke created a new entertainment company, I AM Entertainment, through which she released a four-song EP in July; before that, she was the first artist to "Idol" judge Randy Jackson's dance label, DreamMerchant21.
Album Sales: 332,000 Track Sales: 472,000 Radio Plays: 18,000 YouTube Plays: 4,313,326
The 17-year-old season 10 runner-up has created a commendable career since "Idol" ended. Described as the lovechild of "Idol" alums Carrie Underwood and Kellie Pickler, Alaina released her No. 5-debuting "Wildflower" in October 2011 through Interscope/Mercury Nashville. Alaina, who has so far released two singles ("Like My Mother Does" and "Georgia Peaches"), is currently out on the road alongside Jason Aldean on his My Kinda Party tour.
Album Sales: 370,000 Track Sales: 819,000 Radio Plays: 12,000 YouTube Plays: 422,759
The sixth season runner-up scored a No. 1 single on Billboard's Hot Dance Club Play chart in 2010 with "Heartbreak On Vinyl," but has been fairly quiet in more recent months. The singer/beatboxer did, however, lend his voice to the English dub of the anime "Durarara!!", which aired last year on Cartoon Network.
Album Sales: 433,000 Track Sales: 811,000 Radio Plays: 386,000 YouTube Plays: 319,493
The long-haired heartthrob of season five was more of a rocker during his stint on the show, but Bucky Covington has transitioned into a different genre altogether since his departure -- country. His 2007 self-titled debut produced three top-20 singles ("A Different World," "It's Good to Be Us" and "I'll Walk") on the Hot Country Songs chart, and the 34-year-old has scored three more moderate hits in the format since.
Album Sales: 456,000 Track Sales: 1,484,000 Radio Plays: 42,000 YouTube Plays: 13,886,703
Though she still has a hand in music, McPhee has recently begun a transition into a whole new medium: acting. Following a role in the 2008 film "The House Bunny" and guest spots on TV, the 27-year-old currently stars (and shows off her pipes plenty) in the NBC musical drama "Smash," which premiered to positive reviews for McPhee and co. earlier this month. The 2006 "Idol" runner-up to Taylor Hicks scaled the Pop Songs chart with "Over It" in 2007 before segueing into a more adult sound on her sophomore album in 2010.
Album Sales: 755,000 Track Sales: 545,000 Radio Plays: 127,000 YouTube Plays: 110,424
The long-haired runner-up to Carrie Underwood has released three albums since leaving "Idol," with 2006 single "The Real Thing" a modest hit. His most recent album, "3," featured fifth season finalist Melinda Doolittle on one track. In October, Bice became the first celebrity contestant to win the grand prize on "Don't Forget the Lyrics," earning $50,000 for his charity, MusiCares.
Album Sales: 765,000 Track Sales: 369,000 Radio Plays: 20,000 YouTube Plays: 119,132
Perhaps the unlikeliest "Idol" winner ever, the Soul Patrol leader most recently released sophomore album, "The Distance," in 2009. Since his tenure on the show, Hicks has performed as the "Teen Angel" in the Broadway and touring productions of "Grease" and appeared on "Late Night with Jimmy Fallon" last April, performing Rebecca Black's "Friday" with Stephen Colbert."
Album Sales: 797,000 Track Sales: 1,295,000 Radio Plays: 681,000 YouTube Plays: 628,055
Before Carrie Underwood ran up 11 No. 1s (to date) on Billboard's Country Songs chart, this former Marine served as the format's first "Idol" ambassador, leading the list with "Nothin' to Lose" in 2005. Gracin was dropped from his label in 2009, and third album "Redemption" was released by indie label Average Joe's last November.
Album Sales: 1,107,000 Track Sales: 1,281,000 Radio Plays: 76,000 YouTube Plays: 13,313,012
The tenth season victor is one of the most successful "Idol" contestants in recent years, with his debut "Clear as Day" already achieving Platinum status by the RIAA -- and Scotty the first "Idol" to pull off the achievement with a debut since David Cook. The deep-voiced teen has placed two singles on the Hot 100 and Hot Country Songs charts ("I Love You This Big" and "The Trouble With Girls"), and is currently touring alongside Brad Paisley and The Band Perry this winter. McCreery may be remembered as the winner who saved "Idol," returning the show to prominence after its two previous winners fizzled in popularity. Not even a year in, and he's already at No. 15 on our list -- that should tell you something from the get-go.
Album Sales: 1,337,000 Track Sales: 3,639,000 Radio Plays: 460,000 YouTube Plays: 30,947,653
Taylor Swift's BFF finished sixth on "Idol" but has done just fine for herself since, thanks to country hits like "Red High Heels" and "Best Days of Your Life." The blonde beauty released her first record since 2008, "100 Proof," at the end of January, and lead single "Tough" is already making noise on the Hot Country Songs chart.
Album Sales: 694,000 Track Sales: 1,609,000 Radio Plays: 389,000 YouTube Plays: 16,683,989
Not only has he aided efforts against Malaria in Angola (as documented on an "Idol Gives Back" special), but Yamin has also assisted in Chile following the country's devastating earthquake. The soul singer finished third on season five, and shortly after debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 with his self-titled debut, which featured the top-15 hit "Wait For You."
Album Sales: 348,000 Track Sales: 3,097,000 Radio Plays: 395,000 YouTube Plays: 4,978,264
Season eight's "Idol" champion has sold nearly 350,000 copies of his music, according to Nielsen SoundScan data, and has covered radio formats from pop to Christian with the single "Live Like We're Dying." Though he's often overshadowed by runner-up Adam Lambert, Allen has plenty of fans drawn to his laidback singer/songwriter vibe, as seen through his 2009 self-titled album (which debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard 200) and a follow-up reportedly in the works.
Album Sales: 1,108,000 Track Sales: 3,327,000 Radio Plays: 199,000 YouTube Plays: 54,195,821
The baby-faced Archuleta has released three full-length albums since finishing second on "Idol" season seven, with his most recent release, "The Other Side of Down," debuting in 2010 at No. 13 on the Billboard 200 chart. Things have been quiet for the singer of "Crush" -- a No. 2 hit on the Hot 100 -- in recent months, and are only going to get quieter: In December, Archuleta announced he would take a two-year sabbatical from music in order to become a missionary for the Mormon church.
Album Sales: 1,280,000 Track Sales: 2,237,000 Radio Plays: 448,000 YouTube Plays: 36,049,326
Despite a seventh-place finish on the series' third season, the actress/singer won a Grammy Award for her debut album and an Oscar for her role opposite Beyonce in the blockbuster musical adaptation, "Dreamgirls." The diva also became a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers, appearing on "The Oprah Winfrey Show in February 2011 having lost a total of 80 pounds. In 2011, Hudson released "I Remember Me," which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200, and at the 2012 Grammys, she performed a tribute to the late Whitney Houston, singing "I Will Always Love You."
Album Sales: 1,013,000 Track Sales: 4,527,000 Radio Plays: 438,000 YouTube Plays: 81,912,740
"Idol" season eight runner-up has arguably made more of a name for himself than eventual winner Kris Allen. Glambert released the No. 3-debuting "For Your Entertainment" in 2009 (becoming the first openly gay pop singer to sign to a major label), which spawned three singles on the Hot 100, and will put out his sophomore effort, "Trespassing," in March.
Album Sales: 2,558,000 Track Sales: 380,000 Radio Plays: 455,000 YouTube Plays: 1,173,416
Winning "Idol" in 2003 led to even greater joy for Studdard, who met his future wife at a Wal-Mart autograph signing. The "Velvet Teddy Bear's" biggest hit, "Sorry 2004," came that year, but Studdard's popularity gets a boost every time he returns to perform on "Idol." The R&B/gospel crooner drops his fifth record, "Letters From Birmingham," in March.
Album Sales: 1,443,000 Track Sales: 4,352,000 Radio Plays: 672,000 YouTube Plays: 11,857,619
After years of rockers getting the short end of the "Idol" stick, David Cook broke the genre's bad luck streak in 2008 by trumping another David (Archuleta) in the finale. Cook's self-titled debut album followed (a No. 3 debut on the Billboard 200), which placed two singles on the Hot 100. Last season, viewers were reminded of the charismatic rocker, who released "This Loud Morning" last year -- his cover of Simple Minds' "Don't You Forget About Me" was played each time a contestant was eliminated from the show.
Album Sales: 2,842,000 Track Sales: 1,425,000 Radio Plays: 868,000 YouTube Plays: 20,334,857
Since her win, it's been a roller coaster ride for the third season victor, who scored one No. 1 single on the Hot 100 with "I Believe." Weeks before the release of her third album in August 2010 (which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200), Fantasia was hospitalized after overdosing on aspirin, and later revealed the overdose to be a suicide attempt. But the soulful lady found redemption and purpose in music, claiming afterward that "music saved me." She will appear as the titular character in the Mahalia Jackson biopic "Mahalia!" later this year.
Album Sales: 4,997,000 Track Sales: 610,000 Radio Plays: 201,000 YouTube Plays: 664,445
Clay Aiken may have lost to Ruben Studdard in 2003, but he's still the season two favorite in the minds of many longtime "Idol" fans -- and he has the sales and a No. 1 single to prove it. With a stint on Broadway's "Spamalot" and five Top-10 albums under his belt (plus one reportedly on the way), Aiken has had his time to shine. His Claymates will be the first to tell you that.
Album Sales: 1,300,000 Track Sales: 9,883,000 Radio Plays: 1,221,000 YouTube Plays: 147,504,378
The daughter of former NFL footballer Phillippi Sparks was just 17 when she was voted America's favorite back in 2007, beating out beatboxer Blake Lewis. Sparks has since racked up radio hits like "Battlefield" and "No Air," a duet with Chris Brown that peaked at No. 3 on the Hot 100. The pop/R&B crooner is set to release her third record this year, and will make her acting debut in the remake of the 1976 film "Sparkle," alongside the recently deceased Whitney Houston.
Album Sales: 6,536,000 Track Sales: 11,902,000 Radio Plays: 3,357,000 YouTube Plays: 89,123,137
Chris Daughtry's fourth-place "Idol" finish in 2006 really hurt his career, didn't it? Yeah, no. With 6.5 million albums and 11.9 million digital downloads to his name, the gruff rocker ranks ahead of all but two former "Idol" winners on this list. His self-titled debut album with his namesake band is still the fastest-selling debut rock record in Soundscan history, its hit singles -- from "It's Not Over" to "Home" -- downright inescapable from 2006-2008. His band's newest record, "Break the Spell," debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 last November.
Album Sales: 12,472,000 Track Sales: 18,933,000 Radio Plays: 3,331,000 YouTube Plays: 137,804,154
As the first country singer to win "American Idol," Carrie Underwood leads the show's graduates with U.S. album sales of 12.4 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan. Her third release, 2009's "Play On," showed off a more mature side to the 27-year-old and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. In 2011, Underwood hit No. 1 on the Country charts for the eleventh time with "Remind Me," a duet with Brad Paisley, and made her silver screen debut in the film "Soul Surfer." Just last week, Underwood released "Good Girl," the first single off her upcoming fourth album, due May 1.
Album Sales: 11,219,000 Track Sales: 19,526,000 Radio Plays: 5,197,000 YouTube Plays: 194,160,919
"Idol's" original queen is still its biggest star. Since winning the title in 2002, Kelly Clarkson has notched 10 Billboard Hot 100 top 10s -- including three No. 1s -- from five albums. Miss Independent's reach is enormous, possessing the largest tallies of radio spins, single sales and YouTube views of any former "Idol" -- and the singer first rose to prominence before the latter two distinctions even existed on a large scale. Her fifth album, "Stronger," debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 last fall, continuing Clarkson's streak in which each of her albums have debuted in the chart's top three; earlier this month, the single of the same name topped the Hot 100.