Talent-spotting television show American Idol, produced by Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment, has been beamed into the homes of U.S. television viewers for 20 years now. It has been so successful that it has also spawned versions in no less than 70 countries.
It has also made -- or broken -- careers for many young (and a few older) artists.
Success on the show launched a major career for first season winner Kelly Clarkson, who is a two-time Grammy award winner with hits including “A Moment Like This”, "Because Of You", “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” and more. Today she also hosts her own talk show.
Season 4 victor Carrie Underwood has 14 #1s on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, has won an impressive eight Grammy awards, and continues to release recordings and tour. In 2014 Forbes magazine named her the most successful American Idol contestant.
Fourth season runner up Chris Daughtry ("It's Not Over", "Home") sold over four million copies of his debut album in the U.S. alone and picked up four Grammy award nominations. Season 6 victor Jordin Sparks ("Tattoo", "No Air", "Battlefield") was nominated for a Grammy award for her first album and has seen notable international success.
Season 10's winner Scotty McCreery saw his debut album Clear as Day go Platinum. Season 11's champion Phillip Phillips holds the honor of having the best-selling song in the U.S. by any Idol alum, with over five million copies sold of his track "Home".
Jennifer Hudson, who finished surprisingly low (7th in season 3) has put her powerful voice to good use, winning two Grammy awards and also an Academy Award for best supporting actress for her appearance in the 2007 film Dreamgirls.
Eighth season runner up Adam Lambert has not only seen success as a solo artist, but he also landed a stellar gig fronting rock legends Queen. Filling Freddie Mercury's very large shoes is essentially impossible but, to his credit, Lambert acknowledges this and has paid very respectible tribute. His impressive range and vocal ability -- along with a style that pays homage to the legendary Mercury -- have helped drive a Queen resurgence.
While Underwood has been noted as the most financially successful, many Idol artists have benefited immensely from their careers being launched as a result of appearing on the show. Some have made more of a mark in non-music entertainment such as season 5 runner-up Katherine McPhee, who has appeared in TV and film roles in Community, Smash, Scorpion and Country Comfort.
Season 5 fifth place singer Kellie Pickler has parlayed her appearance a RIAA-certified Gold album, but also into winning an edition of Dancing With the Stars, voicing a character in the film VeggieTales, and co-hosting a talk show on CMT.
In 2005's season 4 Bo Bice lost to Carrie Underwood but he has released four albums, including a RIAA-certified Gold debut, and was later named lead singer of Blood Sweat & Tears from 2013 to 2018.
Fantasia Barrino was crowned the winner of season 3 and has to date racked up 12 Grammy nominations and one win, and she also performed in an Aretha Franklin tribute on the Grammys in 2019.
Taylor Hicks became the oldest contestant to win in season 5 at the age of 29, benefiting from the decision to raise the age limit to 28 (it was previously 24). He went on to a successful career with his debut album going Platinum and residency runs in both Bally's and Paris in Las Vegas.
Other Idol finishers, while not particularly successful musically, have made news in other ways. Season 2 runner up Clay Aiken had a moderately successful album (which went Gold) but now has political aspirations. He is running for a U.S. House seat in his native North Carolina.
Finishing seventh in season 5, Ace Young has found success as a songwriter, earning a Grammy nomination for the song “It’s Not Over”, a track recorded by Chris Daughtry. He has also appeared on Broadway in both Grease and Hair.
And who can forget William Hung? While he didn’t even make it past his audition, his honestly pretty awful rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs” aired on the third season and went viral. He was able to parlay that into a cameo on TV sitcom Arrested Development and a career as a motivational speaker.
But back to music, many of these artists have acheived significant chart success, racking up Gold and Platinum records along with it. Simon Fuller's 19 Entertainment first created the UK music talent discovery show Pop Idol in 2001. This led led to the launch of American Idol in 2002. Along with it, Fuller launched the 19 Recordings division, which would gain the rights to record and market the albums of Idol contestants.
In the end, 19 Entertainment's music division was able to produce significant success for many American Idol artists. At MusicGoldmine.com we've been able to acquire several official RIAA Gold and Platinum record awards for American Idol artists, all presented to 19 Entertainment, 19 Recordings, or Simon Fuller. They provide a nice walk through history on the sucess of many of these artists and make great collector's items as well.
Check them out here (click the award image or title to view each award's detailed item page for more details):
Jordin Sparks ARIA (Australian) combo award for her debut album (Gold), and singles "Tattoo" (Platinum) and "No Air" (double Platinum):
We have one of the largest selections of record awards in the world -- check them all out here and we hope you enjoy exploring!
Want more content like this? Subscribe to our free MusicGoldmine newsletter which comes out every two weeks. Go here to sign up.
Gold® record, Platinum® record, and Multi-Platinum™ record are registered service marks of the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).