A look back at the show's memorable (and sometimes forgettable) winners.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Published March 7, 2018
Published 4 months ago
Kelly Clarkson. Carrie Underwood. Jennifer Hudson. All singing superstars thanks to a little show called "American Idol." Premiering in 2002, the Fox competition series would run for 15 seasons and launch the careers of dozens of contestants. But with its popularity (and ratings) flagging, the network made the decision to pull the plug in 2016.
Not even two years later, though, the show is back for an encore performance starting March 11, this time on ABC's stage. "American Idol" returns with original host Ryan Seacrest and new judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry, and Luke Bryan, who hope to discover the next big thing. But before they do, here's a refresher on the American Idols who've come before...
SGranitz/WireImageKelly Clarkson, 2002The show's very first winner was a plucky 20-year-old from Burleson, Texas. She's sold some 25 million albums since and starred in one box-office flop (2003's "From Justin to Kelly," with her "Idol" runner-up, Justin Guarini). Clarkson also recently secured a panel seat on a different reality competition series — "The Voice" on NBC.
SGranitz/WireImageRuben Studdard, 2003The Alabama native (right) earned a Grammy nomination in 2003 for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for his version of the oft-covered song "Superstar," and has released six studio albums. He also appeared on the 15th season of "The Biggest Loser."Ray Mickshaw/WireImageFantasia Barrino, 2004The season 3 winner — who easily bested seventh-place finisher Jennifer Hudson — has been nominated for 11 Grammys, winning Best Female R&B Vocal Performance in 2011. She also played Celie in the Broadway musical "The Color Purple," which earned her a 2007 Theatre World Award.Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesCarrie Underwood, 2005Arguably the most successful "American Idol" winner of all time, the Oklahoma native has sold 65 million records worldwide and racked up an impressive trophy case: seven Grammys, 15 Billboard Music Awards, 12 ACM Awards, 11 American Music Awards, and eight CMA Awards. And if she weren't already busy enough, Underwood starred as Maria in NBC's "The Sound of Music Live! " in 2013 and launched her own fitness apparel line, CALIA, in 2015. (Seriously, when does she sleep?!)
Jason Merritt/FilmMagicTaylor Hicks, 2006The season six champion — he beat out "Smash" star Katharine McPhee — was the first "Idol" winner to score a long-term Las Vegas residency. (Let's hear it for the Soul Patrol!) He also played Teen Angel in the national tour of "Grease" in 2009.Lester Cohen/WireImageJordin Sparks, 2007Sparks became the youngest winner in the show's history at just 17 years old. She's released three studio albums, has performed on Broadway, and even has her own perfume line.M. Caulfield/American Idol 2008/WireImageDavid Cook, 2008The season seven winner had released one independent album prior to appearing on the show. His first post-"Idol" album — titled, appropriately enough, "David Cook" — went platinum.
Kevin Winter/American Idol 2009Kris Allen, 2009Like Cook, season eight winner Allen — he beat out Adam Lambert for the title — had also released one album prior to appearing on "Idol." He's released five albums to date.Handout/Getty ImagesLee DeWyze, 2010Prior to his win, DeWyze had released two independent albums, and he's released five studio albums.Kevin Winter/American Idol 2011/Getty ImagesScotty McCreery, 2011The season 10 winner's 2011 debut album, "Clear as Day," went platinum. In July 2017, he became the first country artist to chart a song without the backing of a record label.
Mark Davis/Getty ImagesPhillip Phillips, 2012Phillips earned the all-time best selling song from "American Idol" with his earworm "Home." (Seriously, if you watched the 2012 Olympics, you probably still have the lyrics memorized). He's released three albums in total.FOXCandice Glover, 2013The third time was the charm for the season 12 winner: She auditioned for "American Idol" three times before finally being selected for the show. Glover released her album, "Music Speaks," in 2014 and made her Broadway debut in 2017 in the Christmas musical “Home For The Holidays.”Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesCaleb Johnson, 2014The season 13 winner — who also auditioned three times — made some "Idol" history by becoming the first finalist to never land in the bottom three before reaching the finale. He released his debut album, "Testify," in August of the same year.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesNick Fradiani, 2015Before he won the 14th season of "American Idol," Fradiani helped the band Beach Avenue win a regional Battle of the Bands as their lead singer in 2011. The band competed on the ninth season of "America's Got Talent," but didn't become a finalist. He's released one solo album, "Hurricane."Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesTrent Harmon, 2016Harmon is the 15th and final winner of the original "American Idol." He'd originally auditioned for "The Voice" and was picked from more than 32,000 contestants, but his audition never made it to air. He released his five-track EP in December 2016.