Counting down the top 10 American Idol contestants to date is not a simple matter of picking the winners of American Idol for the first seven seasons, adding in the three best runners-up, and then calling it a day. Over the seven seasons of American Idol so far we have seen a diverse collection of entertainers. Not all of them could sing like Josh Groban, and some were downright terrible, but they brought variety and entertainment to a show that without them would likely have been cancelled some time ago for being too repetitive and predictable. So this list of the top 10 American Idol contestants so far will not contain only the best singers (though they will be well represented), but the best personalities, and colorful characters on the show to date. Sorry Simon Cowell fans, though your guy is an undeniably colorful character, he is unfortunately ineligible. American Idol contestants only. Sorry. Here are my picks for the best of the best from American Idol so far:
10 – Constantine Maroulis – One of the few American Idol contestants to stick to his hard rock roots throughout the competition. He is also the oldest finalist to date, having reached 6th place in the 4th season of the show. He spent three years as the lead singer of the band Pray for the Soul of Betty, spent time on The Bold and the Beautiful, and is currently acting in the Off-Broadway production of Rock of Ages. Though Constantine Maroulis never captured Idol’s biggest prize, he has translated his 15 minutes of fame into a successful, diverse career.
9 – Kelly Pickler – Back to back 6th place finishers on the list of the top 10 American Idol contestants to date. This blonde southern belle rode her sweet country music voice to the finals in the 5th season of the show. She was certainly not the brightest bulb ever to grace the American Idol stage, often compared to Jessica Simpson because of her ditzy demeanor, but her soft southern charm won over audiences around the country. She has enjoyed a successful music career since her time on American Idol, with songs like “Red High Heels”, and “I Wonder”, both of which cracked the top 15 of the Billboard hot country songs charts.
8 – Taylor Hicks – Though he was not the oldest American Idol contestant in the history of the show, he certainly looked like the oldest. Gray before his time, this soulful, bluesy singer, with the unique dancing style gained a huge following during Season 5. Dubbed the Soul Patrol, Taylor Hicks’s fans helped catapult him all the way to number one that season. Following American Idol Hicks released his debut single, “Do I Make You Proud?” which cruised all the way to the number one spot on the Billboard hot 100. Soul Patrol, Soul Patrol!
7 – Jennifer Hudson – Has there ever been a more likable American Idol contestant than Jennifer Hudson? Though tragedy has recently struck Jennifer Hudson with the murders of her family members in October of 2008, she had, up until that point, been enjoying the fruits of her successful run on Idol. Though she only finished in 7th place on the show, she proved America wrong, going on to win an Oscar for the best supporting actress for her turn as Effie White in the musical Dreamgirls.
6 – Bo Bice – Just his name alone earns him a deserving spot on the list of the top 10 American Idol contestants to date. Bo Bice, like Constantine Maroulis, earned his success on American Idol by differentiating himself from the hoards of light, fluffy pop music contestants with his southern rock attitude. Bice’s past included a drug charge stemming from an incident where he had purchased cocaine at a strip club, but used the brush with the law as a wake-up call, cleaning up his act and becoming an active member of the Presbyterian Church. With his charm, his looks, and God on his side, Bo Bice made it all the way to the runner up spot on Season 4 of American Idol, before finally succumbing to the incredibly talented Carrie Underwood.
5 – William Hung – If this list was strictly the top 10 best American Idol singers then this guy’s name wouldn’t even enter into the discussion. But, as I stated above, this list is about more than singing talent. William Hung’s is arguably the most memorable American Idol audition in the history of the show. His rendition (and accompanying dance moves) of “She Bangs” by Ricky Martin had the judges flabbergasted and all of America in stitches. His performance was so memorable it was spoofed on Saturday Night Live by Jimmy Fallon, Hung milked the performance for all it was worth, appearing on shows like Late Night With David Letterman, Jimmy Kimmel, and Arrested Development, and even recording three albums in the wake of William Hung mania.
4 – Fantasia Barrino – As vibrant as any contestant in the history of American Idol to date, Fantasia Barrino entertained her way to the top, winning the hearts of the American people to take top prize in season three of the show. Barrino is certainly far from the best singer Idol has ever seen (though certainly much better than William Hung), but it was her creativity, her eccentricity, and her bravery that really paved the way for her success on American Idol. Too many contestants on the show play it safe, choosing comfortable, easy songs. Barrino bucked that trend, and was rewarded for her daring. Since winning American Idol Barrino has enjoyed success in both music and acting. Her debut single “I Believe” made it all the way to number one on the Billboard hot 100, and her debut album, “Free Yourself” has sold more than 2 million copies to date. She has proven that she is just as talented an actor as she is a singer, earning rave reviews for her lead role as Celie in the Broadway production of The Color Purple.
3 – Chris Daughtry – There have been relatively few attempts to win the American Idol competition as a hard rocker, but this guy is undeniably the best of those who tried. Though Daughtry only managed to earn a 4th place finish in the talent-laden 5th season of American Idol it was clear that he had the talent to make it in the music business. His rendition of Fuel’s “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)” was chilling, and Daughtry was actually offered the role of lead singer by the band Fuel. He turned down the offer to pursue a solo career, which has turned out to be a great move for him, as his debut album became the fastest selling rock album in history, and quickly scorched its way up to number one on the billboard charts.
2 – Kelly Clarkson – The original winner of the American Idol competition would likely sit atop most people’s list of the top 10 American Idol contestants to date, but I have her at number two. Why? Four words: From Justin to Kelly. Just kidding. American Idol struck gold with Kelly Clarkson, and her personality, charm, talent, and the success she has gone on to enjoy since appearing on the show has been just as beneficial to American Idol’s popularity as the show has been to her own popularity. To date Kelly Clarkson has sold more than 20 million albums worldwide, and has enjoyed 8 top 10 singles on the Billboard charts.
1 – Carrie Underwood – It was tough putting this sweet country singer ahead of Kelly Clarkson on the list of the top 10 American Idol contestants so far, but in my opinion, she is just a little bit better, and when all is said and done, she will be sitting atop the heap as the most successful American Idol contestant ever. Not only did she win the 4th season of the show, but she immediately went on to huge success in her solo music career. Her debut album, “Some Hearts” went seven times platinum and gave Underwood three number one hits on the Billboard Country charts, including the monster hit, “Before He Cheats”. Her second album, “Carnival Ride” has been just as successful, already pushing close to 3 million in album sales. The sky is the limit for this gorgeous, talented country music star. By the time she finally hangs up the microphone she might just be the biggest selling country music singer of all time.