Over its eight seasons, “American Idol” has turned dozens of amateur singers into superstars. Kelly Clarkson went from blushing 20-something with a big voice to international sensation thanks to her top spot on the show, while the quiet, but commanding Carrie Underwood scored Grammys, country music accolades and millions of album sales after winning the crown.
Plenty of formerly undiscovered singers have gone far even without winning the competition too, like Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken, who went from chart topper to Broadway star. Who could forget Chris Daughtry, the shaved-headed rocker, who went on to front his own ensemble and win the hearts of millions.
With “Idol’s” current season inching its way toward crowning a new winner, AccessHollywood.com decided to take a look at the show’s alumni, counting up their record sales domestically to find out who are the Top 10 Best Selling “American Idols” of all-time…
10. David Archuleta — 962,000 albums sold
One of “American Idol’s” youngest competitors to date, David Archuleta, came close to becoming the seventh “American Idol” in 2008, but narrowly lost out to David Cook. As America has seen, however, his second place finish didn’t stop “Archie” from making it big. The singer released his self-titled debut album shortly after the show in 2008, featuring romantic ballads like “Crush” and “To Be with You.” It went gold within several months. The sweet and talented David has since sold a total of 962,000 albums. Like fellow “Idol” star Clay Aiken, Archuleta also released a Christmas album, which he titled, “Christmas From the Heart” in 2009.
8. Jordin Sparks — 1.2 million albums sold (tie)
During her tenure on “American Idol” in Season 6, the young and talented Jordin Sparks wowed the judges and fans so much she was never in the bottom three throughout the entire competition — eventually winning it all. In 2007, Jordin released her self-titled debut album featuring platinum hits “No Air,” which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and “Tattoo.” Jordin’s success has given her the opportunity to work with other stars including OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder, who wrote the standout hit, which also inspired the title for her latest album, “Battlefield.”
8. Kellie Pickler — 1.2 million albums sold (tie)
Kellie Pickler may not have taken the gold in the fifth season of “American Idol,” which was swooped by the harmonica playing Taylor Hicks, but the country cutie did earn gold for her post-“Idol” debut album release of “Small Town Girl” in 2006. Her Southern charm and country twang melted the hearts of her fans resulting in a record deal that has since landed her two albums featuring country-pop songs — “Red High Heels” and “Makin’ Me Fall In Love Again.” Her singles “Red High Heels” and “Best Days of Your Life” both went gold in 2009, adding to her post-“Idol” success.
7. David Cook — 1.3 million albums sold
Season 8 of “American Idol” is commonly referred to as “Battle of the Davids,” as rocker David Cook and teen pop cutie David Archuleta went neck-and-neck throughout the entire competition. The rock star ultimately prevailed in 2008 with his raw voice and acoustic renditions of timeless hits from all genres. As the show ended, Cook released his first single “Time of My Life,” which went platinum in 2008. His first self-titled album, “David Cook,” topped the charts and went Platinum in 2009. Just a year later, the album’s first major single, “Light On,” did it again, going platinum in January 2010.
6. Fantasia Barrino — 2.3 million albums sold
At 17, Fantasia Barrino faced more adversity than the average teen, becoming a single mother and struggling with illiteracy, but that did not stop her from pursuing her dreams. Two years later, at 19, she catapulted onto the scene in 2004 when she won “American Idol” with her passionate performances, musical versatility and moving life story. After beating runner-up Diana DeGarmo, Fantasia released her first single, “Free Yourself,” off of her album of the same name. She followed up her success with a self-titled second album, “Fantasia,” in 2007, which went gold. With two albums under her belt, Fantasia landed the lead role in the highly acclaimed Broadway musical “The Color Purple,” playing Celie. She can now be seen starring in her own reality show on VH1, “Fantasia for Real.”
5. Ruben Studdard — 2.5 million albums sold
Birmingham, Ala., native Ruben Studdard took the crown as the second “American Idol” winner in the show’s history in 2003, overpowering a strong campaign by Clay Aiken’s faithful fans (more on them later). Dubbed the “Velvet Teddy Bear” by Gladys Knight early on in Season 2, Ruben charmed audiences with his smooth, jazzy voice and that unforgettable smile. Ruben released his first single, “Flying Without Wings,” just one month after the show ended. He followed it up in December with a full-length album, “Soulful,” which featured two Top 10 tracks. The album showed off Ruben’s R&B and hip-hop swagger and led to the album going platinum in 2003. The next year, he released a gospel album entitled “I Need an Angel,” which went gold. He has since followed that effort up with the album “The Return” in 2007 and “Love IS” in 2009, which he dedicated to his wife.
4. Clay Aiken — 4.9 million albums sold
Long before the “Soul Patrol” rallied behind “Grey Charles,” aka Taylor Hicks in Season 5, Clay Aiken was the first “Idol” contestant to have a group of super-mobilized and creatively named fans – in his case, the “Claymates.” The skinny, redheaded, flat-ironed wonder’s followers were strong, but they fell just shy of pushing their candidate to the top, a spot taken by Rueben Studdard in Season 2. Still, not winning “American Idol” did little to stop the star. His first single, a cover of the classic “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” went platinum, and his debut album, 2003’s “Measure of a Man” went double platinum. He cleverly followed that up in 2004 with a holiday album, “Merry Christmas With Love,” which also reached platinum status. Clay released his last album, “On My Way Here,” in 2008 and he recently starred on Broadway in “Spamalot.”
3. Chris Daughtry — 5.3 million albums sold
Chris Daughtry never won “Idol,” and he didn’t even make it into the Top 3 during Season 5 of the show, but he’s the third best-selling alumnus of all. Following the competition, the shaved-headed rocker went from solo standout to fronting a band bearing his surname. The group’s self-titled debut album, released in 2006, featured the radio staple, “It’s Not Over,” and the song “American Idol” has used repeatedly to send booted contestants on their way – “Home.” The LP has thus far sold more than 4 million copies. Daughtry’s sophomore effort, “Leave This Town, dropped in 2009 and went platinum in February 2010.
2. Kelly Clarkson — 10.4 million albums sold
The original “American Idol,” Kelly Clarkson, showed the U.S.A. that a reality show could find a true superstar. The outspoken Texan gal quickly won over the judges – Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and newcomer to American TV at the time, Brit Simon Cowell — with her big, booming voice. Kelly’s first album, “Thankful,” released in 2003, went double platinum, but it was her second album, that really took the singer to the top – “Breakaway” – which featured the anthem “Since U Been Gone.” The release went platinum six times over. “My December,” dropped in 2007, showed off Kelly’s own songwriting skills and sold over a million copies. Kelly shined again in 2009 with “All I Ever Wanted,” which featured radio fave “My Life Would Suck Without You,” and the Katy Perry-penned, “I Do Not Hook Up.”
1. Carrie Underwood — 10.5 million albums sold
Carrie Underwood was just a sweet Oklahoma college student when she appeared on “American Idol’s” Season 4. The quiet blonde went from strength to strength on the show and took her country leanings all the way to the top, winning the “Idol” crown in 2005. Her debut album, “Some Hearts,” was released in the fall of that year and, thanks to songs like “Jesus, Take The Wheel” and “Before He Cheats,” went on to sell more than 7 million copies. She picked up two Grammys too. Carrie followed the blockbuster album up with 2007’s “Carnival Ride,” which earned the beauty another Grammy, and led to her winning ACM’s Entertainer of the Year Award in 2009, the first woman to win the gong since 2001. She dropped her latest effort, “Play On,” in the fall of 2009.
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