Sure, you could probably name Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson or Jordin Sparks. If you thought really hard you might be able to remember David Cook or Ruben Studdard. But would you be able to recall any of the unlucky second place finishers from the original TV singing competition "American Idol"? Some have made it big despite losing out on the crucial record deal the show promises its winners, and other have even surpassed the performers who beat them. Others, however, failed to make an impression and have fallen into the cracks. Where are all the "American Idol" runners up now?
Unfortunately for Guarini, the first season of "Idol" was the first and last time that contractual obligation required that the second place finisher to wait until the winner had released their album to release any original material or even accept an offer of a record deal. As Clarkson rose to success, Justin was forced to take a back seat. His first album wasn't released until 2003, and it had little impact. Not even an appearance in cheesy movie "From Justin to Kelly" with the winner herself could salvage sales. Guarini was promptly dropped from his recording company. Since then, he has been independently releasing jazz music and making several small television appearances. He also has several theatre and Broadway performances under his belt, but unfortunately few remember this curly-haired charmer.
Arguably the most successful and well-known runner up of "Idol," many people are surprised to find out that Clay Aiken actually lost out to R&B singer Ruben Studdard in the nail-biting Season 2 finale. The voting was so close that many speculated that the "Idol" system could not have handled the margin of error. Nonetheless, Aiken moved on quickly from the loss, signed to RCA records and released a multi-platinum album, "Measure of a Man." He has since released six more albums, starred on Broadway in "Spamalot" and embarked on a series of sold-out tours, notorious for his rabid fans. Now, Aiken is reportedly in the top ten earners of all American Idol alums. Ruben who?
DeGarmo struggled to make a name for herself after her second-place finish. Although she was a consistent fan favorite, the teen failed to make an impression and her debut album on RCA records only made it to 52 on the Billboard charts. She then moved on to musical theatre and television, taking on a role in soap "The Young and the Restless" in 2011 and has since carved out a relatively successful name for herself on the theatre circuit, starring in Broadway productions of "Hair" and "Hairspray" and the national tour of "9 to 5". Most recently, she married fellow "Idol" alum Ace Young in May 2012 after meeting him while performing in "Hair."
On the fourth season of Idol, Bo Bice quickly became known for his flowing brunette locks and his distinctive rocker growl. However, he was no match for the country powerhouse that is Carrie Underwood. The restrictions of the show proved a little too much for this wild soul, and he has been quoted as saying that he didn't want to win and be entered into the binding winner's contract. However, his version of "Inside Your Heaven," released shortly after the competition, quickly rose to number two on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart, beating out Carrie's version in sales. However, Underwood proved to have more staying power, and although Bo's first album release received modest success, he was later dropped from his record deal and held back by recurring medical issues. He has not made a significant appearance on the music scene since 2010.
Katharine is another runner-up who has arguably done better than the winner of their season. Although Taylor Hicks has since received modest success in the adult, easy listening markets and is in permanent residence in Vegas, McPhee has also spent her time well. Her debut album reached number two on the Billboard album charts and she starred in successful 2008 comedy "House Bunny." In 2011, NBC cast her in their big-budget TV series "Smash," detailing the lives of a group of Broadway actors. The move made her even more visible, and music from the show was released to commercial success. Although "Smash" was recently cancelled by NBC, McPhee's fourth studio album is due out later this year and she doesn't look to be falling off of the radar anytime soon.
Although Blake Lewis made a name for himself as a unique beatboxer during his season of "Idol," the recognition didn't last for long. His first album "A.D.D (Audio Day Dream)" reached number ten on the U.S. album charts, but Lewis was dropped from Arista Records shortly after due to poor single sales. His second album had a mild success in dance and electronic sales, but failed to gain any media or critical attention. He has a new album coming out later this year, but the debut single from the record, "Your Touch," went relatively unnoticed aside from a use in a Microsoft commercial. The prospects for Blake are not looking good.
Everyone remembers David Archuleta as the bumbling yet cute youngster who was the sweetness to counteract season seven victor David Cook's rough and ready rock persona. Although he lost out to Cook in the end, Archuleta gained a huge teen following on his time throughout the show, and that helped to sell 900,000 copies worldwide of his debut album. In 2011, Archuleta withdrew from the music business to embark on a two-year mission to serve for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, although he somehow has managed to release material throughout this time, including cover albums and an album available exclusively in the Philippines consisting of classic Filipino music. While he has mostly dropped off the map, Archuleta has potential to come back from his mission successfully as long as his previous rabid fan base is still around. However, they may have grown a little old for his brand of sanitized pop at this point.
Notoriously over-the-top but able to pull it off, Lambert proved a hundred times more memorable than the actual winner of season 8, bland singer-songwriter Kris Allen. His signature flamboyant performance style was enough to send him to the finale but may have scared off American voters. However, he went on to release a debut album "For Your Entertainment" on RCA records, which received massive success both domestically and internationally, and has since sold two million copies. He was nominated for a Grammy for Male Pop Vocal Performance in 2011. He didn't stop there — his 2012 album "Trespassing" debuted at number one on the Billboard albums chart, receiving critical acclaim as one of the best pop albums of the year. He has spent much of 2013 on a worldwide tour prompted by his massive international success. Does anyone know what Kris Allen is doing?
Season 9 of "American Idol" was probably the most disappointing to date, and neither Bowersox nor winner Lee Dewyze proved able to whip up any real excitement from audiences. Although she had support from several country stars, the release of her debut album "Farmer's Daughter" in 2010 made very little noise. She recorded and released a second album in March this year, but even less media time was given to it — it seems her country-folk style simply couldn't find a niche. Bowersox has been cast to play Patsy Cline in the Broadway musical "Always, Patsy Cline" this fall, so it remains to be seen whether Crystal can make anything from her Idol exposure.
The battle of the tenth season of "Idol" turned out to be a tussle between the two young country singers Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery, and Scotty came out on top. Lauren went on to receive modest success in the country music world, although she never quite made the crossover to pop radio. Her debut album "Wildflower," rose to number five on album charts and allowed Lauren to open up for Jason Aldean and Sugarland on various tour dates. However, McCreery, who was able to enter the country music scene with more momentum as a result of his "Idol" win, has largely overshadowed her success. Her second album is currently being recorded, but the jury's still out on whether Alaina will make it out alive from her runner-up position.
In a move that shocked no one, another young and male singer-songwriter won "Idol" in 2012 — for the fifth year in a row. The pattern meant that little powerhouse Jessica Sanchez was left in the dust for Phillip Phillips, but she hasn't gone down without a fight. She soon signed to 19 Recordings and Interscope Records and released a single featuring popular hip-hop artist Ne-Yo. She has been praised for successfully blending her soulful voice with radio-ready pop songs, particularly on her debut album, "Me, You & the Music," which came out in April this year. Viewers might also remember her as the lead singer of a rival Glee club in this year's "Glee" season finale — she has signed a multi-episode deal with the musical Fox hit TV series. The future looks bright for Jessica Sanchez.
They say that second place is first loser, although in the case of "American Idol," this doesn't always seem to ring true. With the recent ending of the twelfth season of "American Idol," it's too early to call success for either winner Candice Glover or her runner-up, soulful Kree Harrison. However, with viewer figures declining steadily as the show loses out to newer talent shows with fresher formats and better judge dynamics like "The X Factor" and "The Voice," things aren't looking promising.