Let’s face it, American Idol is an immensely fun show providing a never ending source of debate material.
Listen to music from American Idol alumni and other standout reality TV contestants on Audacy’s TV’s Top Talent
The show has been a hit ever since its debut in 2002, but it has hit a whole new level since it was revived in 2018. Part of that renewed popularity can be attributed to the team of judges that we’ve come to love so much.
One of those judges, the iconic Lionel Richie, just celebrated his 73rd birthday! As we reminisce about all the fond memories we’ve formed with Richie at the judges table, it got us thinking… Who is the most successful American Idol winner of all time?
While there have been several contestants that have gone on to have massively successful careers in their own right, we’re taking a look at the seven most successful American Idol winners in the history of the show. While you're perusing the list, be sure to turn up Audacy’s TV’s Top Talent where we're featuring music from American Idol alumni and other standout reality TV contestants
7 Phillip Phillips
Phillips wowed Season 11 viewers from the get go as his renditions of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” made him an immediate favorite. His Top 3 cover of Damien Rice’s “Volcano” is considered one of the best performances in the history of the show. After his victory, he released his coronation song “Home,” which holds the title of best-selling song from any of the show’s alumni with over 5 million copies sold in the United States. He’s released three studio albums in his career.
6 David Cook
Cook initially didn’t plan to even try out for the show, but thank goodness he did. His opening audition saw him thrill audiences with a performance of Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On a Prayer.” From there, he took the show by storm delivering numerous memorable performances that still send shivers down our spine. Following his Season 7 victory, Cook broke several Billboard chart records, including having an incredible 11 songs debut on the Hot 100 during the release of his record. Since that time, Cook has released three studio albums and has taken part in several headlining tours.
5 Fantasia Barrino
Fantasia’s first performance of “Summertime” goes down as one of the best performances ever in the history of the show. Quickly becoming a crowd favorite, Simon Cowell remarked that she was the best contestant to ever compete in a competition, nationally and globally. After she took home the Season 3 crown, Fantasia became the first artist to ever have her debut single reach the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 chart with her song “I Believe.” Fantasia has released seven studio albums in her career and parlayed her American Idol success into several roles on television and Broadway.
4 Jordin Sparks
The youngest ever winner of American Idol, Sparks was just 17 when she was declared the Season 6 victor. As her momentum continued forward, she gained a loyal legion of fans known as “Sparkplugs.” Her improvement was seen from episode-to-episode as she became a full blown superstar by the time she was crowned the winner. Since her victory, Sparks has released several studio albums, all of which had singles that charted.
3 Scotty McCreery
McCreery may have stuck mostly to Country songs during his time on American Idol, but in doing so he proved he was a Country star in the making. Funny enough, he entered the finale alongside Lauren Alaina, who has gone on to have a successful Country career herself. Three of McCreery’s four studio albums in his career have gone on to hit number one on Billboard’s Country chart. Additionally, McCreery won an ACM Award as Breakthrough Artist of the Year in 2013.
2 Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson has a strong argument for taking the top spot on this list. After all, she has two ACM Awards, four American Music Awards, one CMA Award, three GRAMMY Awards, three MTV VMA Awards, eight studio albums that have sold tens of millions of copies total, a Super Bowl performance, numerous film and television roles, and her very own talk show. Oh yeah, she was also the very first American Idol winner and helped propel the show to the success it has experienced to this day.
1 Carrie Underwood
Ever since Carrie Underwood won Season 4 of American Idol, she’s been an international superstar. With over 70 million records sold worldwide, she’s the sixth highest-certified female artist of all time and the highest-certified female Country artist of all time. Underwood has a remarkable 15 number one singles on the prestigious Billboard Country Airplay chart, seven GRAMMY Awards, 11 Billboard Music Awards, 15 American Music Awards, 15 ACM Awards, and 9 CMA Awards.