Since the launch of “American Idol”, there have been numerous singing competition shows on the air.  After 15 years on FOX, Idol moved over to ABC and “The Voice” is celebrating 10 years on NBC this season.

One of the biggest criticisms of the shows is the lack of “star” talent stemming from them.  While Idol has launched a few very successful careers from singers who did not win the competition – Jennifer Hudson, Chris Daughtry, and Adam Lambert come to mind – there have been very few singers who have actually “made it big” after appearing on Idol.

To date, there have been 18 winners on “American Idol” and while many have gone on to make a career out of music, just who has been the most successful and have truly earned the title of “America’s Next Pop Superstar”?

The “Idols” have been ranked based on albums, sales, chart rankings, awards, and cultural impact.

Idol’s most recent winner, Just Sam, has yet to make much of an impact after winning in a socially distanced pandemic era.

Season 13 winner Caleb Johnson has only released one album as a solo artist since winning; while it topped the chart at number 24, he failed to make the Billboard Hot 100 Singles chart.  He has since released an album with his band Caleb Johnson & the Ramblin’ Saints.

The first winner of the ABC Idol run, Maddie Poppe took home the crown in season 16.  While she has had only minor hits on the Billboard Adult Contemporary charts, Poppe does have a People’s Choice Award to her credit.  Poppe also got herself a spouse on the show. 

The final winner of the FOX Idol run was Trent Harmon in season 15.  Harmon’s debut album “You Got ‘Em All” topped out at 34 on the Country Albums chart and his single made it to 27 on the Country Singles chart but he never charted on the Billboard 200 Album chart.

After taking two tries to make it on to the show, Laine Hardy was the won the second season of the ABC Idol run.  A global pandemic did not slow down this Louisiana native who released three singles last year.  He has just missed the top 10 of the Billboard Rising Chart with a single reaching number 12 and had a song in the top 20 on the Country Song Digital chart.  His song “Hurricane” has been listened to over six million times on Spotify.

Season 14 winner Nick Fradiani was a part of the band Beach Avenue before coming to Idol.  His solo debut album “Hurricane” failed to reach the top 100 of the Billboard 200 Album chart – topping out at 121 – and his Idol single peaked at 93 on the Hot 100 Singles chart.  Fradiani has returned to his band Beach Avenue.

Season nine winner Lee DeWyze has had four songs make it on the Hot 100 Singles chart with the highest reaching 24 and his album “Live it Up” topped out at 19 on the Billboard 200 Album chart.  He has released seven albums so far but has not had any further “hits”.

Season eight winner Kris Allen has paled in comparison to runner-up Adam Lambert who is a member of rock legends Queen.  Allen has had seven songs reach the Hot 100 Singles chart but has had no top 10 hits.  His self titled album just missed the top 10 by peaking out at eleven on the 200 Album chart.

Season 13 winner Candice Glover brought the house down with her performance of “You’ve Changed” while on Idol but has released only one album since winning the show.  The album did make it in the top 20 on the Billboard 200 chart, topping out at 14.  Her Idol single only reached 93 on the Hot 100 Singles chart.

Season five winner Taylor Hicks was the first of several Idol winners to find some success on the Broadway stage.  His Idol single became the number one hit single with his album reaching number two on the Billboard 200 Album chart.  Season five was the first time that several of the top 10 singers signed record deals and have had success in music.

In a top two battle of the David’s, David Cook beat out David Archuleta in season seven.  Since winning, Cook has released four albums with the most successful reaching number three on the Billboard 200 Album chart and has had 15 songs chart on the Hot 100 Singles chart.  Cook also found some success on Broadway.

Season two winner Ruben Studdard topped the Billboard 200 Album chart with his debut album “Soulful”.  He has had a total of six albums chart on the Billboard 200 Album chart.  Two of his singles have reached the top 10 on the Hot 100 Singles chart.  In 2018, Studdard joined the list of Idol winners to hit Broadway.

After a tumultuous season on Idol filled with medical issues, Phillip Phillips took home the title on season 10.  His Idol single “Home” became the best selling Idol song in the history of the show.  He followed up that success with three more hit singles.  His songs “Home” and “Gone Gone Gone” have topped the 100 million streams mark on Spotify.  He has had two albums reach the top 10 on the Billboard 200 Album chart.

After winning season 10, Country music artist Scotty McCreery took home a number of Country music awards and has had singles and albums reach number one on the singles and album charts.  He has also had an album certified platinum by the RIAA – Recording Industry Association of America – for selling at least one million copies.

Since winning season six, Jordin Sparks has sold millions of albums including over 10 million singles in the United States alone.  Her duet hit “No Air” reached number three on the singles chart.  Sparks is another Idol alum who has found success on the Broadway stage.  She most recently appeared on the new hit “Masked” franchise on the “Masked Dancer”.

Season three winner Fantasia Barrino shocked Idol fans with her soprano voice.  She had her Idol single debut in the number one spot and had her debut album certified platinum.  She has had a total of eight albums chart on the Billboard 200 Album chart, has a Grammy Award, starred as herself in a Lifetime movie, and has appeared on Broadway.

Over the years there has been a good bit of discussion as to who which singer – Carrie Underwood or Kelly Clarkson – is the most successful Idol winner.

After winning season four, Carrie Underwood has gone on to be one of the top female artists in Country Music.  She has the most number one hits on the Billboard Country Music chart, has seven Grammy Awards, eleven Billboard Music Awards, 15 American Music Awards, and is in the Guinness Book of World Records.  Underwood has notched 27 number one songs and has sold over 60 million albums around the world.

Original Idol winner, talk show host, and current “The Voice” coach Kelly Clarkson has had hits on the pop, adult contemporary, adult pop, dance, and country music charts with three number one albums and eleven top 10 singles – three reaching number one.  Clarkson has won three Grammy Awards and has won a Daytime Emmy Award for her talk show.