Do you remember the guy who was standing next to Carrie Underwood the night she won American Idol and her career essentially took off like a bat-out-of-hell? Probably not. How about the 17-year-old who tried, in vain, to stop the barreling train that was Fantasia Barrino on the Season 3 finale night? No? Yeah, not surprising. These two people (Bo Bice and Diana DiGarmo, by the way) never came close to having the careers that the Idol that beat them out have.
However, a few runner-ups have been able to crawl out of the pit of potential obscurity, and some have even surpassed the actual winner in popularity!
With Crystal Bowersox joining the list of American Idol number-twos, it causes us to wonder, whatever happened to those nine almost-winners? Some, like Musical God Adam Lambert, have gone on to have successful album sales and go on national tours, while others, such as poor beat-boxer Blake Lewis, are playing the chili cook-off/church carnival circuit.
What will be Crystal’s fate? In The Ashley’s opinion, losing ‘American Idol’ may have been the best thing that could have happened to her. We’ve all seen the crappy way that last year’s winner, Kris Allen, was promoted by the American Idol execs. (Um…he wasn’t.) However, “loser” Adam Lambert had the freedom to write his on ticket, his own way and do what he wanted and has become successful. He didn’t have the “Idol” chains that the winner had.
Crystal is eccentric like Adam and surely wouldn’t fit into the cookie-cutter ways of the American Idol. (Although I’m still praying for a “From Justin, to Kelly” revival movie starring Lee and Crystal!) If she follows Adam’s path, she could be very successful.
ABC News recently did a pretty cool “Where are they Now” article on the Idol runners-up, causing The Ashley to look a little deeper into what happened to these people. Here’s The Ashley’s look at who’s making money and who’s making hamburgers at McDonald’s!
The Original “Number 2,” Justin Guarini:
Justin was quick to jump on Kelly Clarkson’s coattails after she won the first American Idol title. Together, they brought us “From Justin to Kelly” and for months after that, whenever Kelly appeared on a TV show, Justin was being dragged behind her. Eventually, Kelly became a star and Justin, well…didn’t. He did pull himself out of the obscurity pit, however, by becoming an Idol news correspondent and appearing on the show Idol Tonight. While it’s not the fame and fortune Kelly Clarkson achieved, Justin was quick to see where his only meal ticket would come from, and he jumped on it. Musically, however, his CDs have been very disappointing, and he never lived up to Simon Cowell’s expectations of him.
The Most Successful “Number 2,” Clay Aiken:
Clay was the runner-up to Ruben Studdard, but has gone to have a much more successful career. From the moment Ruben’s name was announced as the winner, nearly half the country was yelling “WTF happened here!?” Ruben’s songs were a sound-the-same-snooze fest (let’s not forget the ingenious composition that was “Sorry 2004”), Clay had a beautiful voice and worked with great songwriters to produce several hits. According to ABC News, Clay has outsold and outshined Ruben, earning about $2.2 million in 2009, according to Forbes. Clay also has had a successful Broadway career in “Spamalot.”
Where is he now? Clay decided to have some mercy on his former competitor, and has agreed to tour with Ruben. Hopefully they alternate songs between Clay and Ruben to ensure the audience is able to stay awake throughout the whole concert.
The Most Easily-Forgotten “Number 2,” Diana DeGarmo:
This girl easily could have won The Ashley’s award for most freaking annoying Idol ever. For no apparent reason (except maybe for the fact that she had a habit of singing Gloria Estefan songs, which The Ashley hates with a passion), Diana just bugged me. Season 3 was strange in that everyone knew Fantasia was going to win. After Jennifer Hudson and other talented people were eliminated early on, Diana skated into the finals by sheer luck.
Where is she now? According to the ABC News article Diana released two albums, “Blue Skies” (2004) and “Unplugged in Nashville” (2009). Neither made much of a splash. She has found modest success in theater, though. She appeared in “Hairspray” and “Hair” on Broadway.
The Could-of-Been-Good “Number 2,” Bo Bice:
Bo was the most rough-and-tumble rocker that Idol had seen. Though he had a good voice, and a cool 1970s vibe, Bo never had a chance against the almighty Carrie Underwood. Great voice? Check. Down-home personality? Check. Girl-next-door-meets-bombshell looks? Check. Carrie had it all, and a guy with scraggily hair just couldn’t compete. Bo’s first album, “The Real Thing,” released in December 2005, did reach number 4 on Billboard’s Top Albums chart, but we haven’t heard much from him since then. Apparently, he still tours; however, I’m sure most of his nights are spent on his porch listening to Lynyrd Skynyrd albums and wondering what the hell happened to his career.
The What-the-Hell Happened “Number 2,” Katharine McPhee:
Katharine should have had Season 5 on lockdown. She had a beautiful voice, great looks and was a personable competitor. Compared to the sometimes-annoying, gray-haired Taylor Hicks, Katharine should have taken home the title. However, America likes a good show, and Taylor delivered, grabbing the winning spot as the American Idol. Everyone thought that even though Katharine didn’t win, she would surely have a promising career. Though she was able to break into the Billboard 200 a few times and had a single go to number 2, she surely didn’t live up to her post-Idol potential. She was eventually “released” (a.k.a. got the boot) from her record contract. She recorded her second album with a smaller recording company.
Kat should thank this season’s Didi Benami for the unexpected boost to her album sales. When Didi sang “Terrified” during Hollywood Week (a song on Kat’s album), iTunes sales went way up. Though she has fared better than a lot of the runner-ups, it’s disappointing Katharine never became the big star she should have been. (She was pretty good in the movie “The House Bunny” though!)
The One-Trick-Pony “Number 2,” Blake Lewis:
‘Member this guy?! Everyone nearly pissed themselves when they first heard Blake beat-box during his songs during Season 6. He was a clear favorite the whole season; however there was only one problem: the guy actually couldn’t sing. Without the help of his beat-boxing, he was just an average singer with no gimmick. He was beat out by the much-more talented Jordin Sparks and has since faded into relative obscurity. His first album made it to number 10 on the charts, still carrying momentum from Idol; however, it only ended up selling 350,000 copies, causing Arista Records to drop him. He released a second, more techno album in October 2009. The first single, appropriately titled “Sad Song,” could possibly be a song about his dead career?
The All-American “Number 2,” David Archuleta:
Little Archie squared off with David Cook’s big voice for the Season 7 finale. Both were talented, but Archie’s All-American, Donny Osmond-esque persona may have been too wholesome, even for American Idol. David Cook took the crown, but David Archuleta has been smart enough to recognize who his true fans were: screaming Disney-channel loving, Hannah Montana-shirt-wearing 10-year-old girls. His first album did well, and he has appeared on popular kids’ shows such as “iCarly” and “Hannah Montana.” Still popular with the teeny-boppers, David also took home a Teen Choice Award for “Most Fanatical Fans.” Not sure if you should be happy to win that one, Archie. Sounds kind of like you have a lot of potential lawn-sleepers on your hands. Anyway, he is currently working on his third album.
The “He Got Totally Robbed (But Thank God) Number 2,” Adam Lambert
It’s no secret how much The Ashley loves herself some Adam Lambert! Last season, Adam added new life to the show, with people tuning in just to see what that guy would do next. Everyone, even Kris Allen, was completely shocked when Adam lost. (He even told reporters that, “Adam deserved this.”) Adam didn’t seem too broken-hearted about the loss and was more than likely relieved that he wouldn’t be bound by the Idol contract. Though Kris won, less than a month later, it was Adam who was on the cover of Rolling Stone, and later, stirring up controversy on award shows. His first album debuted at number 3 on the Billboard charts and is currently on a national tour. (The Ashley will be there, July 28!) As for that season’s winner, Kris Allen? Well…if he doesn’t get his ass moving in the promotions department (those crappy Ford Focus commercials don’t count, either), he’ll be selling hot dogs at the stadium where Adam’s performing.
The Ashley has rated all of the past Idol runners-up, in order of how successful they have been/will be. This is strictly my feelings. Although I have taken album sales into account, I am basing my list on how recognizable they are to pop culture.
From most successful to least successful:
1. Crystal Bowersox: has the best chance of becoming a real star that any of the runners-up have ever had. She had a great following and is much more of an audio performer (meaning she doesn’t rely on stage gimmicks to attract your attention.)
2. Adam Lambert: The most talented person ever to set foot on Idol’s stage. I only gave him number two because he is so outlandish, which may turn a few rednecks and fuddy-duddys in West Virginia off.
3. Clay Aiken: While Clay-mania had died down, I am giving Clay the number three spot because he was very successful in years past, and is still easily recognized in pop culture.
4. David Archuleta: Little David has good momentum and, if he continues to market himself right, can keep himself in the limelight.
5. Katharine McPhee: She gets the number five spot because she is likely to have a successful acting career. With her good looks and screen-friendly personality, she can totally go the movie star route.
6. Justin Guarini: Some may be surprised I ranked him number six, but Justin was smart enough to do one thing: continue to capitalize on his former-Idol fame. Justin found work as an Idol correspondent, and as long as the show continues to thrive, so will Justin.
7. Bo Bice: Bo is in the bottom three of the runners up, but beats out the last two because he is actually the best singer of all of them. There’s a slight chance Bo can still have a successful career.
8. Diana DeGarmo: Diana has been doing the Broadway circuit, which means she’s at least still trying to keep her name in lights. However, it’s doubtful she’ll ever become a success in the mainstream music world.
9. Blake Lewis: Poor Blake is the least likely to be successful of all the Idol runners-up. It just proves that gimmicky acts don’t last. In the end, this beat boxer just ended up with no record contract and spit on his hands.
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