‘American Idol’ Third-Place Finishers Give Clues To Danny Gokey’s Future

Can Gokey do better than the likes of Elliott Yami, Nikki McKibbin and Melinda Doolittle?

If you’re a Danny Gokey groupie, there are two ways to look at Wednesday night’s “American Idol” results show , during which the 29-year-old singer was ousted from the competition: Weep for lost opportunity, or applaud Gokes for a job well sung and look forward to his career as a recording artist.

And just what sort of career will he have? Last week we took a look back at “Idol” fourth-place finishers, like Chris Daughtry and Josh Gracin, for clues about how 17-year-old Allison Iraheta might fare in years to come. Now we turn our attention to the #3 bootees, whose post-”Idol” careers are considerably less impressive than the #4 losers. Will Gokey fade away or break the mold?

Nikki McKibbin, Season One: The Texas-born singer got off to a rough start: She left “Idol”-backed 19 Entertainment when she refused to cut a country album and ended up joining a rock band, only to quit months later. Her indie debut album, Unleashed, finally hit in 2007, but it didn’t help to up McKibbin’s profile. Last year, she appeared on the second season of “Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew,” checking into a treatment center to combat addictions to cocaine and alcohol. She successfully completed her stay, moved into a sober-living facility and released a new single, “Inconsolable,” in March. Major props for getting clean, but the music career is in serious need of a jolt. Success score: 1.5 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Kimberley Locke, Season Two: Her debut single, the catchy pop number “8th World Wonder,” hit the airwaves less than a year after she left the “Idol” limelight and went straight to the top of Billboard‘s Hot Dance Club Play chart. She accomplished that feat twice more, with 2007′s “Change” and 2008′s “Fall.” Success score: 3.5 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Jasmine Trias, Season Three: The 22-year-old Trias may no longer be well-known in the continental U.S., but she’s still popular in her native Hawaii and a huge celebrity in her ancestral home, the Philippines, where her self-titled debut album was certified platinum. But it’s been almost four years since that record appeared, and though on her MySpace page she claims to be recording a sophomore effort, nothing approaching a release date has been offered. Success score: 3 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Vonzell Solomon, Season Four: Viewers may have loved Solomon, but record execs certainly did not: She didn’t receive a contract after coming in behind Bo Bice and Carrie Underwood. Instead, she founded her own label and released the album My Struggle on iTunes in 2007 under the moniker Baby V. Her struggle has since continued: Last year, she was arrested in a Florida airport for carrying an unloaded handgun in her luggage. Her Web site announces that Solomon is “focused on the release of [her] highly anticipated album.” We’ll wait and see. Success score: 1 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Elliott Yamin, Season Five: Who doesn’t love Elliott? The former pharmacy clerk blossomed on the “Idol” stage, going from awkward to awesome before our eyes. His self-titled debut went as high as #3 on the Billboard chart. The disc went gold, and his first single, “Wait for You,” went platinum. However, his just-released sophomore album, Fight for Love, bowed at a disappointing #26 on the Billboard albums chart. Sad to say, but it seems like Elliott’s stock is falling. Success score: 4 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Melinda Doolittle, Season Six: The longtime backup singer finally got a chance to step to center stage in 2007, wowing the judges and voters with covers of Aretha Franklin and Diana Ross tunes. Her livelihood since has been considerably less triumphant. While her first album, Coming Back to You, was critically lauded, it didn’t make much of an impact with the public. Success score: 2 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Syesha Mercado, Season Seven: The R&B singer snuck into the top tier through a combination of peaking at the right time and benefiting from the implosion of competitors Brooke White and Jason Castro. But it’s a little too early to judge Syesha’s progress thus far. She recently shot a music video and has been recording in the studio with producing talent like Anne Preven and Scott Cutler (Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn”). Success score: 1.5 out of 5 “Idol” stars

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