Can Past ‘American Idol’ Winners’ Careers Predict Kris Allen’s Future?

Season-eight champ could soar like Kelly Clarkson or tank like Taylor Hicks.

Kris Allen may have declared that Adam Lambert deserved to win the eighth season of “American Idol,” but the voting public disagreed . I’m with Allen on this one. Which is not to take anything away from the guy’s win. His acoustic-guitar-driven covers of Kanye West’s “Heartless” and Donna Summer’s “She Works Hard for the Money” were among the best performances of the competition. Throughout the season, the Arkansas native drew comparisons to Jason Mraz and John Mayer. On Wednesday’s finale, he shared the stage, somewhat awkwardly, with country star Keith Urban.

Given the range he’s displayed on the show, what musical path will Allen pursue? And how will he fare as he travels it? MTV News studied the history of “Idol” winners for clues about how the eighth-season champ’s career might turn out.

Kelly Clarkson, Season One: Here’s a test: Turn up the volume way loud on “Since U Been Gone” and try not to bop your head to the infectious chorus. If you can resist, you may not have a pulse. Clarkson was the first “Idol” winner and she set the bar high for all who came after her. You want album sales? A double-platinum debut. A sophomore disc that went platinum six times. You want awards? Two Grammys. Just forget about “From Kelly to Justin,” will ya? Her latest record, All I Ever Wanted , shot straight to the top of the Billboard 200, and she’ll be embarking on a 17-city tour in July.

Success score: 5 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Ruben Studdard, Season Two: Everything else aside, dude has got the best nickname in reality-show history: The Velvet Teddy Bear. Ruben’s first disc hit the #1 Billboard slot on its way to platinum status. The trend downward began with 2004’s I Need an Angel, which only went gold. His third effort, The Return, performed even less well. Love Is , his newest record, hit shelves on Tuesday. Though I’m pulling for the big guy to reestablish himself as a hit-maker, if the first single, which didn’t crack the Hot 100, is any indication, things aren’t looking good for Ruben.

Success score: 3 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Fantasia Barrino, Season Three: Sitting on the “Idol” stage, Fantasia belted out a master class in vocal dexterity and emotive singing with her rendition of George Gershwin’s “Summertime” and promptly walked away with the competition. The single “I Believe” notched a #1 hit on the Billboard chart four weeks after the show ended. Her first album, however, broke the streak of #1 Billboard hits for “Idol” winners. Still, Free Yourself went platinum. Like Ruben, Fantasia has struggled to follow through on her early success. Starting in 2007, she appeared on Broadway in Oprah Winfrey’s “The Color Purple,” and now she’s gearing up for her own VH1 reality show .

Success score: 3 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Carrie Underwood, Season Four: The lone country champ could probably battle it out with Clarkson for the most successful “Idol” of all time. She’s only had two albums so far, but her first (Some Hearts) went platinum seven times and the second (Carnival Ride) went platinum twice. She saw Clarkson’s two Grammys, then raised her two more. Eight singles went #1 on one of the Billboard charts. Another single, “Home Sweet Home,” has been this season’s farewell song, and she performed it live during Tuesday night’s broadcast.

Success score: 5 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Taylor Hicks, Season Five: I guess someone’s got to be at the bottom, and that someone is undoubtedly Hicks. While his first album hit #2 on the Billboard chart and eventually went platinum, it ranks as the poorest-selling “Idol” debut in history. The leader of the Soul Patrol managed to have a #1 single, but his sophomore album pretty much tanked. He’s currently traipsing around the country with the touring company of “Grease.”

Success score: 1 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Jordin Sparks, Season Six: At 16 years of age, Sparks was the youngest contestant ever to win the competition. She’s certainly precocious, but she’s going to need to keep plugging away if she wants to ascend to the top tier of former “Idol” contestants. Two top-10 singles (one of which was a duet with Chris Brown) and a record that stalled at #10 on the album chart won’t be enough. In its first week, that first disc sold the fewest copies of any debut from an “Idol” winner, though it ended up going platinum and out-selling Hick’s record. This summer, she’s releasing her second disc and touring with the Jonas Brothers .

Success score: 1.5 out of 5 “Idol” stars

David Cook, Season Seven: Platinum singles? Check. Platinum debut album? Check. #1 album? Nope. And there you have Cook in a nutshell: middle of the “Idol”-winner pack. Overseen by superstar rock producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance), Cook’s debut album was, in the words of Randy Jackson, just alright for me, dog. He deserves much credit, however, for hitting the road like a regular rocker with a 30-plus-city summer tour.

Success score: 2.5 out of 5 “Idol” stars

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