‘American Idol’ Runners-Up Set Shaky Precedent For Adam Lambert

Will Adam's career be more like Justin Guarini's or Clay Aiken's?

The judges dug Adam Lambert from the beginning. So did America — until the glam rocker went vocal-chord-to-vocal-chord with Southern boy-next-door Kris Allen and came out on the losing end. No matter! Lambert is arguably the most fully formed and creative of all the top “American Idol” contenders. And judging by those awesome, blinged-out shoulder cages he rocked on the season finale, the man knows how to make an impression.

Will it be a lasting one? Whether he goes in the direction of ’70s glam rockers like David Bowie or hooks up with a band, à la Chris Daughtry, will we still buy the 27-year-old singer’s albums in years to come? MTV News went back into the archives to dig up info on past “Idol” runners-up in a quest to discover how Lambert’s career will shake out. (Check out our analyses of the third- and fourth-place “Idol” finishers, and the “Idol” winners .)

Justin Guarini, Season One: The year after the inaugural season of “Idol” was a busy one for the first #2. June saw the release of both his big-screen arrival (“From Justin to Kelly”) and his self-titled debut album. With a $2.7 million opening, the movie was a box-office bomb, yet his record managed to crack the top 20 on the Billboard chart. After leaving his label and releasing an independent sophomore album , Guarini let music take a backseat as he assumed hosting duties on “Idol” talk shows on the TV Guide Network and appeared in a few straight-to-DVD flicks. Recently he launched a campaign to get a song included on the soundtrack of “Twilight” sequel “New Moon.” Sure, he can go around claiming he’s a huge fan of the vampire franchise, but the bottom line is the move smacks of desperation.

Success score: 2 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Clay Aiken, Season Two: The flame-haired crooner and his coterie of devoted Claymates are easy to mock, but let’s give Aiken some credit. Four top-five Billboard album hits. Two platinum-selling albums. A memoir on the New York Times best-sellers list. Still, the now openly gay father might be a little too full of himself at this point: Did we really need The Very Best of Clay Aiken six years after his first release? Apparently not, as the disc stalled at #173 on the Billboard chart. Then again, he did have a brilliant cameo on the season finale of “30 Rock” last week.

Success score: 4 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Diana DeGarmo, Season Three: Who? You’ll be forgiven for forgetting that then-16-year-old DeGarmo almost won “Idol” back in 2004. Riding that success, she scored a top-15 debut on the Hot 100 singles chart with “Dreams.” But ever since, she hasn’t made much of an impact, appearing in a few stage musicals and recording an independent country EP called Unplugged in Nashville. When it comes to the most popular TV show in American, we expect better things from our finalists.

Success score: 1.5 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Bo Bice, Season Four: In the season of the rocker, Bice was almost king, coming in second to future country superstar Carrie Underwood. Despite a broken foot and emergency intestinal surgery, Bice began his post-”Idol” career strongly, with a #2 hit single and a #4 hit album, both of which went gold. His 2007 follow-up disc, See the Light, performed considerably less well, topping out at #150 on the Billboard chart. What passes for his summer tour this year is five stops in July in spots from New York to North Carolina.

Success score: 3 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Katharine McPhee, Season Five: Her loss to gray-haired blues man Taylor Hicks might have been the biggest upset in “Idol” history. Her self-titled debut album was also #2 (on Billboard), but when that album failed to have staying power, she was dropped by her label . She made her film debut in 2008′s surprisingly charming “The House Bunny,” which went on to gross almost $50 million.

Success score: 3 out of 5 “Idol” stars

Blake Lewis, Season Six: Props for pulling off one of the most original “Idol” covers with a beat-boxy take on Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name.” Better luck next time with your record! Lewis’ Audio Day Dream barely cracked the top 10 on the Billboard chart and went on to perform disappointingly. He was dropped by his label seven months after the album landed in stores.

Success score: 2 out of 5 “Idol” stars

David Archuleta, Season Seven: Aiken isn’t the only runner-up with a pun-tastic fanbase. The Arch Angels and millions of other “Idol” voters almost delivered a win for the little guy. He settled for second place, and his first album settled in at #2 on the Billboard chart and eventually went gold. Surely pleasing the tween set, Archie appeared on Nickelodeon’s “iCarly” and sang a duet with Miley Cyrus on Disney’s “Hannah Montana.”

Success score: 3.5 out of 5 “Idol” stars

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