As he heads straight to his career as a professional recording artist, the most obvious question is: Will he be as successful in the music biz as he was on a reality-TV competition? MTV News studied the history of "Idol" winners for clues about how the ninth-season champ's career might turn out.
[url id="http://www.mtv.com/photos/american-idol-winners/1640116/4896766/photo.jhtml"]Kelly Clarkson[/url], Season One:
The first "Idol" champ set a crazy-high bar 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. You want staying power? Her latest disc hit the #1 Billboard spot. And how about we just forget about "From Kelly to Justin," OK? This summer she'll head out with the Lilith Fair tour. Success score: 5 out of 5 "Idol" stars
[url id="http://www.mtv.com/photos/american-idol-winners/1640116/4896792/photo.jhtml"]Ruben Studdard[/url], Season Two:
While the Velvet Teddy Bear has the best nickname of any "Idol" winner, there's nothing superlative about his track record as a recording artist. Though his first disc hit the #1 Billboard spot on its way to platinum status, the trend ever since has been downhill. His 2004 release, I Need an Angel, only went gold, and his third effort was even less impressive. His last studio album delivered his worst sales numbers, and his greatest-hits disc moved so few units we're embarrassed to print the actual tally. But hey, he looked great on Wednesday's show, slimmed down and rocking a dapper suit. Success score: 2.5 out of 5 "Idol" stars
[url id="http://www.mtv.com/photos/american-idol-winners/1640116/4896800/photo.jhtml"]Fantasia Barrino[/url], Season Three:
Fantasia's rendition of "Summertime" might be the finest "Idol" performance ever, a master class in vocal dexterity and emotive singing. The competition was hers from then on. Her post-"Idol" single, "I Believe," was #1 on Billboard for four straight weeks. But her first disc 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 in 2010 she launched her own VH1 reality show, "Fantasia for Real." The singer is at work on a third album that she somewhat self-consciously promised (during an appearance on this year's "Idol") would return her to her musical roots. Success score: 3 out of 5 "Idol" stars
[url id="http://www.mtv.com/photos/american-idol-winners/1640116/4896801/photo.jhtml"]Carrie Underwood[/url], Season Four:
The show's only country champ holds the title of highest-selling "Idol" contestant ever, with over 11.5 million albums sold. Her first album went platinum seven times, and her second went platinum twice. Her third album again hit the top Billboard spot and went platinum. She saw Clarkson's two Grammys, then raised her three more. Nine singles went #1 on the Billboard country chart. Another single, "Home Sweet Home," was season eight's farewell song. In April, Underwood became the first woman ever to be named the Academy of Country Music's Entertainer of the Year twice. You can't get much better than that. Success score: 5 out of 5 "Idol" stars
[url id="http://www.mtv.com/photos/american-idol-winners/1640116/4896802/photo.jhtml"]Taylor Hicks[/url], Season Five
There's always got to be someone at the bottom, right? That poor soul is the leader of the Soul Patrol. Hicks had a fast start after the show ended — a #2 Billboard debut that eventually went platinum — but his first effort was for many years the poorest-selling debut disc from an "Idol" winner (Kris Allen now holds that ignominious title). But unlike Allen, Hicks never sold singles, and his songs barely ever made it onto the radio. His second album tanked, and he spent last summer traipsing around the country with the touring company of "Grease." What passes for his summer tour is a whopping two dates: one at the Syracuse Balloon Fest and another at the 7th Annual Rocky Mountain Power Jam. Success score: 1 out of 5 "Idol" stars
[url id="http://www.mtv.com/photos/american-idol-winners/1640116/4896804/photo.jhtml"]Jordin Sparks[/url], Season Six:
At 16, Sparks was the youngest singer to win "American Idol." Precocious she was. A huge seller she ain't, at least when it comes to albums. Her first album sold the fewest copies of any debut from an "Idol" winner, though it ended up going platinum and out-selling Hick's disc. Her second album cracked the top 10 but didn't even go gold. Yet she has three top-10 singles (one of which was a duet with Chris Brown) and has sold 9 million singles, thrusting her into the ranks of the top "Idol" performers of all time. She's got a packed summer of tour dates coming down the line. Success score: 3.5 out of 5 "Idol" stars
[url id="http://www.mtv.com/photos/american-idol-winners/1640116/4896805/photo.jhtml"]David Cook[/url], Season Seven:
Cook's got both platinum singles and a platinum debut, but no #1 album, and that puts him in the middle of the "Idol" pack. And that album, overseen by superstar rock producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance), left much to be desired. Last year he embarked on an impressive, 30-plus-date summer tour, but this summer he'll hardly be seen out on the road. Cook, who was at a cancer benefit instead of Wednesday's season finale, is going to have to deliver an impressive sophomore effort to leapfrog the "Idol" winners currently ranked ahead of him. Success score: 3 out of 5 "Idol" stars
[url id="http://www.mtv.com/photos/american-idol-winners/1640116/4896807/photo.jhtml"]Kris Allen[/url], Season Eight:
It's early in his career, but there's no doubting Allen has struggled. His debut disc has sold less than 300,000 copies. On the other hand, his singles have performed respectably well when it comes to radio play. He'll hit the road with the Barenaked Ladies this summer. It's an open question whether or not he'll ever enjoy a higher profile than Adam Lambert, the singer he vanquished on season eight. Then again, he rocked a solo performance on Wednesday night's finale, and Lambert was sitting out, reportedly resting his voice before heading out on tour. Success score: 2.5 out of 5 "Idol" stars
Which past "Idol" winner is your favorite? Whose career path do you think Lee will follow? Talk about it in the comments.
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