At the close of this 43-episode ninth season of [url id=”http://www.mtv.com/news/topic/american_idol/index.jhtml”]”American Idol,”[/url] Crystal Bowersox stood as the most talented and consistent of all her peers. And it didn’t matter a lick. Lee DeWyze and his growly tones triumphed , while MamaSox had to settle for second place.
But fear not! As students of “Idol” history know, an “Idol” loss is no guarantee of imminent obscurity. Just look at Clay Aiken, Chris Daughtry or Adam Lambert for proof that the future can be bright. Of course, when it comes to second-place finishers, for every Lambert, there’s a Diana DeGarmo or a Blake Lewis. How will Bowersox’s career shake out? MTV News went back into the archives to dig up info on past “Idol” runners-up in a quest to discover the chances that we’ll still be buying the 24-year-old singer’s albums in years to come.
Justin Guarini, season one
Post-“Idol” life was busy for this floppy-haired inaugural runner-up. In short order, Guarini released both a movie (“From Justin to Kelly”) and his self-titled debut album. Things haven’t worked out so well since. The flick was “super pitchy, dawg” at the box office, opening with just $2.7 million in ticket sales, and his disc barely cracked the top 20 on the Billboard albums chart. He parted ways with his label and pumped out an independent, jazz-oriented sophomore album that didn’t make a dent in the pop-culture consciousness. Guarini hasn’t released an album since. Instead, he’s appeared in a couple of straight-to-DVD movies and took on hosting duties on the TV Guide Network’s “Idol” shows. Last year, he launched an unsuccessful campaign to get a song included on the “New Moon” soundtrack — a move that smacked of desperation. His next project is “Mafioso II” opposite Abe Vigoda. Yikes. Success score: 1.5 out of 5 “Idol” stars
Clay Aiken, season two
Aside from Sanjaya Malakar, there might not be an ex-contestant who’s easier to ridicule, but let’s give the dude his due: four top-five Billboard hits, two platinum-selling albums, a New York Times best-selling memoir. But in recent years, the ranks of the once-strong Claymate nation seem to be crumbling. Last year’s The Very Best of Clay Aiken — a best-of disc after six years? — peaked at #173 on the Billboard chart. We’ll have to wait and see how his next album, Tried and True, performs when it drops next month. Success score: 4 out of 5 “Idol” stars
Diana DeGarmo, season three
The mere mention of DeGarmo’s name might leave even seasoned “Idol” addicts scratching their heads and thinking, “Um, who?!” The then-teen had an auspicious debut after the show ended, scoring a top-15 single on the Hot 100 with “Dreams.” But her career took a downturn from there, as she appeared in a few stage musicals and recorded an indie country EP called Unplugged in Nashville. We expect more from our #2 finishers. 2010, though, gives us DeGarmo on an upswing: She nabbed the starring role in the Broadway revival of “Hair.” Success score: 2 out of 5 “Idol” stars
Bo Bice, season four
In the season of the rocker, Bice came thisclose to being king. After the show ended, he battled a broken foot and emergency intestinal surgery, nonetheless releasing a #2 hit single and a #4 hit album — both of which went gold. His 2007 follow-up disc, See the Light, alas, stalled at #150 on the Billboard chart. What passes for his 2010 summer tour this year is nine stops across the U.S. Success score: 2.5 out of 5 “Idol” stars
Katharine McPhee, season five
You could argue McPhee got robbed when she lost to gray-haired blues-meister Taylor Hicks. Or you could make the case that she never deserved to be in the final two in the first place (Daughtry, anyone?). What you can’t deny is McPhee’s middling post-“Idol” music career. Her self-titled debut album hit the #2 Billboard spot, but when it failed to have staying power, she was dropped by her label. Her sophomore effort made even less of a splash, barely cracking the top 20. We applaud McPhee for branching out into acting — see her turn in the surprisingly charming “House Bunny,” which went on to gross almost $50 million — but we hope for a more impressive musical career out of our “Idol” second-placers. Success score: 2.5 out of 5 “Idol” stars
Blake Lewis, season six
Lewis rode his beat-boxing skillz to within one night of an “Idol” crown. Producing musical beats with your mouth, it turns out, can only lead you so far in the real world. His Audio Day Dream barely cracked the top 10 on the Billboard albums chart and promptly plummeted. He was dropped by his label seven months after the album landed in stores. His next disc sold 4,000 copies. Success score: 1 out of 5 “Idol” stars
David Archuleta, season seven
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, eventually going gold. Archie also won five Teen Choice Awards. His 2009 Christmas album, however, only hit #30 on Billboard’s list. He returned to the “Idol” stage this season to perform John Lennon’s “Imagine” and is reportedly working on another album. That disc will be the key to knowing if the kid can reinvigorate his career or if his best days are behind him before he even exits his teenage years. Success score: 3.5 out of 5 “Idol” stars
Adam Lambert, season eight
Just a year into his professional career, it’s a little early for a comprehensive judgment of 2009’s #2. What we can say for certain is that Lambert currently enjoys one of the highest profiles of ex-Idols, regardless of finishing place. His album debuted at #3, selling nearly 200,000 copies. And he sparked a controversy at the American Music Awards during a risqué performance , raising the question of whether there’s no such thing as bad publicity. He’s about to embark on a massive, three-month Glam Nation Tour in cities across North America. Success score: 4 out of 5 “Idol” stars
Who is your favorite “Idol” runner-up? Share your pick in the comments!
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