It is hard to believe that it has been nearly 15 years since American Idol first hit airwaves. Who knew the singing competition would end up becoming a hit and start the careers of so many talented artists including Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Jordin Sparks. The franchise has produced over 375 #1 hits from 68 finalists that also include Kris Allen, Jennifer Hudson, and Chris Daughtry.
Here is a list of the top twenty hits from contestants that have appeared on the series since its debut. The numbers are based on chart performance on the Billboard Hot 100 list.
20. Kelly Clarkson “Walk Away” (2006) Hot 100 Peak #12
“Walk Away” can be found on Kelly Clarkson’s second album Breakaway and was the fifth single released off the album. The song is about finding a significant other that will support you and not run away during the hard times. In March 2006, the song became certified gold and in February 2010, 1 million digital copies of the song have been sold. The video was ranked #1 for 19 of the 50 days the video was eligible to be included in TRL‘s top ten video countdown including the final day it appeared on the list.
19. Kelly Clarkson “Already Gone” (2009) Hot 100 Peak #13
Though this song, which was featured on Clarkson’s fourth album All I Ever Wanted, peaked at number 13 on the Hot 100 chart. It still remained on the list for longer than Clarkson’s “Walk Away.” The song even reached #1 on the US Adult Top 40 and #3 on the US Adult Contemporary. Clarkson wrote the song with Ryan Tedder from OneRepublic, who also wrote “Halo” for Beyonce. Clarkson accused the signer of using the same track on both songs, which he denied.
18. Carrie Underwood “Inside Your Heaven” (2005) Hot 100 Peak #1
American Idol released two versions of this song in 2005. The first was Underwood’s version, which would peak at #1 on the Hot 100 List and would only stay there for one week. The second version came from Bo Bice, who was the runner-up to Underwood. Bice’s version reached #2 on the Hot 100 list. Underwood’s version sold 880,000 copies while Bice’s sold 401,000 copies. Underwood would go on to win the Billboard Music Award for “Top Selling Country Single of the Year” for the song. The B-side song on this single was “Independence Day,” a cover of the Martina McBride hit.
17. Elliott Yamin “Wait for You” (2007) Hot 100 Peak #13
When Yamin was first presented with this song to record for his self-titled album, he was not all that impressed. He said, “My manager urged me to give it a chance. Everyone smelled a hit.” Everyone turned out to be right. The key was lowered to accommodate Yamin’s voice and after he heard the finished product he loved it. The single peaked at #13 on the Hot 100 Chart and #4 on the US Adult Contemporary and US Mainstream Top 40. In February 2014, the song became certified platinum for receiving over 250,000 digital downloads. The video debuted at #1 on VH1’s VSpot Top 20 Countdown.
16. Kelly Clarkson “Miss Independent” (2003) Hot 100 Peak #9
“Miss Independent” was the first single off of Clarkson’s debut album entitled, Thankful. The song was written by Clarkson and Christina Aguilera, who originally wanted the song for herself but then decided not to record it. Destiny’s Child also had this song on hold for their Survivor album. Clarkson would go on to be nominated for a 2004 Grammy in the category of Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the single. The song topped the US Mainstream Top 40 charts and was certified gold in both the United States and Australia.
15. Ruben Studdard “Sorry 2004” (2004) Hot 100 Peak #9
Though Studdard’s music career never took off compared to other American Idol winners, he was still able to find a hit in “Sorry 2004,” which peaked at #9 on the Hot 100 charts. The song would remain on the charts for a total of 20 weeks. Additionally, it would peak at #2 on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart and would stay in the top 100 for 28 weeks. The song focused on Studdard apologizing for everything he did wrong in 2003 and vowed to make a change in 2004. The song was recorded in just two days because Studdard was so easy-going during the entire process.
14. Clay Aiken “This is the Night” (2003) Hot 100 Peak #1
Though Clay Aiken was runner-up to Ruben Studdard during the second season of American Idol, he was still able to top the Billboard Hot 100 Charts with the song “This is the Night.” It was the debut single that was released alongside Studdard’s “Flying Without Wings,” which peaked at #2 on the chart. This would be the first time the top two songs were both new entries. Aiken’s song became certified platinum 6 weeks after it was released and became the fastest selling single since 1997’s “Candle in the Wind” by Elton John. It was also named the best-selling single of 2003.
13. Daughtry “Home” (2007) Hot 100 Peak #8
Chris Daughtry wrote the song “Home” while he was home after his stint on American Idol. He ended up recording the song with his group Daughtry and the song became the second single on their debut album titled, Home. The music video was shot in Daughtry’s home town of Greensboro, North Carolina. Much of the footage was from the free concert the group but on for the city. The song was nominated for a Grammy in the category of “Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal” and was a winner of a People’s Choice Award in the “Favorite Rock Song” category.
12. Jordin Sparks “Tattoo” (2007) Hot 100 Peak #8
“Tattoo” was the first single on American Idol season six winner Jordin Sparks’ self-titled debut album. The video debuted on Yahoo! Music on November 2, 2007 and featured Sparks and a man on a merry-go-round. There was a different version filmed for the release of the song in Europe as the first version had a lack of interest in the area. The song would peak the highest on US Pop Songs where it would climb to the #5 spot.
11. Kelly Clarkson “A Moment Like This” (2002) Hot 100 Peak #1
This is the third time Clarkson has appeared on this list. “A Moment Like This” was her debut single after winning the first season of American Idol and later included on her first album. The song would hold the coveted #1 spot for two weeks and would also top the US Mainstream Top 40 chart and the Canadian Singles chart. Leona Lewis would re-record the song in 2006 after she became the winner of the third season of The X-Factor.
10. Daughtry “It’s Not Over” (2006) Hot 100 Peak Peal #4
“It’s Not Over” was the very first single from Daughtry’s first album entitled Home. It was released November 21, 2006. The music video would not be released until the following year on January 10, 2007 on AOL. The song was used in the commercials promoting the second season fall finale of the FOX drama Prison Break. The song became one of the top ten digital downloads of 2007 and was nominated for “Best Rock Song” at the Grammy Awards.
9. Carrie Underwood “Before He Cheats” (2007) Hot 100 Peak #8
It is hard to believe that Carrie Underwood was not the first choice for this song, but it is true. Gretchen Wilson had recently found fame with her song “Redneck Women” and the song writers thought this song about a woman scorned would be perfect for that image. The song is Underwood’s most successful single and is the third best-selling song by an American Idol contestant in the United States. The single remained on the Hot 100 for 64 weeks, the fifth longest run in chart history.
8. Kelly Clarkson “My Life Would Suck Without You” (2009) Hot 100 Peak #1
Another single from the first American Idol winner has shown up on this list. The song is featured on Clarkson’s fourth album All I Ever Wanted. The song would reach #1 the second week of its release and would stay there for one additional week. The song also holds the title of having the furthest jump on the Billboard Hot 100 when it climbed 96 spots. The song surpasses Clarkson’s other song “A Moment Like This” to achieve the title. The song was also #1 in Canada, Poland, Hungary and The UK.
7. Kelly Clarkson “Because of You” (2005) Hot 100 Peak #7
Clarkson wrote “Because of You” with the help of Ben Moody from the music group Evanescence. She remembers, “Ben came over to my apartment. My wisdom teeth had just been taken out and I looked horrible. He said, ‘I so want to work with you.” The song was originally wrote by Clarkson when she was 16 and dealing with the painful divorce of her parents. Moody helped create the version we know today. The two also wrote the song “Addicted” from the album Breakaway.
6. Phillips Phillips “Home” (2012) Hot 100 Peak #6
Phillips was the winner of American Idol season 11 and is the only contestant from this decade to appear on the list. The song was Phillips debut single and appeared in the Top 10 the first week of its release in May. First week digital sales for the song topped 278,000, making it the most downloaded song of any Idol winner’s debut song. The song would appear on the Hot 100 list again in August after it was featured in NBC’s commercials for the US Women’s Gymnastics team.
5. Kelly Clarkson “Breakaway” (2004) Hot 100 Peak #4
Clarkson has proven herself a true powerhouse. Avril Lavigne was on the writing team for this song and it was intended to be included on her debut album. Lavigne would end up passing on the song after it did not fit with the other songs she already had included on the album. Clarkson was then asked to record the song for the soundtrack of the The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement movie. Clarkson thought the first movie was cute, so she agreed to do the song. It is also featured on her second album.
4. Kelly Clarkson “Behind These Hazel Eyes” (2005) Hot 100 Peak #6
“Behind These Hazel Eyes” was the last song that Clarkson recorded on her sophomore album and the premise of the song is based off of real life experiences. “I wrote a song about a relationship that I thought was going well and then all of a sudden it wasn’t,” she volunteered. The song debuted at #87 on The Hot 100 and would remain in the top 10 for a total of fifteen weeks. It would top the US Adult Top 40 and reach to an impressive #2 on US Mainstream Top 40.
3. Jordin Sparks and Chris Brown “No Air” (2008) Hot 100 Peak #3
Before all the controversy between him and Rihanna, Chris Brown recorded this song with American Idol winner Jordin Sparks. The song was originally wrote for just a male to sing, but when Sparks heard it she knew she wanted to sing it. The writers turned it into a duet and then got Chris Brown on board. It reached #1 in both New Zealand and Ireland and #2 in Belgium and the US Mainstream Top 40. The song would receive a Grammy nomination in the “Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals” category.
2. Kelly Clarkson “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” (2012) Hot 100 Peak #1
“Stronger” was the second single on Clarkson’s fifth album by the same name. It would set new records by reaching the top spot on fifteen different charts including Hot 100, US Adult Contemporary, US Adult Top 40, and US Mainstream Top 40. It would also become the best selling single from an American Idol contest and has sold over 3.5 million copies. The top spot was previously held by Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats.” The song was also performed by Amber Riley, Naya Rivera, and Heather Morris on Glee. That version debuted on the Hot 100 at #66.
1. Kelly Clarkson “Since U Been Gone” (2005) Hot 100 Peak #2
No one should be surprised that the American Idol season 1 winner is also the winner of this list. Clarkson was featured on the list a total of ten times. “Since U Been Gone” was featured in Clarkson’s sophomore album, but was first offered to both P!nk and Hilary Duff who both turned it down. The song would go on to top the US Pop 100 and the US Mainstream Top 40 and is certified platinum in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Rolling Stone named it the 482nd Best Song of All Time in 2010.