Who Won American Idol? A Complete List Of Idol Winners From Kelly Clarkson To Iam Tongi

‘American Idol’ has produced its fair share of stars since its debut in 2002. See the full list of winners from Kelly Clarkson to Iam Tongi.

By

Melanie Rooten

Originally from Southern California and currently residing in Music City, Melanie graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a BA in Journalism before beginning her career as a music and entertainment journalist. Beginning to write for Music Mayhem in August of 2023, she has also contributed to Holler, Country Now, Country Chord, Celeb Secrets, Celeb Secrets Country, We Got This Covered and Decider throughout her career thus far. When she is not writing, Melanie enjoys going to concerts and music festivals, binging her favorite television shows, spending time with her friends and family and cheering on the Oklahoma Sooners (of course).

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Posted on January 11, 2024

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Kelly Clarkson, Photo by The Kelly Clarkson Show/NBC, Iam Tongi, Photo Courtesy of ABC/American Idol

Hosted by Ryan Seacrest since its debut in 2002 — running for 15 seasons on Fox before switching to ABC — American Idol has given hopeful musicians the chance to perform for judges like Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie, Keith Urban, Paula Abdul, and beyond, all in an attempt to win a recording contract.

Producing superstars like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Jordin Sparks, Scotty McCreery, Phillip Phillips, and more throughout its two decades on the air, keep scrolling for every single American Idol winner from season 1 to season 21.

Season 1: Kelly Clarkson

Arguably the most successful singer to stem from the beloved competition series, Kelly Clarkson, came from American Idol‘s very first season, beginning her journey in Dallas, Texas by auditioning with “At Last” by Etta James and “Express Yourself” by Madonna. She took home the coveted recording contract on September 4, 2002, beating out Justin Guarini during the highly-anticipated finale.

Since winning the show at just 20 years old, Clarkson has earned multi-platinum status on multiple records, served as a coach on The Voice, launched her own daytime talk show called The Kelly Clarkson Show, won dozens of awards — such as GRAMMY Awards, Billboard Music Awards, and MTV Video Music Awards — and more. She was even ranked 19th on VH1’s 100 Greatest Women in Music list in 2012, as well as the 14th best-selling artist of the 2000s (according to Billboard) in 2013.

Season 2: Ruben Studdard

Stemming from Birmingham, Alabama and auditioning in Nashville, Tennessee with Stevie Wonder’s “Ribbon in the Sky,” Ruben Studdard was the second singer to be crowned the champion of American Idol. Beating out Clay Aiken by a small margin come finale night, the 24-year-old ultimately made history as the first man and the first person of color to win the hit competition show.

Shortly after his American Idol journey came to a close, Studdard was awarded a Teen Choice Award for Choice Male Reality/Variety Star, as well as a Billboard Music Award for Top R&B/Hip-Hop Sales Single. In more recent years, Studdard appeared on The Biggest Loser, as well as reunited with Aiken to make their Broadway debut in Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show (also referred to as Ruben & Clay’s Christmas Show).

Season 3: Fantasia Barrino

Fantasia Barrino auditioned for American Idol in Atlanta, Georgia with “Killing Me Softly” by Lauryn Hill and “Proud Mary” by Tina Turner, ultimately coasting her way to the finale and beating out Diana DeGarmo by just a few votes. Season 3 of American Idol also introduced the world to the one and only Jennifer Hudson, however, she received a seventh place finish on the beloved competition series.

Much like Studdard, Barrino appeared on Broadway post-show as the lead in The Color Purple. The 19-year-old also went on to receive four GRAMMY nominations for her debut album, Free Yourself — winning her first GRAMMY Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for “Bittersweet” in 2010 — as well as a variety of other accolades.

Season 4: Carrie Underwood

Aside from Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood — who competed on American Idol at 21 years old — is another one of the most successful singers to stem from the beloved competition series. Auditioning in St. Louis, Missouri with “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt, Underwood eventually beat out Bo Bice come finale night, becoming the first country singer to win the show.

Since being crowned the champion, the multi-platinum recording artist has sold more than 70 million records worldwide, taken home more than 100 awards — including six GRAMMY Awards, as well as virtually every country music award possible — been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry, and more. In the year 2024, she is considered a country music icon.

Carrie Underwood; Photo Courtesy of Instagram/American Idol/FOX
Carrie Underwood; Photo Courtesy of Instagram/American Idol/FOX

Season 5: Taylor Hicks

Despite superstars Katharine McPhee, Chris Daughtry, Kellie Pickler, and more vying for the coveted recording contract, 29-year-old Taylor Hicks was crowned the champion of American Idol season 5. Auditioning with “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke in Las Vegas, Hicks made it all the way to the highly-anticipated finale without ever finding himself in the bottom three, ultimately beating out McPhee in the end and becoming the oldest singer to win American Idol.

Since winning the show, Hicks was named PEOPLE‘s Hottest Bachelor in 2006, performed in Grease both on Broadway and in the national tour, became the first American Idol winner to have a residency in Las Vegas, and more. His most recent release was a cover of “Jingle Bells,” which hit all music streaming platforms on October 27.

Season 6: Jordin Sparks

Traveling from Glendale, Arizona to Seattle, Washington to audition for the show, Jordin Sparks is another notable American Idol winner, beating out Blake Lewis on May 23, 2007 to become the youngest winner of the beloved competition series to date (at just 17 years old).

After American Idol, Sparks was nominated for a GRAMMY Award — as well as won a Teen Choice Award, NAACP Image Award, BET Award, American Music Award, People’s Choice Award, and more — additionally making her Broadway debut in 2010 in In The Heights and her movie debut in Sparkle in 2012. In more recent years, Sparks competed on season 31 of Dancing With The Stars, as well as released a single titled “Call My Name on October 13 (in addition to a Christmas-themed EP on November 21).

Season 7: David Cook

Famously beating out David Archuleta come finale night, David Cook was the 7th winner of American Idol, auditioning in Omaha, Nebraska with Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer” and finding himself avoiding the bottom three throughout the entirety of his American Idol journey.

Since winning the show, the Missouri native has headlined four tours and starred in Kinky Boots on Broadway, continuing his music career for over a decade. Cooks’ most recent release is a song titled “TABOS” from 2022, but he has since teased on social media that new tunes are on the horizon.

Season 8: Kris Allen

Traveling from Conway, Arkansas to Louisville, Kentucky to sing “A Song For You” by Leon Russell to judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson, and Kara DioGuardi, Kris Allen ultimately made his way to the highly-anticipated finale of American Idol season 8, famously beating out Adam Lambert in the end.

Following his win, Allen was nominated for a Teen Choice Award and People’s Choice Award, as well as released his self-titled album in 2009. This record was followed by Thank You Camellia in 2012, Horizons in 2014, Letting You In in 2016, Somethin’ About Christmas in 2016, and 10 in 2019.

Season 9: Lee DeWyze

23-year-old Lee DeWyze sang “Ain’t No Sunshine” by Bill Withers in Chicago, Illinois for his American Idol audition, securing himself a golden ticket to Hollywood week, advancing all the way to finale night, and ultimately beating out Crystal Bowersox in the end.

After winning the coveted title of American Idol, DeWyze went on to win Choice TV: Male Reality/Variety Star at the Teen Choice Awards, sign with Simon Fuller’s 19 Entertainment and RCA Records, and release five studio albums: Live It Up, Frames, Oil & Water, Paranoia, and Ghost Stories.

Season 10: Scotty McCreery

Tied with Jordin Sparks for the youngest winner in American Idol history, 17-year-old Scotty McCreery auditioned in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with “Your Man” by Josh Turner and “Put Some Drive In Your Country” by Travis Tritt, instantaneously solidifying his spot within the country music industry. Beating out fellow country music superstar Lauren Alaina during the highly-anticipated finale, McCreery became the first American Idol winner to be born in the 1990s, paving the way for an illustrious career.

Since winning the show, he has released smash hits like “Five More Minutes” and “This Is It,” as well as taken home American Country Awards, ACM Awards, CMT Music Awards, and more. 2024 is bound to be a big year for the country crooner, with tons of new tunes on the horizon, as well as an induction into the Grand Ole Opry to come after an invitation by Garth Brooks last month.

Scotty McCreery; Photo Courtesy of American Idol
Scotty McCreery; Photo Courtesy of American Idol

Season 11: Phillip Phillips

Phillip Phillips auditioned by singing “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder and “Thriller” by Michael Jackson to judges Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, and Steven Tyler, securing himself a ticket to Hollywood week and eventually finale night. Upon beating out Jessica Sanchez for the coveted recording contract during the finale of American Idol season 11, Phillips sang “Home,” which went on to be quadruple platinum.

The Georgia native released his first album, The World From The Side of the Moon, shortly after the show, followed by his second album called Behind the Light in 2014, his third album called Collateral in 2018, and his fourth album called Drift Back, in 2023. Throughout his decade-long career, Phillips has been nominated for American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, Teen Choice Awards, and more.

Season 12: Candice Glover

Auditioning for season 9 and season 11, Candice Glover finally got her time to shine on season 12 of American Idol, singing “Syrup & Honey” for her audition and eventually advancing all the way to finale night. Beating out Kree Harrison on May 16, 2023, Glover was the first woman to win American Idol since Jordin Sparks 13 years prior.

Shortly after the show, the South Carolina native dropped her debut album in 2014 titled Music Speaks, followed by singles “My Mistake” in 2017 and “Break Me” in 2018, making it a whopping six years since Glover has given American Idol lovers any new tunes.

Season 13: Caleb Johnson

Much like Glover, Caleb Johnson auditioned for seasons 10 and 11 before finding success on season 13 of American Idol, auditioning with his original song titled “Into the Void.” Given that they both fell into the rock genre, the finale for season 13 of American Idol was absolutely electric, but Johnson ultimately beat out Jena Irene in the end.

Recording his debut album, Testify, in just three weeks — collaborating with musicians such as Howard Benson, Aloe Blacc, Brian Howes, Blair Daly, and James Michael — Johnson dropped the record on August 12, 2014, forming a band called Caleb Johnson and the Ramblin’ Saints that same year.

Season 14: Nick Fradiani

Trying out for season 9 of America’s Got Talent with his band Beach Avenue — and being eliminated rather early — Nick Fradiani found much more success as a solo artist on season 14 of American Idol, auditioning with “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel. Coasting his way to finale night alongside Clark Beckham, Fradiani ultimately beat out Beckham on May 13, 2015, securing himself the coveted recording contract.

After being crowned the champion of American Idol, the Connecticut native pursued quite a few different endeavors, releasing Hurricane in 2016 with Big Machine Label Group, followed by Where We Left Off In 2017. He also toured with the band The Alternate Routes in 2017, as well as the musical A Bronx Tale (portraying Lorenzo Anello) in 2019.

Season 15: Trent Harmon

Auditioning with “Unaware” by Allen Stone, coasting his way to finale night and earning a controversial win over the oh-so talented La’Porsha Renae, Trent Harmon was what fans believed to be the final winner of the beloved competition series, that is before ABC picked up American Idol two years later for a few more seasons.

The 25-year-old signed with Big Machine Label Group post-show, ultimately releasing his debut EP in 2016 titled Trent Harmon, as well as his debut album in 2018 titled You Got ‘Em All. The latter featured the country crooner’s most successful song to date, “There’s a Girl,” which has amassed over 54 million streams via Spotify alone.

Season 16: Maddie Poppe

Stunning judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie by singing the Kermit the Frog song classic “The Rainbow Connection” for her audition, 20-year-old Maddie Poppe proved on day one that she was something special. Reprising the song with Kermit the Frog himself during the highly-anticipated season finale, Poppe captured the hearts of America, ultimately being crowned the champion of American Idol season 16 over Caleb Lee Hutchinson, her boyfriend at the time (who she started dating during the show).

The Iowa native has consistently been putting out music since winning the show, with her most recent release being a single titled “SOS I’m In Love” on September 1. Based on her social media profiles, it looks like some new tunes (as well as a plethora of live performances) are on the horizon.

Season 17: Laine Hardy

Stealing the hearts of American Idol viewers from coast to coast with his charm, good looks, and talented vocals, 18-year-old Laine Hardy won American Idol season 17, despite being cut in Hawaii the season prior. On May 19, 2019, Hardy beat out Alejandro Aranda, becoming the third American Idol winner to have previously competed on the hit competition show, following both Candice Glover and Caleb Johnson.

Hardy released his very first album since being crowned the champion titled Here’s To Anyone on September 17, 2021, featuring 11 must-listen tracks, most notably “Memorize You” and “Ground I Grew Up On.” Additionally (much like Poppe), based on his social media profiles, it looks like new music is definitely in the works.

Season 18: Just Sam

Samantha Diaz (nicknamed Just Sam) had a rather unconventional journey on American Idol, wowing judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, and Lionel Richie with their rendition of “Rise Up” by Andra Day, before the show took a turn for the worse. Switching to an online finale due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the final five — consisting of Dillon James, Francisco Martin, Just Sam, Arthur Gunn and Jonny West — faced off, and Just Sam was ultimately crowned the champion via video chat.

Diaz’s experience post-show was arguably worse, signing with Hollywood Records in 2020 and leaving shortly after, admitting in 2022, “I thought it was gonna be easy. Just go to the studio, record, put out music, and that’s not how the world works. That’s not how the industry works. It takes time, it takes money that I don’t have. It takes patience.” While they claim that they “ended up broke” in the process, Diaz assured American Idol lovers that they would release some new tunes as soon as they could handle it financially.

Season 19: Chayce Beckham

Stemming from Apple Valley, California, a forklift driver named Chayce Beckham wowed American Idol viewers from coast to coast with his impeccable singing skills, performing songs like “Fire Away” by Chris Stapleton and “Afterglow” by Ed Sheeran on our television screens. On May 23, 2021. the 24-year-old beat out Willie Spence, ultimately becoming the 19th winner of the hit competition show.

Since his victory, Beckham has solidified himself as a force to be reckoned with within the country music industry, releasing his debut EP titled Doin’ It Right, as well as a throng of other tunes. He has even hit the road with superstars like American Idol judge Luke Bryan, as well as Dylan Scott, Matt Stell, and more.

Chayce Beckham; Photo Courtesy of American Idol/ABC
Chayce Beckham; Photo Courtesy of American Idol/ABC

Season 20: Noah Thompson

Noah Thompson, a construction worker from Louisa, Kentucky, showed American Idol lovers what he was truly made of throughout season 20 of the hit competition show, performing tunes like “I’m on Fire,” “Working Man,” “You’ve Got a Friend in Me,” “Stand by Me,” “Cover Me Up,” and more. On May 22, 2022. Thompson beat out fellow country music superstar HunterGirl in the end, however, the duo has remained extremely close post-show.

Since his American Idol journey came to a close, Thompson released his debut EP titled Middle Of God Knows Where, featuring six tracks that are nothing short of spectacular. In addition to this, he embarked on a series of shows with HunterGirl serving as his supporting act, and the pair also released a duet titled “One Day Tonight.”

Noah Thompson; Photo Courtesy of American Idol/ABC
Noah Thompson; Photo Courtesy of American Idol/ABC

Season 21: Iam Tongi

The most recent winner of American Idol is 18-year-old Iam Tongi. Performing songs like “The Sound of Silence,” “The Winner Takes It All,” “Stuck on You,” “What a Wonderful World,” “Guardian,” and more, the Hawaii native captured the hearts of America, earning him the coveted recording contract over Megan Danielle and Colin Stough.

Despite moving audiences with his emotional story and heartfelt vocals on the show, fans are still yet to see where Tongi goes from here. His future is bright nonetheless!

Iam Tongi; Photo Courtesy of ABC/American Idol
Iam Tongi; Photo Courtesy of ABC/American Idol
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Originally from Southern California and currently residing in Music City, Melanie graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a BA in Journalism before beginning her career as a music and entertainment journalist. Beginning to write for Music Mayhem in August of 2023, she has also contributed to Holler, Country Now, Country Chord, Celeb Secrets, Celeb Secrets Country, We Got This Covered and Decider throughout her career thus far. When she is not writing, Melanie enjoys going to concerts and music festivals, binging her favorite television shows, spending time with her friends and family and cheering on the Oklahoma Sooners (of course).

See more posts from Melanie Rooten