Monday , April 15 2024

'American Idol' Winners: Which Singer Won Each Season?

From Kelly Clarkson to Maddie Poppe, here’s a list of every winner in “Idol” history.

American Idol’s 17th season premiered March 3, with Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie returning for their second year as judges on the rebooted reality singing competition, which moved from Fox to ABC last year. This season’s auditions kicked off in cities ranging from New York and LA to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, and Louisville, Ky., in search of the next Kelly, Ruben, Fantasia or Carrie.

Since its premiere in summer 2002, the original reality star-making juggernaut has launched the careers of dozens of superstars and spawned countless imitators and competitors. While alums Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson have opted for the spinning chairs of rival The Voice on NBC, as host Ryan Seacrest would say, there’s only one American Idol.

Check out the complete list of every season’s winner below.

Season 1

Winner: Kelly Clarkson

Runner-Up: Justin Guarini

Judges: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell

Nearly two decades after ushering in the age of reality TV singing competitions, it’s hard to remember that the original iteration of American Idol was a major gamble. Launched in the summer of 2002 and based on the hit U.K. TV show Pop Idol, the nationwide search for a superstar with a mean British record executive and an ’80s pop star on the judging panel turned into an unexpected hit, providing a weekly dose of comfort, hope and optimism to the bleak post-9/11 cultural landscape. The inaugural season of the show also introduced millions of viewers to a then-unknown 20-year-old waitress from Burleson, Texas, by the name of Kelly Clarkson, who would go on to superstardom and forever remain America’s first Idol.

Season 2

Winner: Ruben Studdard

Runner-Up: Clay Aiken

Judges: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell

Striking while the iron was hot, Fox quickly renewed the show for a second season in January 2003. The sophomore season saw R&B singer Ruben Studdard triumph over big-voiced balladeer Clay Aiken. In 2018, the pair would reunite for a three-week Broadway run of Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Christmas Carol Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Show.

Season 3

Winner: Fantasia Barrino

Runner-Up: Diana DeGarmo 

Judges: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell

Season 3 saw a top 12 filled with powerhouse women, including the holy trinity of Jennifer Hudson, LaToya London and eventual winner Barrino. While Fantasia took the crown over 16-year-old Diana DeGarmo in the finale with an iconic performance of coronation song “I Believe,” J-Hud’s controversial elimination in the top seven was the biggest shock of the season. Thankfully, the unexpected exit did nothing to deter the future Oscar winner (and two-time coach on The Voice) from continuing to chase her dreams of stardom.

Season 4

Winner: Carrie Underwood

Runner-Up: Bo Bice

Judges: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell

Season 4 found one of Idol’s brightest stars in winner Carrie Underwood, who went on to rival Kelly Clarkson as one of the show’s greatest success stories. The reigning queen of country music is a seven-time Grammy winner with more than 16 million albums sold in the U.S. over her lengthy career. Her 2005 debut album, Some Hearts, went eight-times platinum and remains the best-selling debut album in the show’s history.

Season 5

Winner: Taylor Hicks

Runner-Up: Katharine McPhee

Judges: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell

With silver-haired Taylor Hicks besting ingenue Katharine McPhee in the finale, season 5 became the first to have a male winner and female runner-up. Though McPhee’s career eventually eclipsed Hicks’ thanks to starring roles in NBC’s Smash, CBS’s Scorpion and Broadway’s Waitress, he remains the oldest winner in Idol history at 29. The 2006 season also launched the careers of rocker Chris Daughtry — whose fourth-place finish was met with controversy — and country singer Kellie Pickler.

Season 6

Winner: Jordin Sparks

Runner-Up: Blake Lewis

Judges: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell

In 2007, America crowned Jordin Sparks, a 17-year-old high school senior, over beatboxer Blake Lewis. Sparks would go on to deliver such top 10 pop hits as “Tattoo,” “Battlefield” and “No Air,” featuring Chris Brown, throughout the rest of the 2000s. The season also introduced the first-ever songwriting competition, which yielded Sparks’ coronation single “This Is My Now.”

Season 7

Winner: David Cook

Runner-Up: David Archuleta

Judges: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell

It was David vs. David in the season 7 finale, as host Ryan Seacrest had to use the last name to declare rocker David Cook’s win over golden-voiced Utah teen David Archuleta. (Notably, both Archuleta’s debut album and lead single “Crush” would peak higher than Cook’s respective entries on the Billboard charts once the competition was over.) The season also featured teen Danny Noriega in the semifinals, who would eventually go on to become fan-favorite drag queen Adore Delano of RuPaul’s Drag Race fame.

Season 8

Winner: Kris Allen

Runner-Up: Adam Lambert

Judges: Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi

Season 8 saw the first change to the judging panel in the show’s history with the addition of hit songwriter Kara DioGuardi. With Kris Allen emerging victorious over glam rocker (and future Queen collaborator) Adam Lambert, the season also continued the streak of wins by guys with guitars — a pattern that would continue for multiple seasons.

Season 9

Winner: Lee Dewyze

Runner-Up: Crystal Bowersox

Judges: Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, Ellen DeGeneres

Paula Abdul announced she would step away from the show that reignited her career prior to season 9, prompting a rotating door of guest judges to join Simon, Randy and Kara during the audition rounds. Eventually, Ellen DeGeneres joined the panel full-time beginning in the semifinals, but the talk-show host was an ill-advised fit for the show, as Lee Dewyze beat out Crystal Bowersox for the title.

Season 10

Winner: Scotty McCreery

Runner-Up: Lauren Alaina

Judges: Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler

After nine seasons as Idol’s resident bad guy, Simon Cowell departed the series after season 9 (along with DioGuardi and DeGeneres) and was replaced by Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler in the biggest shake-up to the judging panel yet. With feisty soul singer Haley Reinhart eliminated in the top three, the season 10 finale was all country — and all teen — as Scotty McCreery faced off against Lauren Alaina. The former may have won the crown, but both stars have since carved out respectable careers in Nashville.

Season 11

Winner: Phillip Phillips

Runner-Up: Jessica Sanchez

Judges: Randy Jackson, Jennifer Lopez, Steven Tyler

The entire revamped judging panel returned for a second round in season 11, which saw singer-songwriter Phillip Phillips win over Jessica Sanchez, the first recipient of the judges’ save to ever reach the finals. Phillips’ debut single, “Home,” became the best-selling coronation song in Idol history and sold more than 5 million copies in the U.S. after being used in promos for the 2012 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team.

Season 12

Winner: Candice Glover

Runner-Up: Kree Harrison

Judges: Randy Jackson, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban

Season 12 is perhaps best-remembered for the bitter, season-long feud between brand-new judges Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj, whose verbal sparring and bad blood behind the scenes dominated nearly every episode. Mariah later described the saga as the “worst experience of [her] life” and all the drama threatened to overshadow Candice Glover’s victory as the first female Idol winner since Jordin Sparks in season 6. It’s especially unfortunate considering Glover’s top six performance of The Cure’s “Love Song” — by way of Adele — was so sublime that it remains one of the best performances in the show’s history, and even earned a reverential glitter toss from Mimi herself. (On a similar note, Glover’s 2013 debut album Music Speaks is also a criminally underrated gem in the Idol catalog.)

Season 13

Winner: Caleb Johnson

Runner-Up: Jena Irene

Judges: Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Harry Connick, Jr.

After the contentious panel of the previous year, Mariah and Nicki both exited the series, and even Randy Jackson took his final bow as a judge — opting instead to shift roles as the show’s in-house mentor. Jennifer Lopez returned after a season away along with brand-new judge Harry Connick, Jr. to join Keith Urban in coronating Caleb Johnson as season 13 champ.

Season 14

Winner: Nick Fradiani

Runner-Up: Clark Beckham

Judges: Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Harry Connick, Jr.

In season 14, pop-rock singer Nick Fradiani beat runner-up Clark Beckham for the title in the show’s fourth all-male finale. His winning single, “Beautiful Life,” was written by Dashboard Confessional frontman Chris Carrabba and was used by Fox as the official promo song for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.

Season 15

Winner: Trent Harmon

Runner-Up: La’Porsha Renae

Judges: Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban, Harry Connick, Jr.

Billed as “The Farewell Season,” American Idol took its final bow on Fox with country singer Trent Harmon edging out R&B powerhouse La’Porsha Renae for the season 15 crown. The star-studded finale featured performances by dozens of Idol alumni, including nearly every champ and notable finalist in the show’s 15-year run.

Season 16

Winner: Maddie Poppe

Runner-Up: Caleb Lee Hutchinson

Judges: Katy Perry, Luke Bryan, Lionel Richie

Just two years after the pomp-and-circumstance-filled send-off on Fox, its rival network ABC rebooted the franchise with a brand-new judging panel of Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie. Though the show’s ratings were nowhere near the unbeatable levels of its heyday, teen folk-pop singer Maddie Poppe was voted as the new American Idol over future boyfriend Caleb Lee Hutchinson just two years after failing to secure a single chair turn on NBC competitor The Voice.

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