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American Idol (titled American Idol: The Search for a Superstar in the first season) is a reality competition to find new solo musical talent, created by Simon Fuller. It debuted on June 11, 2002 on the Fox network, and has since become one of the most popular shows on American television. It is currently the #1 TV show in the Nielsen Ratings and is one of only three that have been #1 for five consecutive seasons, along with All in the Family and The Cosby Show. Part of the Idol franchise, it is a spinoff from the reality program Pop Idol, which first aired in 2001 in the United Kingdommarker.

The program seeks to discover the best singer in the country through a series of nation-wide auditions. Through phone voting America has chosen past winners Kelly Clarkson (Season One), Ruben Studdard (Season Two), Fantasia Barrino (Season Three), Carrie Underwood (Season Four), Taylor Hicks (Season Five), Jordin Sparks (Season Six), David Cook (Season Seven), and Kris Allen (Season Eight). Notably, with the exception of Jordin Sparks (whose parents are from Arizonamarker) all American Idol winners have been from the American South

In order to aid voters, the judges give critiques of the contestants' performances: Grammy award-winning record producer and music manager Randy Jackson; award-winning music executive and music manager Simon Cowell; and Grammy award-nominated singer-songwriter and record producer Kara DioGuardi. Grammy award-winning pop singer and Emmy award-winning choreographer Paula Abdul was a judge for seasons one through eight. The format originally featured three judges with DioGuardi added in the eighth season. After Abdul's exit, on September 9, 2009, Ellen DeGeneres was confirmed to be her replacement.

Ryan Seacrest has hosted the show in its entirety; he was joined by comedian Brian Dunkleman during the show's first season. The American Idol band is led by Rickey Minor.

The show usually airs on Tuesday and Wednesday nights in the United States and Canada, Wednesday and Thursday nights in Australia and Asia, Thursday and Friday nights on digital television in the United Kingdom Friday and Saturday nights in Israelmarker, and Saturday and Sunday nights in Latin America.

Selection process

Initial auditions

Before contestants get the chance to see the show's judges, they go through two rigorous sets of cuts. The first is a brief audition with three other contestants in front of one or two of the show's producers. Contestants are then either sent through to the next round of producers or asked to leave. Out of the thousands of people who show up to audition, only about 100–200 contestants in each city make it past this round. The remaining contestants haha in front of the four American Idol judges, and those who advance are sent to Hollywood.

Not all auditions are shown due to time constraints.


Once in Hollywood, the contestants perform on different days, with eliminations by the judges on each day. During the first six seasons, contestants select a song from a list to sing for the first round. For the next round, the contestants split themselves into small groups and performed a song together. In the final round, the contestants performed a song of their choice a cappella.

In the seventh season, the structure of the Hollywood auditions was revamped and the musical group round was eliminated. Instead, contestants sang alone on the first day. If the judges felt the performance was adequate, the contestant moved on to the final Hollywood round; otherwise, the contestant had one more chance to impress the judges before the final round. For the first time, contestants were able to perform with a musical instrument if they had the ability.


Seasons 1–3

In the first three seasons, the semifinalists were randomly split into different groups. Each contestant would then sing in their respective group's night. In season one, there were three separate groups and the top three contestants from each group made it to the finals. In seasons two and three, there were four groups of eight and the top two contestants moved on to the finals.

The first three seasons each featured a wildcard show. Contestants who failed to make it to the finals were invited back to perform for another chance at a spot in the finals. In season one, only one wildcard contestant was chosen by the judges. However, in seasons two and three, each judge championed one contestant and the public advanced a fourth into the finals. In the second season, a few hopefuls who had failed to make the semifinals were selected by the judges to compete. In the third season, the judges eliminated four contestants from the wildcard round before they had the opportunity to sing.

Seasons 4–7

From seasons four to seven, the semifinals were cut down to twenty-four contestants who were divided by gender in order to ensure an equal division in the top twelve. The men and women sang on sequential nights and the bottom two in both groups were eliminated each week until only twelve finalists were left. By season 7, contestants were now allowed to play any instrument along with singing their song.

Season 8

In season eight, there were thirty-six semifinalists. For three consecutive Tuesdays, twelve different semifinalists performed each night in the hopes of moving on to the finals. The three semifinalists with the highest number of votes—one male, one female, and the next top vote getter—advanced to the finals. The wild card round also returned, with the judges choosing three previously eliminated contestants to advance to the finals. Notably, they chose 4 wildcard contestants this year instead of 3 making it a final 13 instead of a final 12.


see main disambiguation page, The American Idol finales

The finals are broadcast live in prime time from CBS Television Citymarker in Los Angelesmarker, in front of a live studio audience. The finals lasted for eight weeks in season one and eleven weeks in subsequent seasons. Each finalist performs a song or songs selected from a weekly theme. During the first few weeks, contestants sing one song each. The top four and five contestants must sing two songs apiece. The top three perform three songs apiece.

Themes are based on a musical genre, songs recorded by particular artists, or Billboard #1 hits. In the past, themes have included Motown, disco, and big band music, as well as music by such artists as Michael Jackson, The Beatles, Billy Joel, Mariah Carey, Gloria Estefan, Elton John, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Dolly Parton, and Elvis Presley. Contestants usually work with a celebrity mentor during each week.

Following each performance episode, a results show airs that reveals the breakdown of the voting public's decision. The most popular contestants are not typically revealed, though they have been on occasion. The three contestants (two in later rounds) who received the lowest number of votes are typically called to the center of the stage. From the bottom three, one contestant is sent to safety so that two contestants remain (although these are not necessarily the two contestants with the lowest votes) and finally the contestant who received the lowest amount of votes is eliminated from the competition. During Season 8, the judges are given the ability to perform a "save" if they feel like the voting audience made a mistake. If they reach a unanimous decision, they can save the contestant for another week, but the following week will eliminate 2 people, and the person saved can not be saved again. Once the contestants get to the top 5, the save can no longer be used. When a contestant is voted off the show, a montage of the contestant's experience is played and they give their final performance.

In the finale, the two remaining contestants perform and one remaining contestant is declared the winner. For the first six seasons, the finale was broadcast from the Kodak Theatremarker, which holds an audience of approximately 3,400. For season seven, the venue was changed to the Nokia Theatremarker, which holds an audience of over 7,000. The winner is announced at the end of the following results show.

The winner receives a one million (US) dollar record deal with a major label, and is managed by American Idol-related 19 Management. In some cases, other finalists have also been signed by the show's management company (who has first option to sign contestants) and received record deals with its major label partner.

Season synopses


Fox, along with other networks, initially rejected American Idol. However, Rupert Murdoch, head of Fox's parent company, was persuaded to buy the show by his daughter Elisabeth who was a fan of the British version. Through word-of-mouth generated by the appeal of its contestants and the presence of acid-tongued British judge Simon Cowell, the show grew into a phenomenon. It was recently picked up for its ninth season by FOX. In November 2005, executives at FOX Broadcasting and the producers of American Idol reached a new deal, allowing the show to remain on the air through 2011.

Season 1

The first season of American Idol debuted without hype as a summer replacement show in June 2002 on the Fox network. It was co-hosted by Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman. The show ran for 13 weeks from June–September. An estimated 50 million people watched the finale in September 2002.

The winner, Kelly Clarkson, signed with RCA Records, the label in partnership with American Idol's 19 Management. Immediately post-finale, Clarkson released two singles, including the coronation song, "A Moment Like This". Clarkson has since released four successful albums—Thankful, Breakaway, My December, and All I Ever Wanted. Her fourth album All I Ever Wanted was released on March 10, 2009. Clarkson was the first contestant ever to win a Grammy and has gone on to receive several awards and sell over 20 million records worldwide, the most from any Idol worldwide. She is the first contestant to have two number one albums, the only contestant to have two number one singles on The Billboard Hot 100, have a non-related Idol single to peak at number one, and to have two singles reach the 2 million mark in digital download sales with Since U Been Gone, and My Life Would Suck Without You. Clarkson is currently working on her fifth studio album, which she plans to release in the fall of 2010.

Runner-up Justin Guarini also signed with RCA Records, eventually debuting an album in 2003 after the conclusion of season 2. RCA dropped him shortly after its debut. Guarini went on to form his own entertainment company and independently produced a jazz album in 2005, and is a host/commentator for the TV Guide Network.

In addition to Clarkson and Guarini, also signed were Nikki McKibbin (3rd), Tamyra Gray (4th), R. J. Helton (5th), and Christina Christian (6th). Tamyra Gray was signed, but was dropped before releasing an album. She then signed with Idol creator Simon Fuller's new label 19 Entertainment, released her debut album in 2004, and was dropped from that label in 2005.

The show inspired a 2003 musical film, From Justin to Kelly, featuring Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini. The musical love story, produced by Idol s Simon Fuller, was filmed in Miamimarker, Floridamarker over a period of six weeks shortly after the season ended. Released several months later in June 2003, the film failed to make back its budget during its short run in theaters, and is often ranked among the worst movies ever made.

Starting September 30, 2006, the first season of American Idol was repackaged as "American Idol Rewind" and syndicated directly to stations in the US.

Date Bottom Three
July 17 EJay Day Jim Verraros Nikki McKibbin
July 24 A.J. Gil Ryan Starr Christina Christian
July 31 Ryan Starr (2) Justin Guarini Nikki McKibbin (2)
August 7 Christina Christian (2) R. J. Helton Nikki McKibbin (3)
Bottom Two
August 14 R. J. Helton (2) Nikki McKibbin (4)
August 21 Tamyra Gray Nikki McKibbin (5)
Final Three
August 28 Nikki McKibbin (6)
September 4 Justin Guarini (2) Kelly Clarkson

Season 2

Following the success of season 1, the second season was moved up to air in January 2003. The number of episodes increased, as did the show's budget and the charge for commercial spots. Dunkleman left the show, and Seacrest surfaced as the lone host. Kristin Holt was originally announced to be added as a co-host, but upon airing, her role was reduced to special correspondent.

This time, Ruben Studdard emerged as the winner, with Clay Aiken as runner-up. Out of 24 million votes recorded, Studdard finished 130,000 votes ahead of Aiken. There was discussion in the communication industry about the phone system being overloaded, and that more than 150 million votes were dropped, making the voting suspect. Since then, the voting methods have been modified to avoid this problem.

In an interview prior to season 5, a statement by executive producer Nigel Lythgoe suggested that Aiken had led the fan voting from the wildcard week onward until the finale. Aiken became the first non-winning contestant to have a U.S. Hot 100 number-one with "This Is the Night".

In addition to Studdard and Aiken, Kimberley Locke (3rd), Josh Gracin (4th), and Carmen Rasmusen (6th) have signed with various record labels.

The show caused controversy when contestant Frenchie Davis was disqualified from the competition when topless photos of her surfaced on the Internet. Shortly afterwards, she landed a role in the Broadwaymarker musical Rent, and continues to work on Broadway. The producers of the show added a Christian marketing team to protect and build faith viewers with faith guru Rick Hendrix after the Frenchie Davis incident.

Also, after the end of the contest, Studdard sued 205 Flava, Inc. for $2 million for using his image for promotional purposes. Flava responded by alleging that Studdard had accepted over $10,000 in return for wearing 205 shirts, and produced eight cashed checks to validate their claim. The case was settled out of court.

In 2005, contestant Corey Clark (whom producers disqualified because he had not disclosed a police record) alleged that he and judge Paula Abdul had an affair while he was on the show and that this contributed to his removal. Clark also alleged that Abdul gave him preferential treatment on the show due to this affair. A subsequent investigation by an independent counsel hired by Fox "could not corroborate the evidence or allegations provided by Mr. Clark or any witnesses".

American Idol Rewind started re-airing this season in the fall of 2007.

Date Bottom Three
March 11 Vanessa Olivarez Julia DeMato Kimberley Locke
March 18 Charles Grigsby Corey Clark Julia DeMato (2)
March 25 Julia DeMato (3) Kimberly Caldwell Rickey Smith
Corey Clark (disqualified)
April 11 Carmen Rasmusen Trenyce Kimberley Locke (2)
April 8 Rickey Smith (2) Kimberly Caldwell (2) Kimberley Locke (3)
April 15 Kimberly Caldwell (3) Carmen Rasmusen (2) Trenyce (2)
April 22 Carmen Rasmusen (3) Josh Gracin Trenyce (3)
Bottom Two
April 29 Trenyce (4) Ruben Studdard
May 6 Josh Gracin (2) Kimberley Locke (4)
Final Three
May 13 Kimberley Locke (5)
May 20 Clay Aiken Ruben Studdard (1)

1 Neither of the bottom 2 were eliminated on the April 1 results show due to the disqualification of Corey Clark.

Season 3

The third season premiered on January 19, 2004. By the end of its third season, the network profited more than $260,000,000. The winner was Fantasia Barrino, later known simply as "Fantasia," and the runner-up was Diana DeGarmo. The third season was also shown in Australia on Network Ten about half a week after episodes were shown in the U.S. In May 2005, Telescope announced that the third season had a total of approximately 360 million votes.

The early part of the season introduced William Hung, a UC Berkeleymarker student, who received widespread attention following his off-key rendition of Ricky Martin's "She Bangs." His performance, as well as his positive attitude facing Cowell's criticisms, landed him a record deal with Koch Entertainment and made him over $500,000 in record sales.

During the season, controversy over the legitimacy of the contest increased as rocker Jon Peter Lewis and young crooner John Stevens stayed afloat while others, such as Jennifer Hudson, were unexpectedly eliminated. Jasmine Trias, despite negative comments from Simon Cowell over her later performances, survived elimination and took the third spot over LaToya London.

Over 65 million votes were cast on the night of the finale, more than the first two seasons combined. Fantasia was crowned the winner over runner-up Diana DeGarmo and released her first single in June 2004 on the RCA record label. The single entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #1, making Fantasia the first artist in the history of Billboard to debut at number one with their first single, and remained there for one week. Fantasia's debut single I Believe has been certified double platinum by the CRIA and received 3 Billboard Music Awards.

DeGarmo was also signed to RCA. However, the sales of her debut album Blue Skies suffered partly from a lack of promotion and she eventually asked to be released from her contract. Since then, she has played different roles on Broadwaymarker. She also appeared as a contestant on the first season of CMT's reality show Gone Country.

In addition to Fantasia and DeGarmo, Jasmine Trias, LaToya London, George Huff, Jennifer Hudson, and Camile Velasco have released albums since the season ended. Hudson has also received praise for her acting in Dreamgirls (for which she won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress), Sex and the City, and The Secret Life of Bees.

Jon Peter Lewis advanced to the top 12 after receiving the majority of the public vote but it is unclear whether the highest vote recipient was already picked by one of the judges as Jon Peter Lewis was told he had made the top 12 after the Judges had revealed their picks.

Date Bottom Three
March 17 Leah LaBelle Jennifer Hudson Amy Adams
March 24 Matthew Rogers Camile Velasco Diana DeGarmo
March 31 Amy Adams (2) Jennifer Hudson (2) LaToya London
April 7 Camile Velasco (2) Jasmine Trias Diana DeGarmo (2)
April 15 Jon Peter Lewis John Stevens Diana DeGarmo (3)
April 21 Jennifer Hudson (3) Fantasia Barrino LaToya London (2)
April 28 John Stevens (2) George Huff Jasmine Trias (2)
Bottom Two
May 5 George Huff (2) Jasmine Trias (3)
May 12 LaToya London (3) Fantasia Barrino (2)
Final Three
May 19 Jasmine Trias (4)
May 26 Diana DeGarmo (4) Fantasia Barrino (2)

Season 4

The fourth season premiered on January 18, 2005. The age limit was raised to 28 in this season to increase the variety of contestants. Among those who benefited from this new rule were Constantine Maroulis and Bo Bice, considered to be the eldest and most experienced of the season's contestants. They were also constantly mentioned by Seacrest and in the media as "the two rockers", since their long hair and choice of rock songs made them stand out from conventional Idol standards. The presence of more rock-oriented contestants continued with Chris Daughtry in Season 5, who was inspired to audition for the show by Bice. In May 2005, Telescope announced that the fourth season had a total of approximately 500 million votes.

This season also implemented new rules for the final portion of the contest. Instead of competing in semi-final heats in which the top vote-getters are promoted to the final round, 24 semi-finalists were named; 12 men and 12 women, who competed separately, with two of each gender being voted off each week until 12 finalists were left. This was in response to season 3 results, which produced a Top 12 of eight women and just four men.

The winner was Carrie Underwood, a country singer. Underwood's first single, "Inside Your Heaven", debuted at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on June 14, 2005 and had first-week sales of 170,000 copies. One week later, runner-up Bo Bice released his version of the song, which debuted at #2. On November 15, 2005, Underwood released her debut album, Some Hearts, which both debuted and peaked at #2 on Billboard.The album was certified 7x platinum and became the highest certified album by an American Idol . On February 11, 2007, Underwood became the second winner of American Idol to sweep all three major music awards (American Music, Billboard, and Grammy Awards) in a single season (for 2006–07), Kelly Clarkson being the first (for 2005-06). She has become one of the best selling contestant in the show's history and has sold 9.6 million albums in the U.S.

Other contestants have also seen success in their post-Idol careers. Third-place contestant Vonzell Solomon landed a role in a film, Still Green, and a single on a Christmas album. Fourth-place contestant Anthony Fedorov has appeared in television shows such as Fear Factor and has finished taping several episodes for a new MTV show to air in the fall; he also performed in the off-Broadway production of The Fantasticks in 2007. Sixth-place contestant Constantine Maroulis released his first solo album in 2007. Maroulis is currently starring in the new Broadway musical Rock of Ages for which he has received a nomination for the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical.He has also appeared in the Broadway musical The Wedding Singer and the now closed off-Broadway play Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris. Seventh-place contestant Anwar Robinson released a self-titled EP on an independent label. Twelfth-place contestant Lindsey Cardinale's first single, "Nothing Like A Dream", was released in March 2006.

Date Bottom Three
March 16 Lindsey Cardinale Mikalah Gordon Jessica Sierra
March 23 Mikalah Gordon (2) Nadia Turner Anthony Fedorov
March 30 Jessica Sierra (2) Anwar Robinson Nadia Turner (2)
April 6 Nikko Smith Scott Savol Vonzell Solomon
April 13 Nadia Turner (3) Bo Bice Scott Savol (2)
April 201 Anwar Robinson (2) Anthony Fedorov (2) Scott Savol (3)
April 27 Constantine Maroulis Anthony Fedorov (3) Vonzell Solomon (2)
Bottom Two
May 4 Scott Savol (4) Anthony Fedorov (4)
May 11 Anthony Fedorov (5) Vonzell Solomon (3)
Final Three
May 18 Vonzell Solomon (4)
May 25 Bo Bice (2) Carrie Underwood

1 None of the bottom 3 on the April 20 results show were sent back to safety before the elimination announcement.

Season 5

The fifth season of American Idol began on January 17, 2006; this was the first season of the series to be aired in high definition. It remains the highest-rated season in the show's run so far. Auditions were in Austinmarker, Bostonmarker, Chicagomarker, Denvermarker and San Franciscomarker, with Greensboromarker, North Carolinamarker and Las Vegasmarker, Nevadamarker included after the cancellation of the Memphismarker auditions due to Hurricane Katrina. The season used the same rules as season 4.

Taylor Hicks was named American Idol on May 24, 2006; he was the fourth contestant to never fall into any week's "bottom three". His first post-Idol single, "Do I Make You Proud", would debut at #1 and be certified gold. Hicks' album, Taylor Hicks, has sold 703,000 copies , becoming the lowest selling debut winners album to date. He later parted with Arista Records. His follow-up album, "The Distance," was released March 10, 2009 on his own record label Modern Whomp Records.

On May 30, 2006, Telescope announced that a total of 63.5 million votes were cast in the finale round. A total of 580 million votes were cast in the entire season. Taylor Hicks is the second American Idol winner from the city of Birminghammarker, Alabamamarker (the first being Ruben Studdard), and the fourth finalist with close ties to the city.

The fifth-season contestant with the most commercial success is fourth-place finisher Chris Daughtry, now lead singer of the band Daughtry. Their eponymous debut album has sold over 5 million copies to date—surpassing former winners Studdard and Fantasia's respective two-album totals—and produced two top-ten singles. The album, which spent two weeks at #1 in the US, is also the fastest-selling debut rock album in Soundscan history.

As of November 2008: Runner-up Katharine McPhee's debut album has sold 374,000 copies; she has two Top 40 Billboard hits. Also notable: sixth-place finisher Kellie Pickler, whose Small Town Girl reached #1 on the Billboard Top Country Albums chart and was certified gold. To date it has sold over 815,000 copies. Third-place finisher Elliott Yamin's eponymous debut album was certified gold and produced a platinum-selling single. Eighth-place finisher Bucky Covington's self-titled debut album has sold over 400,000 copies and generated a top 20 and two top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. Ninth-place finisher Mandisa's True Beauty album earned a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop/Contemporary Gospel Album in 2007.

Date Bottom Three
March 15 Melissa McGhee Lisa Tucker Ace Young
March 22 Kevin Covais Bucky Covington Lisa Tucker (2)
March 29 Lisa Tucker (3) Katharine McPhee Ace Young (2)
April 5 Mandisa Elliott Yamin Paris Bennett
April 121 Bucky Covington (2) Ace Young (3) Elliott Yamin (2)
April 19 Ace Young (4) Chris Daughtry Paris Bennett (2)
Bottom Two
April 26 Kellie Pickler Paris Bennett (3)
May 3 Paris Bennett (4) Elliott Yamin (3)
May 10 Chris Daughtry (2) Katharine McPhee (2)
Final Three
May 17 Elliott Yamin (4)
May 24 Katharine McPhee (3) Taylor Hicks

1 None of the bottom 3 on the April 12 results show were sent back to safety before the elimination announcement.

Season 6

The sixth season began on Tuesday, January 16, 2007. The premiere episode of the season drew a massive audience of 37.7 million viewers, peaking in the last half hour with more than 41 million viewers.Jordin Sparks was declared the winner on May 23, 2007, at 10:05 EST, with a new record of 74 million votes in the finale against runner-up Blake Lewis.

Teenager Sanjaya Malakar was the season's most polarizing and talked-about American Idol contestant, as he continued to survive elimination for several weeks. The weblog Vote for the Worst and satellite radio personality Howard Stern both encouraged fans to vote for Sanjaya. However, on April 18, after over 38 million votes, Sanjaya was voted off.

The Top 6 singers performed inspirational music as a part of the first ever "Idol Gives Back" telethon-inspired event which raised more than $60 million in corporate and viewer donations. None of the singers were eliminated, and the votes from that week were added to the votes from the following week to eliminate two singers. Both weeks saw a two-hour extension of the regular two-hour voting window, and in the end, the two-week combined voting totaled 135 million votes.

In April 2007, the show had launched the American Idol Songwriter contest which enabled fans to select the "coronation song" to be performed by the final two contestants on the top two performance show and by the winner on the finale. Amateur songwriters were able to submit recordings of original songs. A selection committee headed by Idol creator Simon Fuller then narrowed thousands of submissions down to twenty finalists. With "one online vote per fan," fans were able to listen to snippets from each song and rate them. The winning song was the ballad "This Is My Now" co-written by Scott Krippayne and Jeff Peabody. "This Is My Now" was recorded by Jordin Sparks and released on May 24, 2007. The song peaked at #15 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Sparks' first non American Idol single was the top hit (peaking at #8) "Tattoo", which received platinum certification. Her second single was the Billboard Hot 100 #3 hit "No Air" with Chris Brown. The song went to #1 in several countries, and also topped Billboard's Pop Airplay chart. "No Air" had been certified platinum in April but recently passed the 2.5 million copies mark. Sparks released a third single off her album, "One Step at a Time", which peaked at #17. This makes Jordin Sparks the only American Idol contestant to have their first 4 singles become a Top 20 Hit. "One Step at a Time" has so far sold 1 million copies and is certified platinum.

Blake Lewis's first single was "Break Anotha!", which failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100. His second single, "How Many Words", also failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #25 in the Bubbling Under chart (Hot 100 equivalent = 125). Shortly afterward, Lewis confirmed that he had been dropped by Arista records. His album sales are just over 300,000. The drop also canceled his apparent plans for a third single release.

Phil Stacey, tied for fifth place with Chris Richardson, is now signed to Lyric Street and has released his first single "If You Didn't Love Me". Tenth place finalist Chris Sligh recently released a Christian album after signing with Brash Music.

Chris Richardson also recently produced his first single, "All Alone."

This season of American Idol, Jordin Sparks became the fourth winner to never be in the bottom two or bottom three. She is joined by Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks as the Top 2 contestants never to have been in the bottom 2 or 3.

Date Bottom Three
March 14 Brandon Rogers Sanjaya Malakar Phil Stacey
Bottom Two
March 211 Stephanie Edwards Chris Richardson
Bottom Three
March 28 Chris Sligh Haley Scarnato Phil Stacey (2)
April 4 Gina Glocksen Haley Scarnato (2) Phil Stacey (3)
April 11 Haley Scarnato(3) Phil Stacey (4) Chris Richardson (2)
April 18 Sanjaya Malakar (2) LaKisha Jones Blake Lewis
Bottom Two2
May 2 Phil Stacey (5) Chris Richardson (3)
Final Four
May 9 LaKisha Jones (2)
May 16 Melinda Doolittle
May 23 Blake Lewis (2) Jordin Sparks

1 On the March 21 results show, only the bottom two were announced.

2 From the Final 6 onward, only the names of the eliminated contestants were announced, with no mention of a bottom three or two.

Season 7

American Idol returned for its seventh season on January 15, 2008 for a two-day, four-hour premiere. David Cook was announced the winner of American Idol season 7 on May 21, 2008, with a record breaking 56% of the 97.5 million votes. Known for his rock-oriented cover versions, most of which he arranged himself, Cook was the first 'rocker' to win the show.

Prior to the start of season 7, Executive Producer Nigel Lythgoe admitted that season 6 had placed more focus on the guest mentors than the contestants. Changes were planned for season 7 designed to return attention to the contestants by providing more information on their backgrounds and families. In addition, starting with the Hollywood rounds, contestants were allowed to accompany themselves on musical instruments.

On March 11, 2008, American Idol debuted a new state-of-the-art set and stage, along with a new on-air look. The two-night season finale, as announced by Seacrest, was broadcasted live from the Nokia Theatremarker in Los Angelesmarker on May 20 and 21, 2008.

Idol Gives Back, which raised more than $75 million in 2007 for various charitable organizations, returned on April 9, 2008. It is said that the revenue earned from the April 9, 2008 event is comparable to the amount raised in 2007 and will be distributed by the Idol Gives Back Foundation.

The media noted that several of the season 7 semi-finalists had previously had record deals, including Kristy Lee Cook, Brooke White, Michael Johns, and Carly Smithson. (Eventual winner David Cook released an independent solo album and had finished recording a follow-up prior to his audition for the show, but he was never involved with a record label or contract.) Idol rules state that contestants may have had a record deal in the past, but are still eligible as long as they are no longer under contract when Idol begins. Former season 2 contestant Clay Aiken commented during an interview on The View in May 2008 about the general innocence of the contestants, that has increasingly been lost over the years. Aiken stated that the contestants are "increasingly more experienced than ever before".

The American Idol Songwriter contest, launched during season 6, was continued for this season. During the top two performance show, each contestant performed a song he had selected from the top ten vote getters, but neither of their selections was used as the "coronation song". The winning song, "The Time of My Life", was recorded by David Cook and released on May 22, 2008. The song was certified platinum by the RIAA on December 12, 2008.

This season David Archuleta and David Cook joined Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks and Jordin Sparks as the Top 2 contestants to never have been in the bottom 3 or 2. This season's finale was the first time in the show's history where neither one of the Top 2 were ever in the bottom 3.

David Cook's debut album was released on November 18, 2008, on 19 Recordings / RCA Records and was certified platinum by the RIAA on January 22, 2009. Cook teamed with Grammy winning producer Rob Cavallo (Green Day, Kid Rock) on the album. A single from the album, "Light On", was released in September 2008.

David Archuleta signed with Jive Records and his self-titled debut album was released on November 11, 2008 and was certified gold. Archuleta's first single, "Crush", debuted at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Hot Digital Songs chart, giving it the highest single debut of 2008. The song has sold 1.5 million copies as of January 2009, making it one of the most successful singles ever from an Idol contestant. A second single from the album, "A Little Too Not Over You" has been released.

Date Bottom Three
March 12 David Hernandez Kristy Lee Cook Syesha Mercado
March 19 Amanda Overmyer Kristy Lee Cook (2) Carly Smithson
March 26 Chikezie Syesha Mercado (2) Jason Castro
April 2 Ramiele Malubay Kristy Lee Cook (3) Brooke White
April 101 Michael Johns Carly Smithson (2) Syesha Mercado (3)
April 16 Kristy Lee Cook (4) Brooke White (2) Syesha Mercado (4)
Bottom Two
April 23 Carly Smithson (3) Syesha Mercado (5)
Final Five
April 302 Brooke White (3)
May 72 Jason Castro (2)
May 142 Syesha Mercado (6)
May 21 2 David Archuleta David Cook

1 None of the bottom 3 on the April 10 results show was sent back to safety before the elimination announcement.

2 From the Final 5 onward, only the names of the eliminated contestants were announced, with no mention of a bottom three or two.

Season 8

The eighth season of American Idol began on January 13, 2009. Auditions began July 17 the previous year. This season featured fewer drawn-out semifinal episodes. Mike Darnell, the president of alternative programming for Fox, stated that this season would focus more on the contestants' reality and emotional state. This season introduced a fourth judge on the panel: record producer, singer and songwriter Kara DioGuardi. Also, this was Paula Abdul's final season of judging the show.

After Fox and producers promised changes to the show, on August 4 showrunner and executive producer Nigel Lythgoe announced he was leaving "Idol" to focus on international versions of his other show So You Think You Can Dance. It was also announced that Idol Gives Back would not return during the season due to the ongoing economic crisis and recession. In addition, the Hollywood round was moved to the Kodak Theatre for 2009 and was also extended to two weeks.

This season featured for the first time 36 semifinalists with 12 different semifinalists performing every Tuesday. The male, female, and the next top vote getter with the highest number of America's votes made it into the top 13. This season also featured the return of the Wild Card round, last used in season 3. The judges selected eight eliminated contestants. The plan was for them to select three of those to advance to the finals based on their singing on March 5. When the time came, they put through four instead of three. Another change in the Idol format, which was revealed on March 11, 2009, is that the judges are able to exercise a veto power on one eliminated contestant up until the top 5 of the competition and spare them from elimination. This is called the "Judge's Save". Executive producer Ken Warwick stated they tested it with the sixth season of Nouvelle Star.

Date Bottom Two
March 111 Jasmine Murray Jorge Núñez
Bottom Three
March 18 Alexis Grace Michael Sarver Allison Iraheta
March 26 Michael Sarver (2) Matt Giraud Scott MacIntyre
April 1 Megan Joy Anoop Desai Allison Iraheta (2)
April 8 Scott MacIntyre (2) Anoop Desai (2) Lil Rounds
April 152 Matt Giraud (2) Lil Rounds (2) Anoop Desai (3)
April 223 Lil Rounds (3) Anoop Desai (4) Allison Iraheta (3)
April 29 Matt Giraud (3) Adam Lambert Kris Allen
Final Four
May 6 Allison Iraheta (4)
May 13 Danny Gokey
May 20 Adam Lambert (2) Kris Allen (1)

1 In Week One of the finals, even though Anoop Desai and Megan Joy were brought to center-stage as is traditionally done with bottom 3 contestants, Ryan never actually stated that they were low vote-getters.

2 On April 15, the 'Judges' Save' was used. Matt Giraud was kept in the competition and nobody went home.

3 Because of the Judges' Save on April 15, Lil Rounds and Anoop Desai were both eliminated on April 22.

Season 9

Media sponsorship

American Idol is often noted for advertising its sponsors during the show's runtime. Idol showed 4,151 product placements in its first 38 episodes during season 7, according to Nielsen Media Research. As the top-rated television show in the United States, Idol earns an average of $623,000 for a 30-second commercial.

Coca-Cola is a major sponsor in the U.S., and all the judges, hosts, and contestants are seen consuming beverages out of cups bearing the Coca-Cola logo although video evidence suggests there is no liquid in the cups. Contestants and host are shown gathering for a "Keeping it Real" segment between songs in the "Coca-Cola Red Room," the show's equivalent to the traditional green room. (During rebroadcast on ITV in the UK, the Coca-Cola logo is obscured in the shots.) In seasons 1 through 4, after every Wednesday results show, the host and remaining contestants meet in the Coca-Cola Red Room to discuss next week's theme; the footage of this meeting is shown at the start of the following Tuesday's performance show. The red room was removed in season 7 at the beginning of the top 12 when American Idol switched to a new stage. Highlights of the show were also featured on the official American Idol web site with a Coca-Cola logo surrounding them.

Products from the Ford Motor Company also receive prominent product placement; contestants appear in Ford commercials on the results shows, and the final two of seasons 4, 5 and 6 each won free Mustangs; the final two of season 7 received Ford Escape Hybrids; the final two of season 8 received Ford Fusion Hybrids. Previous contestants Kelly Clarkson and Taylor Hicks have been tapped to do commercials for Ford. Also, in the top 24's studio, in the red room there is a glass table with a Ford wheel inside of it. The camera routinely captures the logo.

Text voting is made possible by AT&T Mobility, formerly Cingular Wireless. AT&T created an ad campaign that centered around an air-headed teenager going around telling people to vote. This kind of branding to American Idol enabled AT&T to become the favored system to vote for many Americans.

Apple iTunes joined as a season 7 major sponsor in the U.S., and Ryan Seacrest notes during the program that all performances are available via iTunes. Video is regularly shown of contestants learning their songs by rehearsing with iPods. During season 8 iTunes has been promoted as the official source to download contestant performances. iTunes is listed in the closing credits as a sponsor of the show.

Kellogg and Pop-Tarts are also two major sponsors, especially of the cast tour that follows the end of every season. Guitar Hero was added as a sponsor during the season 7 tour. Promotion included demonstrations during intermission as well as a music video featuring the top 10 Idols. In addition, David Cook and David Archuleta appeared in "Risky Business" inspired Guitar Hero commercials that aired during the season 7 finale.

Jordin Sparks, the winner of the sixth installment of 'Idol', filmed a commercial promoting the new "American Idol Experience" attraction of the Floridamarker theme park, Disney's Hollywood Studiosmarker.

Contestants will occasionally don Old Navy clothing during performances, and celebrity stylist Steven Cojocaru appeared in two previous seasons to assist contestants with picking out wardrobe pieces from Old Navy. Clairol hair care products also sponsors the show, with contestants usually getting Clairol-guided hair makeovers after the first two or three episodes during the round of 12.


The show and its producers have been criticized for what some claim to be total control of the careers of the winners of the contest. Guest judge Elton John called the show 'incredibly racist' in a press conference after African American contestants, Jennifer Hudson, LaToya London and Fantasia Barrino received the 3 lowest numbers of votes resulting in the elimination of Hudson. Others pointed to vote splitting as the more likely cause. Since the 2004 season, the vote has been manipulated to some degree by online community services such as,, and

Individual contestants have generated controversy in this amateur competition, such as Season 7 contestant Carly Smithson who had a prior major label record deal MCA Records under the name Carly Hennessy, her maiden name. Contestant Robbie Carrico who had a minor hit in 2000 with the single "Messed Around", as well as opening for Britney Spears in 1999 as a member of Boyz N Girlz United. Joanna Pacitti was originally a top 36 contestant on season 8, but was later disqualified when it was revealed that she had connections to the producers at 19 Entertainment.

Idol Gives Back

Starting in Season 6 of American Idol, Idol started the annual charity tradition, "Idol Gives Back". "Idol Gives Back" featured performances, celebrities and had the contestants answering phones to receive donations from viewers. Season 7's "Idol Gives Back" featured Robin Williams, Celine Dion, Billy Crystal, Forest Whitaker, Dane Cook, Kiefer Sutherland, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Jennifer Connelly, Elliott Yamin, Miley Cyrus and others.

"Idol Gives Back" was not held for Season 8, as producers did not think it appropriate during an economic crisis. However, it will return on April 21, 2010 during season 9.

Television ratings

Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of American Idol on Fox. It is one of the highest-rated TV shows in the history of television.
Each U.S. network television season starts in late September and ends in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps.

Season Premiered Ended TV Season Timeslot Rank
Date Viewers

(in millions)
Date Viewers

(in millions)
1st June 11-June 12, 2002 9.90 Final Performances: September 3, 2002 18.69 2002 Tuesday 9:00PM

(performance show)
Season Finale: September 4, 2002 22.77 Wednesday 9:30PM

(results show)
2nd January 21-January 22, 2003 26.50 Final Performances: May 20, 2003 25.67 2003 Tuesday 8:00PM

(performance show)
Season Finale: May 21, 2003 38.00 Wednesday 8:30PM

(results show)
3rd January 19-January 20, 2004 28.56 Final Performances: May 25, 2004 25.13 2004 Tuesday 8:00PM

(performance show)
Season Finale: May 26, 2004 28.84 Wednesday 8:30PM

(results show)
4th January 18-January 19, 2005 33.58 Final Performances: May 24, 2005 28.05 2005 Tuesday 8:00PM

(performance show)
Season Finale: May 25, 2005 30.27 Wednesday 8:00PM

(results show)
5th January 17-January 18, 2006 35.53 Final Performances: May 23, 2006 31.78 2006 Tuesday 8:00PM

(performance show)
Season Finale: May 24, 2006 36.38 Wednesday 8:00PM

(results show)
6th' January 16-January 17, 2007 37.7 Final Performances: May 22, 2007 25.33 2007 Tuesday 8:00PM

(performance show)
Season Finale: May 23, 2007 30.74 Wednesday 8:00PM

(results show)
7th January 15-January 16, 2008 33.4 Final Performances: May 20, 2008 27.06 2008 Tuesday 8:00PM

(performance show)
Season Finale: May 21, 2008 31.66 Wednesday 9:00PM

(results show)
8th January 13-January 14, 2009 30.4 Final Performances: May 19, 2009 23.82 2009 Tuesday 8:00PM

(performance show)
Season Finale: May 20, 2009 28.84 Wednesday 9:00PM

(results show)

A growing number of television executives have begun to regard American Idol as a programming force unlike any seen before. Jeff Zucker, the new chief executive of NBC Universal, said, "I think Idol is the most impactful show in the history of television."

American Idol's consistent dominance of an hour two or three nights a week exceeds the 30- or 60-minute reach of previous hits such as The Cosby Show. As a result, competing networks—whose personnel call the show "the Death Star"—have often rearranged their schedules in order to minimize losses. Conversely, Fox has used American Idol to help promote other programs on its schedule.

However, since Season Six, the show has shown a steady decline in viewership. On the season finale of the sixth season, the ratings of American Idol saw a drop of 19% from last year, when Taylor Hicks was crowned as the 2006 Idol. Ratings of the season finale peaked at 34.9 million viewers at 10 pm, just five minutes before Taylor Hicks was declared the winner of Idol.

Season Seven coincided with the 2007–2008 Writers Guild of America strike, which, according to early predictions would help the show's ratings by eliminating scripted competition (Idol, being unscripted, was unaffected by the strike). However, the ratings decline continued into season seven, starting with the premiere which was down 11% among total viewers and 13% among adults ages 18 to 49 from last year. The performance show featuring the top seven finalist was the lowest-rated Tuesday American Idol show in five years among adults ages 18 to 49. The subsequent results show, in which Kristy Lee Cook was eliminated, delivered American Idol's lowest-rated Wednesday among adults ages 18 to 34 since its first season back in 2002. Overall, ratings for the seventh season were down 10% from last season. General attrition of television audiences was the primary reason cited for this ratings decline.

Initial numbers for season 8 show further erosion, as numbers have fallen approximately 15% compared to similar episodes from season 7. Though the Wednesday show continues to hold a dominating lead, on Tuesdays, the show has been losing ground to CBS's NCIS, which is coming very close to beating Idol in overall viewers.


American Idol is broadcast to over 100 nations outside of the United States. In most nations these aren't live broadcasts and may be tape delayed by several days or weeks. Episodes are aired live in Canada, Australia & Israel (for most episodes), but Malaysiamarker, Indiamarker, Indonesiamarker, the Philippinesmarker and the Middle East on STAR World; it may be simsubbed with CTV by the BDUs depending on provider and region for those in Canada. In the instances where the airing is delayed, the shows are usually combined into one episode to summarize the results. Australia airs episodes just 5 hours after their US showing, MBC4 another Middle East Channel broadcasts American Idol 19 hours after its showing in the US most people may watch it on MBC4 as it is a free channel unlike STAR World where you have to pay for a showtime package to watch it, and the UK airs episodes 2 days after their US showing on digital channel ITV2. It is also aired in Ireland on TV3 Ireland 2 days after the showing. In Brazilmarker and Israelmarker, the show airs 3 days after the showing in the United States.

Country / Region Channel
United Statesmarker (origin) Fox
Australia FOX8
Canadamarker CTV/Fox
Asia, Middle East MBC4
Denmarkmarker TV3 Viasat
Estoniamarker TV3
Finlandmarker Sub ->2007, MTV3
Hong Kongmarker, Indiamarker, Southeast Asia STAR World
Hong Kongmarker, Macaumarker, Guangdong, Chinamarker aTV World
Chinamarker STAR TV
Hungarymarker TV2
Icelandmarker Stöð 2
Indonesiamarker Global TV
Irelandmarker TV3 Ireland
Israelmarker HOT family / yes stars Base
Italymarker Sky Uno
Japanmarker FOXlife, FOX HD, BS11
Brazilmarker Sony Entertainment Television
Uruguaymarker, Venezuelamarker Sony
Malaysiamarker 8TV
New Zealandmarker TVNZ
Norwaymarker TV2 Zebra
Philippinesmarker QTV11, STAR World
Portugalmarker FOXlife
Singaporemarker Channel5
South Africa MNET Series
Swedenmarker TV4
United Kingdommarker ITV2
Vietnammarker HTV2

From season 7 onwards, American Idol is exclusively being broadcast direct to Australia via satellite on FOX8 just seven hours after its US premiere.

It also airs in Matamoros, Mexico in English because that market has a Fox affiliate that serve a US market. The broadcast is live, as it is in the Central time zone on XHRIO, while in the rest of the country, as of the rest of Latin America, the show is broadcasted and subtitled by Sony Entertainment Television.

In southeast Asia, this show is brought to the audiences via satellite by STAR World every Wednesday and Thursday exactly nine hours after.

Top-selling American Idol alumni

Major award–winning American Idol alumni

Idol Contestant & Season American Music Awards Billboard Music Awards Grammy Awards Academy Awards
Kelly Clarkson

(Season 1, Winner)
4 12 2

2006 Best Female Pop Vocal

2006 Best Pop Vocal Album
Clay Aiken

(Season 2, Runner-Up)
1 3 0 0
Jennifer Hudson

(Season 3, 7th Place)
0 0 1

2009 Best R&B Album

2006 Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Carrie Underwood

(Season 4, Winner)

2007 Favorite Album (Country)

2007 Female Artist

2008 Favorite Album (Country)
14 4

2009 Best Female Country Vocal

2008 Best Female Country Vocal

2007 Best New Artist

2007 Best Female Country Vocal
Chris Daughtry

(Season 5, 4th Place)

6 0 0
Jordin Sparks

(Season 6, Winner)
1 0 0 0

Idols in musical theatre

Many American Idol finalists have left their marks on the Great White Way and starred in Broadwaymarker musicals. Some of those people include:

American Idol video games


Theme park attraction

February 7, 2008, The Walt Disney Company announced the development of "The American Idol Experiencemarker", a live attraction based on American Idol to be built at its Disney's Hollywood Studiosmarker theme park at the Walt Disney World Resortmarker in Floridamarker. The show is co-produced by 19 Entertainment. The attraction opened on February 14, 2009, with many of the former Idol contestants present for the event.

Park guests choose from a list of songs and audition privately for Disney cast members. Those selected then perform on a stage in a 1000 seat theater replicating the American Idol set used during later rounds of recent seasons for an audience of park guests. 3 judges (usually including an African American man, a women and a British man) critique the performances. Audience members vote for their favorite. There are numerous shows each day with the last show combining the winners of previous shows that day to select the overall winner that day. Winners are selected by a combination of audience vote and input from a panel of judges. Winners each day are given a "Dream Ticket" which grants them front of the line privileges at any American Idol audition for the real TV series.

See also


  3. Kelly Clarkson Says Next Album Will Be 'Really Different
  4. New York blog on The Tony Awards
  5. Telescope Inc
  6. Daughtry News + Blog | The Official Daughtry Site
  7. | Buh-Bye-Ya, Sanjaya!
  8. Yahoo! Buzz
  9. Netscape Celebrity
  10. - Music - News - "American Idol" season 7 Auditions begin July 30 in San Diego
  11. Idol producer: We made mistakes | American Idol | TCA Press Tour | TV | Entertainment Weekly
  12. Idol Charities Still Waiting For Funds, The NonProfit Times, 2008-06-01, Retrieved on 2007-06-05.
  13. [1], Clay Aiken on The View Retrieved on 2008-5-08.
  14. RIAA Search - David Cook
  15. Marnie September (2008).\
  16. Idol Chatter 2009-01-28
  17. OK! Magazine - First for Celebrity News - Less is More for Next Season of American Idol
  18. 'Idol's' emotional focus will highlight Abdul
  19. 'American Idol' adds fourth judge
  20. Lythgoe Leaving 'American Idol' Retrieved on 2008-05-08.
  21. American Idol Shelves "Give Back" Show for 2009 Season
  22. Fox releases 'American Idol' schedule, confirms format changes
  23. [2]
  24. TV's Biggest Moneymakers - Forbes
  25. Paul Abdul Fakes Drinking Her Coke
  26. David Cook Wins "American Idol"
  27. Re the official American Idol website
  28. Guitar Hero(R) Hits the Road with the American Idols Live! Tour 2008
  29. Elton John Says 'American Idol' Vote Is 'Racist', Reuters via, 2004-04-28, Retrieved on 2007-03-02.
  30. American Idol voting,, Retrieved on 2007-03-02.
  31. Former Britney Flame Headed to Hollywood on American Idol - Fall TV Watch
  32. Idol Gives Back 2009 Canceled according to TV
  33. 'Idol Gives Back' will return to 'American Idol' on April 21
  34. American Idol does not have a ranking for the 2001–2002 season because it aired in the summer of 2002. If it had aired within the official 2001–2002 U.S. television season, the Wednesday results show would have ranked #25 and the Tuesday performance show would have ranked #30, assuming it would have had the same rating as it did in the summer.
  35. [3]
  36. Viewership numbers of primetime programs during the 2004 television season
  37. Viewership numbers of primetime programs during the 2005 television season
  38. Viewership numbers of primetime programs during the 2006 television season
  39. Viewership numbers of primetime programs during the 2007 television season
  40. 'Idol' Finale Audience Tops 30 Million
  41. Ratings Wrapup: CBS and Fox Win, Again
  42. 'Idol' Takes Skinny Ratings Dip
  43. 'Idol' showdown brings ratings win
  44. 'Idol' finale matches last year
  45. Nine of the top 20 shows in 2007-2008 were reality; Idol's performance show takes #1
  46. 'American Idol' night 2 draws 29.8 million viewers. Retrieved on 2009-01-21.
  47. 'Idol,' 'Dancing' top Tuesday ratings. Retrieved on 2009-05-27.
  48. [4]. Retrieved on 2009-05-22.
  49. 'Idol' finale ratings down 19 percent
  50. Fox Exec Says Strike Is "Probably a Positive" Thing
  51. Update: Fox Pleased Despite 'Idol' Ratings Dip
  52. Ominous signs for American Idol
  53. 'Idol' Tries to Keep Viewers Guessing
  54. Inaugural ratings likely second best. Variety. 22 January 2009.
  55. CBS nips at FOX's heels Tuesday: 'American Idol' still carries the night, but it's close. 8 April 2009.
  56. [5]
  57. Topic Galleries -

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