Today, June 11, 2012, marks the tenth anniversary of “American Idol,” and in that time the music competition TV program has racked up some jaw-dropping numbers: Many episodes have drawn over 30 million viewers; and a record-setting number of 132 million votes were cast for the most recent season finale. But the impressive numbers aren’t just restricted to viewers and votes, they also apply to the Billboard charts, where the Idols have earned an astonishing 345 No. 1s (including four new ones in the current chart just this week) across the broad array of tallies compiled every week in different musical genres. Those 345 titles have spent an aggregate 1,142 weeks in pole position.
The 345 Idol No. 1s are spread among 29 Idol finalists (see below) and one non-finalist (William Hung, whose “Inspiration” led the Top Independent Albums chart for two weeks in 2004). Just five Idols are responsible for almost two-thirds of the 345 chart-toppers. First season winner Kelly Clarkson has 73 No. 1s, followed by Carrie Underwood (62), Daughtry (featuring Chris Daughtry from season five) (38), Fantasia (31) and Ruben Studdard (16).
One reason that the Idols have been able to amass 345 No. 1s is that they have been successful in many different genres. Season two’s Josh Gracin was the first to have a No. 1 on a country chart, followed by Underwood, Kellie Pickler, Bucky Covington, Clarkson and Scotty McCreery. Lauren Alaina, Danny Gokey, Casey James, Kristy Lee Cook and Michael Sarver have also appeared on the country charts.
On the R&B surveys, Studdard and Fantasia are not the only Idols to secure berths at No. 1. They have been joined by Tamyra Gray, Jordin Sparks and Jennifer Hudson.
Idols who have reached No. 1 on the Christian charts include Clay Aiken, Mandisa, Chris Sligh, Jason Castro, Kris Allen and Underwood.
Kimberley Locke was the first Idol to reach No. 1 on the dance charts, followed by Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Jordin Sparks, Blake Lewis and Adam Lambert.
The Adult Contemporary and Adult Top 40 charts have also been dominated by Idols. Clarkson was the first to top charts in both formats, followed by Daughtry. Locke has three AC No. 1s, all with holiday songs. Underwood has also topped the AC charts, along with Elliott Yamin, David Cook, Sparks and David Archuleta, while Allen and Lambert have reigned on the Adult Top 40 charts.
In an unbroken string dating back to season one, which premiered on Fox-TV 10 years ago tonight, every Idol winner (see list below) has had at least one No. 1 on the Billboard charts, from Clarkson to Phillip Phillips, winner of season 11. His version of “Home” debuted on top of the Rock Digital Songs chart two weeks ago.
Season nine champ Lee DeWyze led that same list with his cover of U2’s “Beautiful Day.” Season seven victor David Cook has eight No. 1s to his credit. His longest reign: 15 weeks on top of the Adult Contemporary chart in 2008 with “The Time Of My Life.” Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery has already earned seven No. 1s, with his album “Clear As Day” having the longest run – six weeks in first place on Top Country Albums. Season six champ Jordin Sparks also has seven No. 1s, including her duet with Chris Brown on “No Air,” which topped four different charts.
Season eight winner Kris Allen has four No. 1s to date, with just two of them giving him a combined total of 48 weeks on top. His single “Live Like We’re Dying” was a pop hit but it also had 24-week reigns on both Christian Digital Songs and Christian/Gospel Digital Songs. Season five champ Taylor Hicks has three Billboard No. 1s. His coronation song, “Do I Make You Proud,” ruled the Hot Singles Sales chart for nine weeks.
Among Fantasia’s 31 No. 1s, the longest run belongs to a single from her debut album. “Truth Is” spent 13 weeks on top of the Adult R&B chart, as well as its companion Adult R&B Audience tally. Ruben Studdard’s 16 No. 1s include his longest-lasting: his third album, “I Need An Angel,” crowned the Top Gospel Albums chart for nine weeks in 2004-05.
Kelly Clarkson’s single “Breakaway” is the third longest-running Idol No. 1, with a 28-week rule on Adult Contemporary Audience (and a 21-week reign on the Adult Contemporary list). The longest-running Idol No. 1 (see list below) belongs to Carrie Underwood. Her first album, “Some Hearts,” was No. 1 for 27 weeks on Top Country Albums, then set the record by leading the Top Country Catalog Albums chart for 41 weeks.
There have been other Idol chart achievements over the last decade. Cook holds the record for the most debuts by an Idol on one chart, when 11 of his songs entered the Hot 100 the week of June 7, 2008, led by “The Time Of My Life,” which debuted and peaked at No. 3. Phillips came close two weeks ago, when he had 10 titles enter the Rock Digital Songs chart, led by “Home,” which began its chart life at No. 1.
Just 12 weeks after season 2’s Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken visited the Billboard office in Los Angeles on April 4, 2003 to find out how the charts are compiled, they made Hot 100 history. On the tally dated June 28, 2003, the top two finalists had the chart’s top two debuts, at No. 1 and No. 2. It was the first time in the then almost 45-year tenure of the Hot 100 that the top two positions were both new entries. In a reversal of how they finished on the show, Aiken’s original “This Is The Night” claimed first place and Studdard’s cover of Westlife’s “Flying Without Wings” was the runner-up. Studdard made more chart history that week on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles and Tracks survey, where the B-side of “Flying Without Wings,” a remake of the Leon Russell-Delaney Bramlett-Bonnie Bramlett composition “Superstar,” leaped 61-2, the biggest move into the top five since the chart was first compiled with sales and airplay data from NielsenSoundScan and Nielsen BDS in 1992.
Clarkson has made chart news twice with leaps to No. 1. Her first single, “A Moment Like This,” made a 52-1 leap the week of Oct. 5, 2002, breaking a 38-year-old record set when the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love” rocketed 27-1 on April 4, 1964. Clarkson still owns the record for the biggest jump to No. 1, set the week of Feb. 7, 2009, when “My Life Would Suck Without You” soared 97-1. Clarkson also rewrote chart history in 2005, when her “Breakaway” album hit its 52nd week on The Billboard 200. It became the first title in five years to spend every one of its first 52 weeks on the chart in the top 20.
While most Idols appear on the Billboard charts within a few days, weeks or months after the end of their season, there have also been Idols who have charted years after their time on the series. Kimberly Caldwell competed in season two back in 2003 and made her chart debut the week of Feb. 12, 2011, when her single “Desperate Girls and Stupid Boys” entered the Hot Dance Club Play chart. Leah LaBelle was a top 12 contestant in season three and first appeared on a Billboard chart last month with “Sexify,” which bubbled under Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs three weeks before debuting on the main chart. Season six finalist Chris Richardson had a slightly shorter wait; he was on the show in 2007 and made his chart debut in June 2011 as the featured vocalist on Tyga’s “Far Away.” That single charted Rap and R&B/Hip-Hop.
Since the debut of “American Idol” 10 years ago today, 64 Idol finalists have garnered Billboard chart ink (see list below). Five more non-finalists have charted, starting with Hung. The others: Josiah Leming, Frenchie Davis, Chris Medina and most recently, season 11’s Johnny Keyser. Then there is one non-finalist, non-contestant who went as high as No. 46 on the Hot 100 and an even higher No. 22 on Hot Digital Songs. At age 62, General Larry Platt showed up at the Atlanta auditions during season nine and charmed the judges with his anti-sagging song “Pants on the Ground.” Simon Cowell had to break the news to Platt that he was too old to compete on “Idol,” but presciently said, “I have a horrible feeling that song could be a hit.” “Pants on the Ground” has over 8.5 million YouTube views to date, another big number in Idol history.
As the series begins its second decade on the air, the Idols will also begin their second decades of charting, starting with Clarkson this September. There’s no sign that the series’ chart onslaught will slow down. Katharine McPhee’s “Touch Me,” a song she performed on NBC-TV’S “Smash,” is No. 12 and moving up on the Hot Dance Club Play chart; Jordin Sparks’ new single, “Celebrate,” is a duet with the late Whitney Houston from their forthcoming film “Sparkle” and Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez will have new releases competing for pole position. And six months from now, we’ll be meeting the season 12 contestants who will be vying for the crown – and the chance to see their names on the Billboard charts.
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