Top 10 American Idol Runners Up: Where Are They Now?

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Top 10 American Idol Runners Up: Where Are They Now?

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp
Everyone always forgets about the runner-ups. Or do they? For this list, we're looking at “American Idol” runner-ups to see what they've been up to as of early 2019. Or at least as close as we can get, depending on the trajectory of their careers. Our list includes “Jet Song,” “Somewhere,” “Tonight Quintet,” “Maria,” “I Feel Pretty,” and more! Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 American Idol Runner-Ups Where Are They Now.
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Top 10 American Idol Runner-Ups Where Are They Now?


Everyone always forgets about the runner-ups. Or do they? Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top ten “American Idol” runner-ups – where are they now?

For this list, we’re looking at “American Idol” runner-ups to see what they’ve been up to as of early 2019. Or at least as close as we can get, depending on the trajectory of their careers.

#10: Kree Harrison


After auditioning with a beautiful original that was dedicated to her late mother, Kree Harrison steamrolled the competition before placing second behind Candice Glover. While Glover went on to release Music Speaks, Universal Music Group passed on Harrison, citing the difficulties of promoting female country artists, the overabundance thereof, and season 12’s low ratings. She finally released her debut album This Old Thing through Nashville-based Plaid Flag Records before signing with Visionary Records in 2018 and currently performs in small taverns and lounges throughout the American south. She seems to be a country girl through and through. Who needs Hollywood anyway?

#9: Jessica Sanchez


Jessica was no stranger to the limelight by the time she arrived on “American Idol” in season eleven, which was dominated by the eventual winner, Phillip Phillips. She had already competed in the first season of “America’s Got Talent,” received strong praise from the usually cantankerous Simon, and performed the national anthem at various football games. Sanchez continued her niche career in singing national anthems post-“American Idol,” including a performance at the White House Easter egg hunt in 2013. In 2018, she released a single with Ricky Breaker titled “Caught Up” and has steadily been performing covers on her eponymous YouTube channel.

#8: Crystal Bowersox


Crystal Bowersox is probably one of the most unique contestants showcased throughout “American Idol’s” nearly twenty-year run. Not only is her name Crystal Bowersox, but also her tomboyish appearance and dreadlocks made her stand out from the typical “American Idol” crowd. Since her time on the show, Crystal has released three studio albums (the most recent being 2017’s Alive) and five official singles (including a Christmas song, because everyone must release a Christmas song). She is also set to embark on a tour throughout 2019, which includes stops at the 30A Songwriters Festival and several cruise stopss throughout Florida and the Caribbean. So get on that. Even if you don’t know Crystal Bowersox, get on that.

#7: Diana DeGarmo


To remember Diana DeGarmo, we have to go all the way back to season 3 in 2004, before the advent of Snapchat and Instagram and all that stuff you kids are into these days. Despite an extremely impressive run, Diana eventually lost to Fantasia Barrino, who went on to enjoy quite a successful career of her own. While Diana did release music, she shifted her focus to musical theater, which included a stint on Broadway where she played Penny in “Hairspray.” She also portrayed Angelina Veneziano in “The Young and the Restless,” performed a song called Good Goodbye for the show, and in 2015 she again played The Narrator in a national production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

#6: Justin Guarini


Some of you probably weren’t even born when Justin lost to Kelly Clarkson, and that makes those of us who remember feel old. The producers did everything in their power to make Justin a success, including that movie “From Justin to Kelly” -which probably did more harm than good- but his musical career fizzled out and he retreated into obscurity. Luckily, Justin transitioned to stage acting like Diana DeGarmo and has performed in Broadway productions of “Romeo and Juliet” and “Wicked.” His most recent role was in a show called “In Transit,” which ran for 145 performances from November 2016 to April 2017. And by the way, he has also cut those beautiful early 2000s locks. Sorry, nostalgia.

#5: Clay Aiken


Clay Aiken is certainly a proven musician, having released six studio albums since his time on “American Idol.” But he’s also done basically everything. He’s acted – you can catch him in “Sandy Wexler” and “Sharknado 5,” and if you travel back in time, a Broadway production of “Spamalot.” He also started a non-profit for disabled children called the National Inclusion Project, which is headquartered in his home state of North Carolina. He’s also dabbled in politics, having run in North Carolina’s 2nd congressional district in 2014. 2018 saw him returning to the Broadway stage for the beautifully-titled “Ruben & Clay’s First Annual Family Fun Pageant Spectacular Reunion Christmas Show.” It seemed to be a lot of fun if that title is anything to go by.

#4: David Archuleta


It seems as if David Archuleta has always wanted to be a singer. His passion for music began after being exposed to “Les Misérables” at six, and it led him to various competitions, including “Star Search 2” and eventually “American Idol” - where he lost to rocker David Cook. Luckily, Archuleta took this loss in stride and didn’t let it affect his ambitions. He has since released a staggering seven studio albums, the most recent being 2018’s Christmas-themed Winter in the Air. It eventually reached #6 on the Billboard Top Holiday Albums chart. And to think, this guy was only born in 1990. He still has a lot of career to go.

#3: Lauren Alaina


While Kree Harrison was denied a spin on the country airwaves, Lauren Alaina is prospering. Maybe the country market isn’t saturated after all. Her debut album Wildflower reached #5 on the Billboard 200 and her follow-up, 2017’s Road Less Traveled, peaked at #3 on the Country albums chart, with its titular single selling over 200,000 copies. But perhaps her biggest musical success was 2017’s “What Ifs”, a song she performed with Kane Brown that has been certified 3x platinum by the RIAA. She has also found success in her personal life, as she became engaged to her boyfriend of six years back in July 2018. She’s just living the life, isn’t she?

#2: Katharine McPhee


We’re starting to see a trend popping up here. Let’s see – Katharine launched into a successful music career straight after her time on season five. Her debut album, Katharine McPhee, debuted at #2 and sold over 370 000 copies. And while she has released records on a consistent basis (including the standard Christmas album!), her sales have taken a hit. Not one to settle, Katharine turned to acting and recently finished a four season-long stint on CBS’s “Scorpion.” And, yes, she is doing musical theater as well, having played the lead role in the Broadway production “Waitress” throughout 2018. She is currently set to reprise her role for the West End production beginning in February 2019.

#1: Adam Lambert


Let this be a lesson to you – you needn’t always win to be a winner. Or… something. Point is, Adam Lambert came second in season eight and has enjoyed far more mainstream success than the winner, Kris Allen. His debut album scored him a Grammy nomination, and his second made him the first openly gay male singer to top the Billboard 200. And he’s still going strong. In 2016, he played Eddie in the Fox production of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and has toured with Queen as their lead vocalist. The 2017-18 tour was seen by well over half a million people and grossed $61 million in ticket sales. Not bad for a runner-up. Not bad at all.
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