American Idol: 15 Best Tracks From Former Idol Contestants

It’s that time of year again when another American Idol season is upon us. Before tonight’s premiere, I thought we’d take a trip down memory lane and rank the best songs from previous Idol contestants. If American Idol didn’t exist, perhaps a few of these songs would’ve never been hits. Love it or hate it, American Idol is a huge force in the music industry and has churned out one multi-platinum artist after another.

Originally, I was going to keep it down to ten tracks, but I couldn’t narrow it down to just ten. Another thing to keep in mind while checking out the list is, I imposed a two song maximum per artist. Let’s face it, I could’ve filled the list completely from songs solely from Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood alone. Also, no coronation songs were eligible since I’m doing a post, ranking the American Idol cheesy winner’s song at a later date. Without further ado, here’s my Top 15 Tracks From American Idol Contestants.

Top 15 Best Songs From American Idol Contestants

15. Crush by David Archuleta

Ewww. I can’t believe he made my list, but I have to reluctantly admit, I like this song. Though most people thought he had the competition in the bag after his “Imagine” performance, I was in the minority and hoped he wouldn’t. Despite my hate and to my surprise, I ended up liking his first post-Idol single. Turns out, I AM a teenage girl at heart.

Check it out:

14. Band of Gold by Kimberley Locke

Kimberley almost crashed the Clay/Ruben final two party, the producers had hoped for all season long due to her strong vocals and performances. But in the end, she fell just a tad short. Some might argue “8th World Wonder” is her better single, but I love this remake of the disco classic. We first saw her sing “Band of Gold” with Frenchie Davis during the Hollywood rounds of the second season of AI. We always knew Locke was a smart girl, and by choosing to release this single, she knew who her biggest fanbase was- the GAYS.

Check it out:

13. Free Yourself by Fantasia

Some regard Fantasia as the one of the best American Idol contestant winners ever. In my opinion, she’s meh at best and a poor-man’s Macy Gray. Having said that, I can’t deny Fantasia’s awesomeness during this song. Bobo’s recently made a foray into reality TV. Her VH1 show, “Fantasia For Real” recently made its debut to positive reviews.

Check it out:

12. Home by Daughtry

Known mostly for being the “elimination anthem” for season seven, this Daughtry ballad should be praised for its own merits. Season five’s top 10, probably had the best pool of talent of all time. And had Daughtry won instead of “Soul Patrol” Taylor Hicks, it would’ve been hailed as the best season ever. Up until recently, thanks to Lee DeWyze & Kris Allen, Hicks was the worst selling Idol ever. Record sales is the best revenge, right Daughtry?

Check it out:

11. Invisible by Clay Aiken

My name is Donovan, and I was a Claymate. Admitting is the first step, right? I love adult contemporary and Aiken, whose old-fashioned vocalizing, hit all the right notes with me. I love this song, but I do have my limits. Purely for its embarrassing factor, I made sure to leave it just outside my top ten.

Check it out:

10. How Many Words by Blake Lewis

I have to thank former cast member Landon, for exposing me to season six runner-up’s debut album. More specifically to the Dave Aude remix of “How Many Words”. (Editors note from Patrick: It was Patrick who introduced it to Landon!) When I used to go to the gym (have to start again), this was on heavy rotation. It’s a shame season 6 got a bum rap, IMHO it was definitely one of the more underrated seasons.

Check it out:

9. What About Now by Daughtry

Here’s the second of my Daughtry choices. I chose this one for two reasons. First, the image of those African kids singing this song with Daughtry during one of the “Idol Gives Back” segments was so touching, it made me a little misty. Secondly, the accompanying video is equally moving. Good on you Daughtry, for trying to “make a change” and “looking at the man in the mirror”.

Check it out:

8. My Life Would Suck Without You by Kelly Clarkson

I had a really tough time trying to pick just two Kelly songs. In the end, I chose one of her most recent efforts instead of “Because of You”. So, how did I pick? I flipped a coin. Haha. Depending on what mood I’m in, they’re both amazing. It’s like musical “Sophie’s Choice”.

Check it out:

7. Whataya Want From Me by Adam Lambert

Arguably one of the most successful Idols from the past few seasons, Adam Lambert scored a trio of hits from his debut album, “For Your Entertainment”. Even though the title track and “If I Had You” are all worthy of making this list, I picked his second single, “Whataya Want From Me” as his best. It not only hit Top Ten on Billboard’s Hot 100, but it also scored him a Grammy nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. Too boot the single sold more than 1.6 million copies within the US making it the most successful single from the album. Lambert asks “Whataya Want From Me?”. To that I say, more awesome tracks like this.

Check it out:

6. Wait For You by Elliott Yamin

He didn’t make the finals and didn’t have a major record deal backing him, but Yamin still managed to sell almost more records than Taylor Hicks. Considering Hicks’ heavy promotional dollars and the Idol title on his side, Elliott’s efforts are pretty friggin’ amazing. His album sales were primarily due to the strength of this single. Hate to say this, but had Yamin more conventionally been better looking, me might’ve taken the crown. Nah, there was no derailing that silly cult’s (Soul Patrol) efforts.

Check it out:

5. Before He Cheats by Carrie Underwood

Whether you’re a country fan or not, you’ve probably, at one point during a drunken night, sang this scorned-girl anthem out loud. Trust me, you weren’t alone. It was this single that allowed Underwood to crossover to the pop charts. She’s so pretty, she could sing the “Macarena” to me, and I’d eat it up.

Check it out:

4. Spotlight by Jennifer Hudson

This song should’ve been a bigger hit than it was. The hook alone is genius with all the “woo hoos”. Arguably the most robbed Idol contestant ever, Hudson exited the competition in one of the most shocking eliminations of American Idol. I guess that consolation prize called an Oscar, should soften the blow. If you’re not a fan of the original, be sure to check out the dance remix- it’s HOTTTTTTTTTT.

Check it out:

3. No Air by Jordin Sparks

Sure Chris Brown had something to do with its success, but since he’s been blacklisted, this duet all of a sudden became a solo effort. Without this song, Katee and Joshua’s unforgettable routine from SYTYCD would never be. Probably one of the most under appreciated idol winners ever, Sparks has quietly sailed her way to multi-platinum success. She’s had more singles enter the Billboard charts than half the previous winners but yet she doesn’t get her due. Poor Jordin. Hang in there girl, just “Let the Music Play” and keep fighting in the musical “Battlefield”.

Check it out:

2. Wasted by Carrie Underwood

No 2. Really? Yup, I love this song and I’m not going to apologize for it. What about “Jesus Take the Wheel”? It’s good and so are most of Underwood’s songs, but for some reason this song is pure gold to me. There’s nothing better than belting this out while driving in the middle of the country with the top down in my Jeep.

Check it out:

1. Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson

Was there every any doubt that this would be my number one pick? Not only did this song rule the airwaves and billboard charts, but it finally gave Idol contestants some industry credibility. It was finally cool to listen to an American Idol winner. On a personal level, I’ll never forget dancing to this song with a bunch of party goers the first time I went to Tigerheat in LA. We literally danced our asses off that night. So much so, our shirts looked like they just went through the spin cycle. Kelly, you’re forever my “American Idol” regardless of your weight issues.

Check it out:

Honorable Mentions

Here are a few other songs that almost made my list but just didn’t make the cut: Jordin Sparks “Tattoo“; Adam Lambert “For Your Entertainment“; Katherine McPhee “Over It“, Mario Vazquez “Gallery” and Tamyra Gray “Star”.

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There you have it boys and girls. Do you agree/disagree with any or all my choices? Be sure to post all your feedback and comments below.

  • jack

    good list donovan. but for me, i’d change fantasia’s free yourself with her ‘when i see u’, and add an allison iraheta song hehe. have you heard her album?!

  • Anthony

    If we’re speaking honestly…. Kelly really should have taken all 15 spots. I love me some J-Hud, but from Kelly’s Breakaway album which spawned Because of You, Breakaway, Since U Been Gone, Walk Away, Behind These Hazel Eyes, Addicted….. or My December which had Never Again, Sober, Be Still and what is her most unappreciated song ‘Irvine’ (if you haven’t heard it DOWNLOAD it NOW! May be her best song and written by her)

    Idol would be nothing without this girl… The list really should have been Top 15 Best Idol Songs excluding Kelly Clarkson.

  • Omar

    Nice list except we need to eliminate ANY Daughtry from this (IMHO) and include the lovely Katharine McPhee:
    “Love Story”
    “Over It”
    while we’re at it, get rid of Elliot Yamin and include:
    “8th world wonder” by Kimberley Locke.
    and we NEED to have:
    “battlefield” Jordin in there somewhere as well.

    ahhh…poor Diana Degarmo, anyone remember her? 😉

  • Dan

    Jack – When I see you by Fantastia is one of my FAVOURITE songs! Good recommend!!

  • Scott

    I like One Step At A Time over No Air from Ms. Sparks, and 8th World Wonder over Band of Gold for Ms. Locke.

    Fantasia is the worst singer to ever come out of idol. I heard her in the grocery store the other day, and stopped in my tracks to contemplate how in the hell she won idol.

    Definitely agree with Kelly and Carrie choices.

    I would have also put up there “Brass Bed” from Joshua Gracin – his first album after Idol was/is incredible. Still gets regular play from me.

    “Love Story” from Katherine McPhee I think knocks “Over It” out of the water.

    Also, if I remember correctly [I was a little drunk, and in tran], but I think at Red Dress Seattle, K. Locke’s new album is going to be more House-music oriented. I think she will find great success with this.

  • I like the list and I am glad Kelly Clarkson comes on top for she is one of the only best Idol singers. But Katharine McPhee’s ‘Had it All’ should have been on this list. Her Unbroken cd is amazing. I would take out Fantasia and Adam Lambert. But it is all a mater of one’s opinion, but that is why it is your list, not ours

  • james

    What about the song “DIARY” from Mario Vasquez? Also, say what you want, but Ruben has had some nice songs. So has Latoya London. Personally, I think Kelly Clarkson is a poor man’s Pink.

  • james

    OOPS! Mario’s song is called “Gallery” not “Diary.”

  • OH SNAP. Thanks for james. I absolutely loved “Gallery”, especially the Spanglish version. That song is a definite top 10 in my list. Sorry Archuleta, you just got bumped off the list.

  • Rich

    Most unique voice – Elliot Yamin – who got ripped off! His voice is fresh. Kelly’s My Life gets me singin along too,

  • KyleMacPhamous

    I would remove everything by Adam Lambert and Fantasia. I can’t stand either of them!

  • I’m glad Blake Lewis made your list, in spite of the fact that his singles aren’t anything in comparison to the rest of the tracks on either album.

  • KC

    Good list! I think “Before He Cheats” should have ranked higher.

    “My Life Would Suck Without You” is a good choice, but I feel that there are at least three other Kelly Clarkson songs that are better. “Behind These Hazel Eyes” is epic, “Already Gone” is emotional, and “Walk Away” is sassy.

    By the way, have you heard of Alison Iraheta’s “Don’t Waste the Pretty”? You might like it if you’re into Kelly Clarkson’s stuff.

    Someone already pointed this out, but “Battlefield” definitely should have been here.

    @ James – The “Kelly is a poor man’s Pink” comment made me giggle, but I don’t think it’s true. That title clearly belongs to Avril Lavigne!

  • Rick

    Clay Aiken!??….Really???
    I totally get that disclosing our guilty pleasures (Justin Bieber)
    can be rather seductive & liberating but I do wish that you had left your list as a Top Ten. I would like to remain open to your musical posts… so now I have to scrub that tidbit from my brain so that my reading them is not tainted by the idea that they are being broadcast from the promenade deck of a Disney cruise ship.

  • suresh

    ur missing katherine mcphee’s lovestory/over it
    That song is my all time faave!

  • ADAM

    raindrops will fall by tamyra gray is fantastic .way to much chewbacca , i mean sparks on this list . i also like bowersox release of farmer daughter . KELLY WILL ALWAYS BE MY FAV IDOL SINGER/SONGWRITER . WHEN THEY MAKE THE WHITNEY HOUSTON MOVIE I CANT SEE ANYBODY ELSE BUT TAMYRA GRAY STARING IN IT .


    Can you post a link to the dave aude remix of “how many words” by blake lewis? The one you gave isn’t working. Thanks!

    BTW! Remember RJ Helton – Missing Me. OH God! Orgasm! Love that song

  • bo

    Okay….No Kellie Pickler on this list but you have songs from Fantasia, Kim Locke, Clay Aiken, Blake Lewis, Jennifer Hudson and David Archuleta? Epic Fail

  • Ricky

    I agree that Kelly has so many amazing songs she could totally fill this list and then some. “Save You” is an AMAZING ballad that should have been released as a single. “Sober” is another amazing underrated song. I could go on and on. So many great Kelly songs. Can’t wait to see her in Clearwater next month!

  • Ricky

    Other non-Kelly songs I love:
    – Adam Lambert “Pick U Up”, “Fever”, “Music Again”, “Aftermath”, “Time For Miracles”…. Oh just buy the album already… they’re all good!
    – “Don’t Lie” by Mario Vazquez is a great song as well as Gallery that you listed.
    – “8th World Wonder” by Kimberly Locke
    – “Over It”, “Love Story”, “Not Ur Girl”, “Each Other” and “Everywhere I Go” from Katharine McPhee are good.
    – “If This Isn’t Love” from J-Hud
    – “This Is The Night” by Clay Aiken
    – “Over You” by Daughtry
    Plus I like all the ones on your list except Fantasia… not a fan. J-Hud all the way. Hmmm, I feel a “Best of Idol’s” playlist coming up.

  • Tephy

    His “Wait For You” will be forever featured in my iPod

  • Greg

    David Cook definitely should be on the list

  • Lissy

    A+ list! Queen Kelly is flawless and I will always adore her, but Adam owns my heart.

    I still hear Whataya Want From Me on my radio and I love to emote dramatically along with Adam when it plays in my car. Just saw on twitter today that his sales for that track just keep inching upward, they’re now at 1.8M yay!

    And I’m so hyped for his new album that I give February on my calendar dirty looks for standing between me and his album drop date.

  • number8gurl

    Nice list…there are a few I don’t care for and also a few I have never heard so I won’t even waste time commenting on those…

    I am a die-hard Glambert and Adam’s Whataya Want From Me definitely belongs on this list. There are not many Idol alum who have a single make the top 10 on BB hot 100 and garner a Grammy nod. It’s an elite list and I’m proud Adam is part of that list. I think it should be ranked a little higher but hey it’s your list.

    PS: just want until his 2nd album drops….it could be his ‘Breakaway’.

    When it comes to Kelly it is really hard to pick. She has SO MANY great songs. MLWSWY gets all these kudos b/c of it’s amazing jump on BB Hot 100 from #97 to #1 in one week but I don’t consider that her best song. SUBG is also a great song as is ‘Walk Away’ but my favorite of her revenge on boyfriends songs will always be ‘Never Again’. Loving her new album too.

    I think one of the most underrated Idol finalists in the history of the show is Allison Iraheta. Her album, for me, as far as track by track listening pleasure, is very similar to Kelly’s Breakaway. It is FULL of great songs that most people have never even heard! It’s absurd how her potential was completely ignored by her label. ‘Scars’, ‘Holiday’ and ‘Don’t Waste The Pretty’ are absolutely incredible songs. I think she deserves a spot on your list.

  • number8gurl

    Also I wouldn’t exactly consider season 6 a flop since both finalists earned a spot on your list. I love both of Blake’s albums and liked all of Jordin’s singles. Battlefield is my favorite.