Judges Keith Urban, left, Jennifer Lopez and Harry Connick Jr. onstage at FOX's "American Idol XIV" Top 3 Revealed on May 6, 2015 in Hollywood, California.
Photograph by Michael Becker — FOX via Getty Images
By Daniel Bukszpan
May 13, 2015

For a while there, it was hard to find a show more popular than “American Idol.” The singing competition debuted in July 2002 and launched the careers of such household names as Ruben Studdard, Jordin Sparks and William Hung. In June, 2011, TV Guide reported that it had become the most watched prime time show in America for the eighth consecutive time.

But inevitably, every blockbuster must lose its gleam, collect dust and fade into history. The ratings of “American Idol” began this process in 2012, and in May 2015, the Fox network announced that the forthcoming 15th season would be the show’s last. Oh, how the mighty had fallen.

Not everyone was upset by the news. Some media reaction was giddy with schadenfreude, as in the case of Gawker, which reported the news with the not entirely charitable headline, “American Idol’s Rotting Bones Finally Laid to Rest.” Ouch.

Love it or hate it, the show’s impact on pop culture in the last 13 years can’t be denied, nor can the people that it turned into stars — some of whom never even sang a single note. Host Ryan Seacrest toiled away for years on such long-forgotten shows as the Family Channel’s “Wild Animal Games,” but once he took the gig hosting “Idol,” his days of sharing hosting duties with chimpanzees were over. His stock rose to such a degree that he signed a two-year contract extension in 2012 for a rumored $30 million, according to Reuters.

But ultimately the show is about the performers. Here’s a look at the most successful people who got their start on “American Idol,” based on domestic album sales data from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA).

 

Daniel Bukszpan is a New York-based freelance writer.

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