'American Idol' on the Charts: Looking Back at a Decade of No. 1 Hits
Kelly Clarkson’s "A Moment Like This" captured the top spot 10 years ago this week.
SAVORING THE 'MOMENT': Ten years ago this week, American Idol scored its first No. 1 on the Billboard charts, when Kelly Clarkson's "A Moment Like This" took a record-breaking leap from 52-1 on The Billboard Hot 100. A decade later, the Fox-TV series is still going strong and has amassed 357 No. 1s, counting all national, domestic charts compiled by Billboard.
It would have been very difficult to discern, in the immediate aftermath of the two-week reign of "A Moment Like This," that the Idol franchise would ever collect 100 No. 1s, let alone be working its way to the 400 mark. Clarkson actually earned two No. 1s the week of Oct. 5, 2002, as "A Moment Like This" also topped the Hot Singles Sales list. But more than six months would pass before Idol would pick up its third No. 1. That happened during the last week in April 2003 when "A Moment Like This" spent one week atop the Adult Contemporary Recurrents tally. A week later, Clarkson’s debut album, Thankful, spent a lone frame at No. 1 on The Billboard 200 album chart.
That same week, the Idol total of No. 1s jumped to five, thanks to the top 10 finalists from season two. Their group recording of Lee Greenwood’s "God Bless the U.S.A." began an eight-week rule on the Hot Singles Sales survey. That was the longest-running Idol No. 1 at the time, a record that held for only a few weeks.
Setting a new record, with an 11-week visit to the penthouse, was season two’s runner-up. Clay Aiken's finale song, "This Is the Night," debuted at No. 1 on the Hot 100 the week of June 28, 2003, and stayed there for two weeks. At the same time, it began that 11-week stay at No. 1 on Hot Singles Sales. In the summer of 2004, season three winner Fantasia equaled Aiken’s feat when "I Believe" spent 11 weeks leading the Hot Singles Sales list. No Idol had a No. 1 that lasted longer than 11 weeks until 2005, when Clarkson's "Breakaway," her soundtrack hit from The Princess Diaries 2: The Royal Engagement, had an amazing 28-week reign on the Adult Contemporary Audience chart.
But that record didn’t stand forever. After 27 weeks at No. 1 on the Top Country Albums chart, Carrie Underwood's "Some Hearts" moved over to the Top Country Catalog Albums tally, where it racked up 41 weeks in first place, a longevity record that holds to this day.
As the seasons rolled by, more and more Idols found themselves heading up a wide variety of Billboard charts. After Clarkson and Aiken, season two winner Ruben Studdard was next, as his remake of Leon Russell's oft-covered "Superstar" led the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Sales list for eight weeks. Next up was season two’s third-place finalist, Kimberley Locke, the first Idol who wasn’t signed to a label through 19 Entertainment to earn a No. 1 hit. A deal with Nashville-based Curb Records led to the release of Locke’s debut single, "8th World Wonder," which debuted at No. 1 on the Hot Singles Sales chart. Within an hour of the song achieving its chart-topping status, Idol executive producers Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick booked Locke to perform the song on Idol the following week, based on her No. 1 position, a case of the charts influencing American Idol instead of the other way around.
The next Idol contestant to see their name on top of a Billboard chart wasn’t Fantasia, although she soon followed, as did season three runner-up Diana DeGarmo. But first came a season three competitor who didn’t make the top 12, an Idol first. In April 2004, William Hung’s album Inspiration ruled the Top Independent Albums chart for two weeks.
Those early Idols were just the start of the wave. As of this week, 31 different finalists have been No. 1 on one or more Billboard charts. They have topped charts as diverse as Christian Digital Songs, Top Holiday Albums, Adult R&B, Mainstream Top 40, Dance Airplay, Heatseekers and the (defunct) Pop 100.
The latest Idols to earn their first No. 1s are season ten’s Casey Abrams and season 11’s top two, Phillip Phillips and Jessica Sanchez. But the most recent Idol to top a Billboard chart is the winner who started it all. Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)" was No. 1 last week on the Hot 100 Singles Airplay Recurrents chart, the 15th Billboard survey where this song has reached the top spot.
With the second decade of Idol number ones about to begin, here is a list of all Idol contestants who have soared to No. 1 on the Billboard charts, with their total number of chart-toppers:
Kelly Clarkson 79
Carrie Underwood 63
Chris Daughtry (Daughtry) 39
Ruben Studdard 16
Jennifer Hudson 15
Clay Aiken 12
Adam Lambert 9
David Cook 8
Kimberley Locke 8
Scotty McCreery 7
Josh Gracin 7
Jordin Sparks 7
Kris Allen 4
David Archuleta 4
Kellie Pickler 4
Elliott Yamin 4
Taylor Hicks 3
Phillip Phillips 3
American Idol Finalists 2
Bo Bice 2
Jason Castro 2
Bucky Covington 2
Blake Lewis 2
Chris Sligh 2
Casey Abrams 1
Paris Bennett 1
Diana DeGarmo 1
Lee DeWyze 1
Tamyra Gray 1
Jessica Sanchez 1
William Hung 1
BITS AND PIECES: Underwood’s "Blown Away" breaks into the top five of the Hot Country Songs chart with a 7-5 jump. That means every one of Underwood’s country chart entries that have been official singles have reached the top five. All of the predecessors to "Blown Away" have made the top two and there’s no reason to suspect that this latest hit won’t match that achievement … on the Hot 100, "Blown Away" storms 28-24 to achieve a new peak position … Locke’s latest single, "Finally Free," is No. 3 on Billboard’s "Breakouts for the Hot Dance Club Play Cart" list, a strong indication the song could debut on that survey next week … Castro's "Only a Mountain" debuts at No. 28 on the Christian Adult Contemporary chart … Phillip Phillips' "Home" holds at No. 3 on the sales-based Rock Digital Songs chart and makes its debut at No. 45 on the airplay-based Rock Songs survey.
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