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American Idol ushered in its share of changes in 2014, including a new judge (Harry Connick Jr.), a new set and a new production team. Season 13 also crowned a new Idol in Caleb Johnson, but it was the show’s alumni that grabbed the biggest headlines. From career victories to slip-ups, major life milestones and one tragic death, Idol Worship counts down the 14 most-talked-about Idol stories of the year.
14. Jason Aldean Proposes to Season 11 Alum Brittany Kerr
She wasn’t the biggest name from season 11 — the year Phillip Phillips won — with Jennifer Lopez predicting she wouldn’t make it past Hollywood Week. But Brittany Kerr scored a prize much shinier than a golden ticket: an engagement ring from one of the biggest names in country music. Jason Aldean popped the question to his girlfriend of two years at the San Diego Zoo on Sept. 23. The couple met under dubious circumstances — he was still married when the two were caught kissing in a bar in 2012.
13. Archuleta: Mission Accomplished
To the delight of David Archuleta fans, the season-seven runner-up returned from a two-year Mormon mission to Chile in March. Since arriving back in his home state of Utah, the 23-year-old has invited fans to submit their own versions of the song “Glorious” from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ feature-length documentary, Meet the Mormons, released in October. More than 400 submissions from eight different countries made the final cut for the three-minute video.
12. Idols Rack Up the Roles
Katharine McPhee fans still crying over the cancelation of Smash now have a reason to smile as the season-five runner-up scored another major TV role: the show Scorpion on CBS. Meanwhile, over on cable, season-nine alum Katie Stevens is riding a wave of acclaim for her co-starring role on the MTV show Faking It. On digital, season-10 finalist Haley Reinhart announced she will be the voice of a young boy in new animated show F Is for Family on Netflix.
11. Daughtry Disses Veterans on D-Day
It was supposed to be a normal summer promotional stop for Daughtry. The band had just finished performing on Fox & Friends as part of the network’s All-American Concert series when the season-five alum was asked to sing a patriotic song in honor of D-Day. Flustered and unprepared, Chris Daughtry declined, saying he was “off the clock.” As the show’s hosts scrambled to come up with a song the crowd could sing, Daughtry quipped, “This is where I bail.” His actions incited fury on Twitter, and the singer released a video apologizing and saying he was “embarrassed…for offending any of our troops.”
10. Gracin Attempts Suicide?
Fans of season two were surprised by headlines on Aug. 14 claiming that Josh Gracin had attempted suicide. The evidence came by way of a note on the singer’s Facebook page, which read: “Please remember me as someone who gave his all in music.” Thankfully, his manager reported soon after that Josh was home safe with his family.
9. The Dawg-Father Heads for the Door
Rumors that longtime judge Randy Jackson would soon say goodbye to American Idol started circulating in 2012, but it didn’t quite turn out that way. Jackson rejoined the show as a mentor, stepping in for Jimmy Iovine, during season 13. That position was short lived, though, as it was reported this summer that the Dawg has, indeed, left the building.
8. Borchetta Brings Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes
With Jackson’s exit, season 14 will usher in a new in-house mentor, Big Machine Records founder Scott Borchetta. Known as the man who discovered and helped develop Taylor Swift, Borchetta’s arrival means a new outlook to judging talent and a new home at the Nashville-based Universal Music Group-affiliated label. “If we see something great, whether it wins or not, we’ll certainly consider it,” Borchetta told Billboard earlier this month. “But it’s about the winner.”
7. Phillips’ Bachelor Status Is Gone, Gone, Gone.
Hearts broke over the holidays when season-11 champion Phillips announced his engagement to longtime girlfriend Hannah Blackwell. The adorable couple shared the big news via Facebook and Instagram, where Phillips said it was his “best Christmas surprise.”
6. Sparks and Derulo Split, Spat
The cute couple paraded down countless red carpets together, so when season-six winner Jordin Sparks and singer Jason Derulo announced their split in September, it was a major shock to not just the Idol family but the entertainment community at large. Post-breakup, DeRulo was less than cordial in interviews, but Sparks got the last word via a public diss on her new album, #BYEFELICIA: the song “How ‘Bout Now,” which includes the the telling line, “once you blew up/head got big.”
5. Aiken Runs for Congress
In perhaps the most surprising headline of the year, season-two runner-up Clay Aiken campaigned for a congressional seat against Republican Renee Elmers in his home state of North Carolina. Aiken beat his primary Democratic opponent, who died in a bizarre accident as the votes were being recounted, but he lost the election. Claymates can still celebrate, however: the whole affair was documented by Esquire.
4. Babies for Kelly and Carrie
There’s an Idol playdate in the future for season-one winner Kelly Clarkson and season four’s Carrie Underwood. Clarkson, who married Brandon Blackstock in 2013, welcomed daughter River Rose in June, while in September, Underwood and husband Mike Fisher announced they’re expecting in 2015.
3. Lambert Rocks Arenas
It was on a cold day in March when Adam Lambert and Queen faced the press at Madison Square Garden and made the announcement Glamberts had long waited for: North American tour dates. The season-eight alum then went on to mesmerize audiences all summer long, with Queen guitarist Brian May praising the singer’s performance and impressive vocal range. Lambert will finish his triumphant year strong: fronting Queen in London on New Year’s Eve.
2. One Night Only
Idol host Ryan Seacrest dropped a bombshell at the Z100 Jingle Ball on Dec. 12: The results show will be combined into one night. “There won’t be a ‘Wait ‘til tomorrow night.’ There won’t be a ‘Coming up, coming up, coming up,’ ” he told THR. Similar to the performance night/results format of Dancing With the Stars, the new format will take effect once the show gets into the final stretch of the top 10. Another big change: Coca-Cola ended its sponsorship of the show, which dates back to the series’ first season.
1. The Death of Michael Johns
Tragedy struck the Idol family in August when season-seven alum Michael Johns died suddenly. He was first reported to have suffered from a fatal blood clot, but in November, an autopsy revealed that the 35-year-old Australian had died of an enlarged heart and a “fatty liver.” Beloved by fellow finalists from all seasons, many of whom paid tribute to Johns in the days after his death, he is survived by his wife, Stacey.
Twitter: @MicheleAmabile, @Idol_Worship
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