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It’s a phenomenon that began on Oct. 5, 2002, the date that Kelly Clarkson captured her first No. 1 on a Billboard chart with her debut single, “A Moment Like This,” and has continued unabated. This month, Carrie Underwood’s live recording of “How Great Thou Art” topped the Christian Digital Songs and Christian/Gospel Digital Songs sales charts and Mandisa’s latest single, “Stronger,” led the airplay-based Christian Songs list, bringing the total number of No. 1s for the American Idol franchise to a whopping 299. With Idol‘s newest inductee, season 10 winner Scotty McCreery, almost sure to debut at the top of the Hot Digital Singles chart and possibly the Billboard Hot 100 with “I Love You This Big,” the franchise is about to hit a landmark 300 No. 1s.
That massive, unprecedented figure for a television series is based on all of the national, domestic charts that Billboard compiles each week, counting singles and albums charts, sales and airplay charts, current and “recurrent” charts and all genres, for the Idols have conquered multiple formats of music, from pop to rock to R&B to country to Christian.
The Idol with the most No. 1s is Clarkson, who kicked off the count in 2002 with a double win: “A Moment Like This,” the series’ first coronation song, achieved pole position on both the Hot 100 and the separate Hot 100 Singles Sales charts. “A Moment Like This” broke a 38-year-old record when it soared 52-1 to establish the biggest leap to first place in the history of the Hot 100. The previous record-holder was the Beatles’ “Can’t Buy Me Love,” with a 27-1 jump on April 4, 1964.
Clarkson, the very first “American Idol,” now has 60 No. 1s to her credit, having topped four country charts this year with “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” her duet with Jason Aldean.
Season 4 winner Underwood is in second place with 50 No. 1s, starting with her series finale championship song “Inside Your Heaven.” That recording first went to No. 1 on the Hot Country Singles Sales chart the week of June 25, 2005 and remained on top for 35 weeks, the longest-running No. 1 of all Idol singles. She also holds the record for the longest-running No. 1 album by an Idol. Her debut CD, Some Hearts, was No. 1 for 27 weeks on the Top Country Albums survey, but the record was established later on the Top Country Catalog Albums tally, where the record occupied the penthouse for 41 weeks.
Although he didn’t win American Idol, Season five’s fourth-place Chris Daughtry has done alright for himself. His band, Daughtry, has the third-highest count of Billboard No. 1s, with 38 to their credit. Third season winner Fantasia is close behind with 30.
There’s more to the Idol chart fortunes than the incredible total of No. 1 recordings. To date, 52 finalists have appeared on the Billboard charts, the most recent being Season 10’s Paul McDonald, whose band the Grand Magnolias peaked at No. 12 on the Heatseekers survey. Season five takes top honors with nine of the top 10 garnering Billboard chart ink.
If you add in the four non-finalist contestants who have charted (William Hung, Josiah Leming, Frenchie Davis and Chris Medina), the total of charted Idols rises to 56.
Despite the industry-wide decline in album sales, the Idol franchise has sold more than 50 million albums in its 10-year history, and over 250 million downloaded singles from iTunes alone. With names like Scotty McCreery, Pia Toscano, who’s already at work on her debut album for Interscope, James Durbin, Haley Reinhart and Lauren Alaina bound to be charting soon, that number can only increase.
McCreery will likely give Idol its 300th (and 301st and 302nd) No. 1 as early as Wednesday. His single “I Love You This Big” is currently topping the iTunes singles chart, which indicates a possible debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, Hot Digital Singles and Country Digital Singles charts.
See a full breakdown of Idol alums who have charted after the jump.
American Idol alums and their No. 1s
Kelly Clarkson 60
Carrie Underwood 50
Chris Daughtry (Daughtry) 38
Ruben Studdard 16
Jennifer Hudson 15
Clay Aiken 11
Kimberley Locke 8
Josh Gracin 7
Jordin Sparks 7
David Cook 6
Adam Lambert 5
David Archuleta 4
Kellie Pickler 4
Elliott Yamin 4
Kris Allen 3
Taylor Hicks 3
American Idol Finalists 2
Bo Bice 2
Jason Castro 2
Bucky Covington 2
Blake Lewis 2
Chris Sligh 2
Paris Bennett 1
Diana DeGarmo 1
Lee DeWyze 1
Tamyra Gray 1
William Hung 1
Music journalist Fred Bronson is the creator of the IdolsNow iPhone app and has appeared on American Idol as an authority on the charts and music history.
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