All 18 'American Idol' runners-up, ranked from least to most successful

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Gabbi Shaw
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Adam Lambert. Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Getty
  • "American Idol" has produced 18 winners and 18 runners-up.

  • In some cases, the runners-up have been more successful than the winners.

  • We've ranked all runners-up based on Spotify streams, chart success, social media followers, and career paths.

  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.

Arthur Gunn is the most recent runner-up, and as such, hasn't had time to do much. He lost to Just Sam.

Arthur Gunn
Arthur Gunn. Eric McCandless/ABC/Getty Images

Gunn, whose real name is Dibesh Pokharel, will actually have a chance to compete again — 10 contestants from season 18 will be joining the cast of season 19. But as the rules state that any contestant with a record deal is unable to compete ... Gunn's ability to participate kind of proves our point.

Over the last year, 23-year-old Gunn has released two albums ("Self-Titled" and "Khoj"), but neither has made much of an impact. He's currently got 295,000 Instagram followers, which is perfectly respectable.

But his highest-streamed song on Spotify is still a cover from his "AI" season, with just under 800,000 streams.

All this to say, Gunn had a promising start, and we're expecting him to rise in the rankings.

No shade to Bo Bice - almost anyone competing against Carrie Underwood would come up short. He placed second during season four in 2005.

bo bice
Bo Bice. Chris Polk/FilmMagic/Getty Images

First strike against the 45-year-old Bice — no official Instagram presence. There is an unverified account with just over 1,000 followers that could be his, but we can't be sure.

Bice also enjoyed minor success early in his career, with his 2005 album "The Real Thing" peaking at No. 4., with the song of the same name peaking at No.2. But since then, it's been quiet. His last album was released in 2017 and failed to chart, and his most-streamed song comes in with 821,000 plays.

Crystal Bowersox was the runner-up on season nine of "Idol" in 2010. She lost to Lee DeWyze.

Crystal Bowersox
Crystal Bowersox. Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Bowersox, 35, has released four albums in the decade since "Idol" — but her first one, "Farmer's Daughter," is still the best-performing. It peaked at No. 28 on the Billboard 200, and No. 2 on the US Rock chart.

For comparison, her 2013 album, "All That For This," peaked at No. 71, and the other two ("Promises" and Alive") didn't chart at all. Bowersox doesn't seem to have released any official music since 2017.

On the metrics front, she has 15,500 followers on Instagram, and her most-streamed song is "Up to the Mountain" with 610,000 streams. It's from over 10 years ago.

Jena Irene Asciutto was the runner-up of season 13, losing to Caleb Johnson in 2014.

Jena Irene
Jena Irene Asciutto. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Asciutto, 24, has released songs both under her stage name "Jena Irene" and under her full name. As Jena Irene, her song with the highest streams is a 2014 cover of "Can't Help Falling In Love" with 2 million streams.

However, she ditched the Jena Irene moniker soon after, and released "Cold Fame" in 2017 — it didn't appear to chart, and the most-streamed song from the album has 18,000 streams. Like the two runners-up preceding her, she also hasn't released music since 2017.

Asciutto's 49,100 Instagram followers and her highly streamed cover are what gave her the edge here.

Kree Harrison was the runner-up to season-12 winner Candice Glover in 2013.

Kree Harrison
Kree Harrison. Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Harrison's career seems to be on the rise — her song with the most streams, "That's How Hearts Get Broken," has over half a million streams and was released in 2020. It appears on her most recent album, "Chosen Family Tree."

Her debut album, "This Old Thing," peaked at No. 28 on the US Country chart, and her 2013 single "All Cried Out" peaked at No. 34 on Hot Country Songs.

The 30-year-old has a relatively small social media following, with 46,400 followers on Instagram, but as she's one of the only "Idol" runners-up thus far still releasing music, she's earned her spot.

During season 14, Clark Beckham came in second, losing the top spot to Nick Fradiani in 2015.

clark beckham
Clark Beckham. Gregg DeGuire/WireImage/Getty Images

In the six years post-"Idol," Beckham has been signed and subsequently dropped by music legend Quincy Jones. The 28-year-old has also only released one album, 2020's "Light Year," though he had been steadily releasing singles.

His most-streamed song is from 2018, "Hocus Pocus," which has just over 1 million streams. He also has 97,300 Instagram followers and a Teen Choice Award nomination to his name.

Blake Lewis lost to Jordin Sparks during season six in 2007.

blake lewis american idol
Blake Lewis. Jason Merritt/FilmMagic/Getty Images

What Lewis lacks in social media followers (24,100 followers on Instagram), he makes up for it with sheer volume. He's released four albums since the show, with his first album "A.D.D. (Audio Day Dream)" peaking at No. 10. His song "Heartbreak Vinyl" also topped the Dance/Club Play Chart and the the Hot Dance Airplay Chart.

Though the two follow-ups, including 2020's "Wanderlust Unknown," didn't chart, the 39-year-old has collaborated with Postmodern Jukebox, has dabbled in voice acting, and has generally stayed busy.

His most-streamed song is the 2013 single "Your Touch" with 3.8 million streams.

Caleb Lee Hutchinson came in second during season 16 in 2018, losing to his girlfriend, Maddie Poppe.

caleb lee hutchinson
Caleb Lee Hutchinson. Eric McCandless/Walt Disney Television/Getty Images

Hutchinson, 22, hasn't done much since the show, but he has a healthy 284,000 followers on Instagram and two songs on Spotify with more than 1 million streams. We're still waiting on a full-length album, but he did release an EP in 2019.

Alejandro Aranda, who goes by Scarypoolparty, was the runner-up of season 17 in 2019. He lost to Laine Hardy.

Alejandro Aranda
Alejandro Aranda. Eric McCandless/Getty Images

Aranda goes by Scarypoolparty on Spotify — and he has one song, "Out Loud," that has 7.3 million streams on the app. Aranda's tenure on "Idol" made him stand out as he performed many original songs in addition to the covers that are a classic on "Idol."

He's released two albums so far, "Exit Form" and "Doom Hologram," plus a 2021 EP "Los Angeles." "Exit Form" reached No. 6 on the US Heatseekers chart.

The 26-year-old also has 632,000 Instagram followers.

Jessica Sanchez was season 11's runner-up, losing to Phillip Phillips in 2012.

Jessica Sanchez
Jessica Sanchez. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Sanchez, 25, has enjoyed a successful post-"Idol" career. She appeared on two episodes of "Glee," collaborated with Ne-Yo on her single "Tonight," which reached No. 48 on the Hot 100, had a 2016 single, "Stronger Together," that peaked at No. 4 on the US Dance chart, recorded a song for Miss Universe Philippines ("Over the Universe"), and had her debut album "Me, You, and the Music" peak at No. 26.

Her cover of "A Whole New World" has garnered almost 12.7 million streams, which is her most popular song under her name. She also releases music under the name Jes, and she has a song with 226,000 streams there. Sanchez also has 303,000 followers on Instagram.

Diana DeGarmo finished behind Fantasia during season three in 2004, losing by just 2%.

diana degarmo american idol
Diana DeGarmo. Mathew Imaging/FilmMagic/Getty Images

DeGarmo, who is married to season five contestant Ace Young, has had a long career in theater in the 17 years since "Idol." She was in Broadway productions of "Hair" and "Hairspray," was in the off-Broadway production of "Toxic Avenger," and performed at Carnegie Hall, as well as many regional productions.

The 33-year-old also did a year-long stint on "The Young and the Restless," appeared in a Lifetime holiday film, and also appeared as herself on an episode of "Brides of Beverly Hills."

On the music front, DeGarmo has released two albums. Her first, 2004's "Blue Skies," peaked at No. 52 and spawned the single of the same name, which reached No. 14 on the Hot 100. Her most-streamed song, "Don't Cry Out Loud," is also from that album, with 73,000 plays. She also released an album in 2019, "Gemini."

She has 11,400 Instagram followers.

La'Porsha Renae was the last runner-up of "American Idol" before it went on a two-year hiatus. She lost season 15 to Trent Harmon in 2016.

laporsha renae
La'Porsha Renae. Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Renae (who now releases music under the name A.S.E.) can count Shonda Rhimes as one of her many fans — Rhimes used the 27-year-old's music in two episodes of "Grey's Anatomy," with Rhimes tweeting that Renae's album "is a party."

Her most-streamed song is "Good Woman," which has 4.5 million streams, then "Breathe" with 1 million. Her first (and only) album, "Already All Ready," was released in 2017 and peaked at No. 113 on the Billboard 200. She also had multiple singles chart on the R&B Digital chart and US Adult R&B chart. Her last single, "Solo," dropped in 2019, though she has teased new music this year.

Outside of music, Renae released a book, "Meet Me on the Battlefield," in 2020, and she has 123,000 followers on Instagram.

Justin Guarini is the original "Idol" runner-up, losing to Kelly Clarkson during the very first season back in 2002.

justin guarini kelly clarkson
Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini. SGranitz/WireImage/Getty Images

There are two things we need to mention immediately regarding Guarini's career. First, he co-starred with Clarkson in the hilariously horrible "From Justin to Kelly." Second, you've probably seen him on your TV screen recently — he plays Lil Sweet in the wonderfully absurd Diet Dr. Pepper commercials.

Besides that, Guarini, 42, has stepped away from music mainly. He's released two albums, the first of which peaked at No. 20 back in 2003. His second, and last, album was released in 2005, and his most-streamed song is a duet with Clarkson, which has 1.32 million streams.

Much like DeGarmo, Guarini has had an extensive theater career. He was in Broadway productions of "American Idiot," "Romeo and Juliet," "Wicked," "Cake Off," and "In Transit," as well as in regional runs of "Rent," "Chicago," "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat," "Company," and "Mamma Mia!"

In addition to acting, Guarini has also tried his hand at hosting. He hosted TV Guide's "Idol" recap shows "Idol Wrap" and "Idol Tonight," and he also hosted the network's Grammy and Emmy coverage. He also partnered with BroadwayHD.com for the Tonys. Currently, he has 30,300 followers on Instagram.

David Archuleta became a teen idol after he lost season seven to David Cook in 2008.

David Archuleta
David Archuleta. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Archuleta is still the only true "teen pop" star who has come from the show. He's been on episodes of "iCarly" and "Hannah Montana," even releasing a song with the alter ego that peaked at No. 74 on the Hot 100. He's also won multiple Teen Choice Awards.

The 30-year-old has released eight albums in his career, with his debut album peaking at No. 2. Other albums reached No. 30, No. 13, and No 28. He hasn't had a single on the Hot 100 since his first single, "Crush," peaked at No. 2, but he's also had popular Christmas albums.

His most recent album, "Therapy Sessions," was released in 2020. He's used his large followings on both Instagram (380,000 followers) and TikTok (414,000 followers), to promote the album and capitalize on the nostalgia for his old hits, with clips like this one.

Katharine McPhee lost to Taylor Hicks in 2006 during season five.

katharine mcphee
Katharine McPhee. Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Getty Images

McPhee, who has 855,000 Instagram followers, might be better known as an actress at this point. She starred in the (iconic) NBC musical show "Smash," the CBS procedural "Scorpion," and is now taking her talents to Netflix with "Country Comfort." She also had roles in films like "The House Bunny" and "Bayou Caviar."

The 37-year-old has also released music, though. She's released five albums since the show, with her self-titled debut peaking at No. 2. Her debut single reached No. 29. Her most-streamed song is "Terrified" from the "Smash" soundtrack. It has 54 million streams.

She also made her Broadway debut in 2018, playing lead character Jenna in "Waitress," before reprising the role on London's West End. She was also nominated for a Teen Choice Award.

Lauren Alaina was the runner-up of season 10, finishing behind Scotty McCreery in 2011.

lauren alaina
Lauren Alaina. Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Alaina, 26, has become a successful country star. Her song with Kane Brown, "What Ifs," made her the first artist to top five separate Billboard charts. Her debut album, "Wildflower," peaked at No. 2 on the Country chart and No. 5 on the Billboard 200. The follow-up, "Road Less Traveled," peaked at No. 3 and No. 31 on the same charts.

Alaina has also had two singles reach the Hot 100 and 12 singles on the Country chart, including a No. 1 (the aforementioned "What Ifs"). She released two EPs last year that reached Nos. 28 and 33 on the Country chart, as well.

She's also been nominated for ACM Awards, CMT Awards, Billboard Music Awards, iHeart Radio Awards, and more, winning CMTs and ACMs. Alaina currently has 967,000 followers on Instagram, and her most-streamed song is the 2019 single "One Beer," which has 93 million streams. She's had more than 23 million streams on each of her five highest-streamed singles.

Alaina competed on "Dancing with the Stars" in 2019, coming in fourth place.

When Clay Aiken lost to Ruben Studdard during season two in 2003, hearts broke around the country.

clay aiken 2003
Clay Aiken. SGranitz/WireImage/Getty Images

Although Kelly Clarkson is the most successful person from "American Idol," the show itself became a phenomenon in season two, when Aiken had such dedicated fans that they named themselves the "Claymates."

After the show, Aiken's first five albums all reached the top 10, with his debut, "Measure of a Man," peaking at No. 1. His two highest-streamed songs are from that album, with 4 million and 1.6 million streams.

The follow-ups reached No. 4, No. 2, No. 4, and No. 9, respectively. He also had a No. 1 single in 2003 and a No. 4 song in 2004. He's also had at least 15 songs on the Adult Contemporary chart. His 2004 Christmas album also set records for the fastest-selling Christmas album since 1991.

Aiken, in general, is just a bona-fide celebrity. He's been on Broadway, competed on "Celebrity Apprentice," wrote a best-selling memoir, was the musical guest on "Saturday Night Live," has been on many game shows, and even appeared on "Law and Order: SVU." The 42-year-old has also won both American Music Awards and Billboard Music Awards. Currently, he has 151,000 followers on Instagram.

In addition to all that, he also ran for office in 2014, running for the US House of Representatives, representing North Carolina. He won the Democratic primary but lost the race.

Adam Lambert is easily the most successful "Idol" runner-up. He lost to Kris Allen during season eight in 2009.

Adam Lambert
Adam Lambert. Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Lambert is, to date, the only "Idol" runner-up to be nominated for a Grammy — he was nominated in 2011 for his single "Whataya Want From Me." The song also has 96 million streams and reached No. 10 on the Hot 100.

The 39-year-old's first three albums all made it to the top three of the Billboard 200, with two reaching No. 1. He's also had success on the Adult Top 40 chart, and his most-streamed song is 2015's "Ghost Town," with 238 million streams.

Lambert also acts, and he has appeared on episodes of "Glee," "Pretty Little Liars," and in the live musical version of "Rocky Horror." He also voiced a role in "Playmobil: The Movie" and had a little cameo in "Bohemian Rhapsody."

Speaking of Queen, Lambert now, of course, is best known for taking over Freddie Mercury's lead singer duties in Queen. He's toured with the legendary group since 2012, and they're currently working on new music together.

He also has 1.6 million followers on Instagram, the only runner-up to crack 1 million.

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