American Idol memories

-- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 11:21 PM ET

When Kelly Clarkson won American Idol four years ago, no one expected her to become the superstar she is today.

No longer known as the girl from America's cheesiest singing contest, Grammy-winning Clarkson has found unimaginable success worldwide.

In fact, it seems odd to put her in this "Where are they now?" story when all you have to do is switch on the TV to see she's everywhere.

Season one runner-up Justin Guarini, however, has not been so fortunate.

After being dropped by RCA when his debut album just sold 134,000 copies, he practically vanished, only to reappear two years later with his trademark hair hacked off.

The new Guarini has recently released a independently produced jazz album, Stranger Things Have Happened, which is only available on his website.

Ruben Studdard, the only male to ever win Idol, has also had difficulty staying on top.

Following his win, he released two records, including I Need an Angel (a gospel album that went gold), which he's now promoting in the U.S. (He's set to appear at Aladdin Resort and Casino in Las Vegas later this month.)

In comparison, season two runner-up Clay Aiken can't seem to keep himself out of the spotlight.

The New York Post has reported that recent rumours the wholesome pop singer is gay has prompted nine former fans to file a Federal Trade Commission complaint against executives at RCA and Sony/BMG, claiming they were duped into buying his albums.

Aiken's camp has denied the claims, but the scandal will likely harm his career.

Multiple Grammy-nominee and season three Idol winner Fantasia Barrino, on the other hand, seems to be navigating her way back into the spotlight for all the right reasons.

Her debut album went platinum, she was nominated for four Grammys, wrote a memoir and is set to tour with Kanye West this fall.

But Diana DeGarmo, who finished second, has not been so lucky. Her debut album, released in 2004, sold fewer than 200,000 copies.

The same can definitely not be said for Carrie Underwood, the winner of American Idol 4.

Her album Some Hearts went platinum in December, the same month she won three Billboard music awards.

Runner-up Bo Bice has also had his share of success since Idol ended. His solo album The Real Thing debuted at No. 4 and his first single, Inside Your Heaven, bumped Underwood's version of the same song from the No. 1 spot on the single's chart last summer. He also guest-starred on Carlos Santana's disc All That I Am.

WHO WILL WIN?

Start placing your bets.

With American Idol now in the home stretch, Pinnacle-Sports.com has announced its updated odds on which performer will become the next Carrie Underwood.

The betting site has named Chris Daughtry the most likely to win with odds of 7/2 ($7 paid out for every $2 bet), while Mandisa Hundley has the second-best odds at 11/2.

After opening as the early favourites, Ace Young and Katharine McPhee remain solid contenders at 6/1 odds.

But because nothing is a sure thing (this is the same site that gave Calgary's Melissa O'Neil 97/1 odds of becoming the next Canadian Idol), we at the Sun have complied our own list of who will take the Idol crown.

1. Ace Young: There's not a teenage girl (or woman) in America who wouldn't vote for this heartbreaker and it's time for a guy to win.

2. Katharine McPhee: All three judges have predicted she will go all the way.

3. Chris Daughtry: Now the favourite of on-line betting sites, he could be the first rocker to win Idol.

4. Paris Bennett: She definitely has the talent, but her performances have become boring.

5. Lisa Tucker: She's a less talented, younger version of Paris.

6. Elliott Yamin: He's got a great voice, but needs a serious makeover.

7. Kellie Pickler: She's too similar to last season's winner Underwood.

8. Mandisa Hundley: At 29, she's probably too old to win despite her talent.

9. Taylor Hicks: In time, he's sure to get on people's nerves.

10.) Melissa McGhee: No X-factor here.

11. Bucky Covington: He's missing that something special -- in short, he's no Ace.

12. Kevin Covais: He can thank votefortheworst.com for lasting this long.


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