As we approach the competition starting up on the most recent season of American Idol, it allows me to do something the other similar shows can't do. That is to look back over the last decade of the show, and visit with the performers I really thought were due another look and listen. Hard to believe it has been a decade, but this summer, it will be 10 years since Fox aired the show that caught the imagination of the viewers.
Season 2 kicked off with quite the bang, while still only in the preliminary rounds of the show. After making it through the Hollywood rounds, the Producers kicked off contestant Frenchie Davis after the discovery of topless pictures take of her that were used on some internet websites. Frenchie, a big, black, and beautiful belter had many fans who were not happy, and the talk continued for some time. She spent a few years on Broadway in shows like Rent, and in 2008, toured in a production of Ain't Misbehavin' with Season Two competitors Ruben Studdard and Trenyce. Last year, Frenchie resurfaced on another musical talent show, this time on the inaugural season of The Voice. They made a bit of a deal about finally giving Frenchie the opportunity to be judged by the public, not the producers. However, she was eliminated prior to the finals. Here is a clip of Frenchie singing Ain't Misbehavin' from the show of the same name featuring the music of Fats Waller.
This controversy was pushed to the back later in the season when Corey Clark was dismissed from the show, and stated it was because of a relationship with judge Paula Abdul. Frenchie recovered quickly, and was cast in the Broadway production of Rent. You can learn more about Frenchie Davis on her official website here. You can purchase her collection of dance hits on iTunes and Amazon.
Josh Gracin proved to be the first enlisted man who managed to compete on the show. He was also one of the first to ever have openly argue with the judges, and Simon Cowell in particular. While on the show, Gracin seem to favor soulful Pop, once the season was over, he took Cowell's advice, and started singing Country. It was good advice, for he was signed as a Country singer, and his sales proved it. His first three singles all landed in the Top 5 on the Billboard Country charts. That includes his second single, Nothin To Lose, which also lodged his first (and only) #1 on the Country chart.
Gracin was also the first contestant to miss the finale, and subsequently the tour, when he was called back to his unit after he went out in fourth place. Once he finished his enlistment, he was able to sign with Lyric Street Records. Last year, Lyric Street closed it's doors, and as signed by Average Joe's Entertainment. He has continued to deliver decent sales numbers, and good music. You can learn more about Josh on his official website here. You can purchase his latest album, Redemption, on iTunes and Amazon.
Kimberly Locke was the girl with a bit of sass. She first came to the attention of people during the Hollywood Rounds where she sang Freda Payne's Band Of Gold in a duet with Frenchie Davis. But once in the finals, she made a statement each week with smart and crisp vocals. After claiming third, she went the indie route, and released One Love. That spawned two Top 40 hits, including Eighth World Wonder, which made it to #19.
Locke also made money working as a plus-sized model signed with the Ford Agency. She was also a spokesmodel for Laine Bryant. All the while, she continued to make music. She also joined another reality television show when she went on Celebrity Fit Club, where she argued with Dustin Diamond, AKA Screech from Saved By The Bell. You can learn more about Kimberly on her official website here and on Twitter here. You can purchase her latest EP, Four For The Floor, on iTunes and Amazon.
The final of the show was quite contentious. The battle between the fans of Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard were growing to full-blown wars, all while the boys themselves seem to have nothing but respect for one another. Clay's bright and cheerful Pop was never in competition with Studdard's soulful R&B, except for the fans and for Fox. But both had been in top form all season long, and kept the boys atop the rest. Despite Simon's distaste for the Raleigh-based singer, Clay made it to the finals as the favorite. But in a finals with the closest voice totals of all ten seasons, he ended in the second spot. The wars continued, and both Ruben and Clay had great sales figures for their first singles and albums after the show. Clay's Measure Of A Man landed atop the Billboard Hop 100, selling over 600,000 units the first week. This Is The Night, his single off the show and the first off the album, went to #1 on the Billboard Pop chart.
Clay followed that up with the hits Invisible and Solitaire. Fans were flocking to see him on tour, and his tour with Kelly Clarkson was big. But he was dropped from the label after a few lame attempts, including an album of cover songs. He also made quite the splash on Broadway with a role in Spamalot, which was perfect for him. I saw it, and he was wonderful! He is now signed with Decca albums, and still makes the rounds on tour. Also, Clay came out a few years ago, after years of speculation and rumors. You can learn more about Clay on his official website here and on Twitter here. You can purchase his latest album, Tried & True, on iTunes and Amazon.
The second season was won by the man nicknamed The Velvet Teddybear, after endless comparisons to the great Luther Vandross. After the win, Ruben Studdard was a graceful champion, gladly sharing the spotlight with Clay. His first album, Soulful, also topped the Billboard album chart, proving their was room for both. His winning single was Flying Without Wings, assigned to him by Simon, who was familiar with it after his group Westlife had a huge hit with it in the UK and much of the world. The big single off the album was Sorry 2004, which made it to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100.
While the first album sold well, the numbers went down drastically for the follow-ups. Soon, Studdard was dropped from J Records, a division of Jive. He signed with Hickory Records, only to move on the Shanachie Records, which will soon have a new release from Ruben. Ruben also was part of the touring company of Ain't Misbehavin' in 2008, playing Fats Waller. Throughout the years, it seems as though Clay and Ruben have remained friends, and to the best of my knowledge, neither has had a bad word to say about the other. They also had a successful tour together in 2010, and finally got the fans in one place together. You can learn more about Ruben on his official website. You can purchase his latest single, June 28th (I'm Single) on iTunes and Amazon.