Long gone are Simon Cowell's snark and tight T-shirts, as well as Paula Abdul's, well, "Paula-isms," but we'll never forget some of the singers (and not-so-much singers) who once competed on "American Idol" — like Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips, who emerged victorious despite suffering from painful kidney stones throughout the competition. In celebration of his 29th birthday on Sept. 20, 2019, read on to find out what he and more contestants from past seasons of "Idol" are up to now…
Phillip Phillips has released three albums since his time on "American Idol." His debut single, "Home," became a hit after it was featured by NBC in promos for the 2012 Summer Olympics. But it hasn't always been easy for the singer-songwriter, who filed legal papers in January 2015 to escape his "oppressive" contract with 19 Entertainment, the production company behind "Idol." They finally settled in mid-2017, which meant Phillip was able to release his third album, "Collateral," in January 2018. He promoted the project while on tour in the summer of 2018. He also appeared on an episode of "Hawaii Five-O" in 2018. Phillip wed his love of seven years, Hannah Blackwell, in October 2015. In July 2019, he announced that he and Hannah were expecting their first child, a son, that fall.
Clay Aiken nearly won it all during Season 2 of "American Idol." The North Carolina native was the runner-up in 2003, ultimately losing to winner Ruben Studdard.
Following "American Idol," Clay Aiken has found much success in both his professional and personal lives. The self-described "Opie" signed a contract with RCA, which produced his multi-platinum debut album, "Measure of a Man." In August 2008, he announced the birth of his son, Parker (whose mom is former friend and producer Jaymes Foster, who underwent IVF), and a month later, he came out as a gay man in People magazine. The singer-actor also co-authored a book that was a New York Times bestseller and performed on Broadway in "Monty Python's Spamalot." In 2014, he made a run for Congress in North Carolina's Second District, though he lost to the Republican incumbent. More recently, Clay teamed up with Season 2 "Idol" winner and friend Ruben Studdard for "Ruben & Clay's Christmas Show" on Broadway in December 2018. In June 2019, he starred as Teen Angel in "Grease" at the Benedum Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Carrie Underwood took "American Idol" by storm and won Season 4 in 2005. Her debut single, "Inside Your Heaven," was the first country music single in history to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Season 4 winner Carrie Underwood is an undisputed "AI" success story. The girl from Checotah, Oklahoma, had almost given up on singing, but she auditioned with a cover of Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" for the show — and the rest is history! Carrie's debut album, "Some Hearts," went platinum seven times and she hasn't slowed down since, seemingly making a habit of collecting awards and endorsements on her way to becoming the biggest "AI" earner of all time. She married professional hockey player Mike Fisher in 2010 and in 2015, they welcomed their first child, son Isaiah. Carrie made big news in early 2018 when she announced that she'd suffered a gruesome fall and sustained injuries to her wrist and face a few months earlier and was unsure if she'd look the same. It was clear she'd healed beautifully when she returned to the stage at the ACM Awards that April. Later in 2018, Carrie released the No. 1 album "Cry Pretty" — her sixth — and announced she was expecting her second child with Mike. Son Jacob was born in January 2019. In May 2019, Carrie — who kicked off her "Cry Pretty" tour just a few months after giving birth — returned to "American Idol" to perform "Southbound" during the season finale. Next up, Carrie will host the 2019 Country Music Association Awards.
Chris Daughtry was a big hit on Season 5 of "American Idol." He made it all the way to the final four but was eliminated on May 10, 2006.
Chris Daughtry has worked steadily in music since his stint on "American Idol." Chris is reportedly the third most successful "Idol" alum in terms of record sales, coming in behind Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood. In March 2016, he portrayed Judas on FOX's "The Passion" live musical event. In 2018, he released his fifth studio album, "Cage to Rattle," and followed suit with a tour. The following year, he played for the home roster during the 2019 NBA All-Star Celebrity Game in Charlotte, North Carolina. He's been married to Deanna Daughtry, with whom he shares four children, since 2000.
A 17-year-old Jordin Sparks bested Blake Lewis on the Season 6 finale of "American Idol."
Jordin Sparks, who's the daughter of former professional football player Phillippi Sparks, went on to release a self-titled platinum-selling debut album in 2007. She's since released two more studio albums and appeared in films including "Sparkle," "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister & Pete" and "Left Behind." In September 2014, Jordin and Jason Derulo parted ways after three years as a couple. She moved on with rapper Sage the Gemini in mid-2015, though they called it quits in early 2016. In the spring of 2017, Jordin stepped out with new man Dana Isaiah. You could say things got pretty serious pretty quick because in November 2017, she announced that they'd eloped over the summer and were expecting their first child together. Their son, Dana Isaiah Thomas Jr., was born in May 2018. Jordin starred in the Lifetime special "Jordin Sparks: A Baby Story" in September 2018. She also starred on the KIN Network web series "Heart of the Batter with Jordin Sparks" in the latter part of 2018. In September and October 2019, Jordin hit the Broadway stage in "Waitress."
Taylor Hicks — the salt-and-pepper-haired, harmonica-blowing Season 5 crooner — garnered a legion of followers who dubbed themselves the "Soul Patrol." At 29, Taylor was the oldest winner of "AI."
Sadly, after his "American Idol" win, Taylor Hicks released an album that earned the dubious distinction of being the lowest selling debut of an "AI" winner — and his record label dropped him. He's since released two more albums and had a residency at Bally's Las Vegas from 2012 to 2013. In 2016, Taylor began hosting the INSP original series "State Plate," which wrapped up its fourth season in 2018. When it comes to music, he most recently released a single, "Six Strings and Diamond Rings," in 2017. In March 2019, Taylor starred in Georgia's Serenbe Playhouse production of "Shenandoah."
"She bangs!" William Hung became a pop culture headline thanks to his off-key rendition of Ricky Martin's hit song during the third season of "American Idol."
Despite his painful lack of talent, William Hung garnered a cult following on "American Idol" thanks in part to his unbeatable enthusiasm. The one-time civil engineering student even went on to record three albums. William eventually retired from the music business and began working as a tech analyst for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. In 2014, he wed licensed vocational nurse Jian Teng. William returned to the "AI" stage in 2016 when he performed during the farewell season finale. Two years later, he gave a TEDx Talk entitled "Turning Failure Into Success," kicking off his career as a motivational speaker.
Despite Fantasia Barrino's painful past, the singer rose to victory and won the third season of "American Idol." She proved that nothing could keep her down…
Following her win on "American Idol," Fantasia Barrino released her Grammy-nominated platinum debut, "Free Yourself." The singer also penned a memoir, "Fantasia: Life Is Not a Fairytale," and starred in the subsequent Lifetime biopic based on her book. Though she's released five more albums since 2004, things haven't been great for the singer. She allegedly had an affair with a married man in 2009 and was hospitalized for an aspirin overdose in 2010 after he reportedly ended their relationship. Luckily, she's since bounced back: In 2011, Fantasia welcomed her second child, son Dallas, and in July 2015, she married businessman Kendall Taylor. In 2018, she returned to the recording studio and made headlines for her powerful performance at Aretha Franklin's funeral. In March 2019, she announced that her sixth album, "Sketchbook," is complete and and will feature 14 songs. The album's first single, "Enough," peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Adult R&B chart that May.
Theatrical, flamboyant and equipped with a multi-octave range, Adam Lambert was a storm that "American Idol" fans never saw coming. Sadly, Adam finished Season 8 as the runner-up to Kris Allen.
In 2009, Adam Lambert released his first album, "For Your Entertainment," which debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart. He earned a Grammy nomination for best male pop vocal performance for his hit "Whataya Want From Me" in 2011. In 2015, Adam beat out Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry and Kelly Clarkson to become the highest earning "Idol" alum that year thanks to his work with Queen: Since 2011, he's collaborated with the rock band once fronted by Freddie Mercury as the lead vocalist for Queen + Adam Lambert. The group has enjoyed several successful world tours from 2014 to 2019 and completed a 10-date Las Vegas residency in 2018. Adam helped Queen deliver a rocking performance to kick off the 2019 Academy Awards. New music arrived the same year: Part one of his two-part project, "Velvet: Side A," is slated to come out on Sept. 27. As for his personal life? In early 2013, Adam parted ways with Finnish TV personality Sauli Koskinen after nearly three years of dating. He didn't romance anyone publicly again until 2019, when he confirmed his relationship with model Javi Costa Polo.
Ruben Studdard won a relative squeaker over Clay Aiken on the second season of "American Idol." That same year, he produced his first album, "Soulful," which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart and earned himself a Grammy nomination.
Since then, however, Ruben Studdard has struggled to maintain a balance in some arenas of his life. In 2011, the "Velvet Teddy Bear" filed to divorce Surata Zuri McCants after three years of marriage. He's also continued to struggle with his weight over the years and even competed on Season 15 of "The Biggest Loser" in 2013. In 2014, Ruben released his sixth album, "Unconditional Love," and in 2018, he released a Luther Vandross cover album, "Ruben Sings Luther," and launched his "Always & Forever" national tour. In December 2018, he starred opposite Clay Aiken in Broadway's "Ruben & Clay's Christmas Show."
Betcha didn't know that Season 7 winner David Cook actually went to the "American Idol" auditions to support his younger brother, who ultimately failed to make the cut.
After beating out David Archuleta in a well-fought finale, David Cook released his self-titled, platinum-selling, major-label debut album. He's released three more studio albums as well as the EP "Chromance" in 2018. He starred as Charlie Price in the Broadway musical "Kinky Boots" until September 2018 and released a new single, "Death of Me," in October 2018. David toured North America during the summer of 2019. He married longtime girlfriend Rachael Stump in Nashville in June 2015.
Paul McDonald only finished eighth on Season 10 of "American Idol," but he made major headlines thanks to his personal life!
Life after "American Idol" seemed to be even sweeter for Paul McDonald than his time on the show. The singer met "Twilight" actress Nikki Reed while attending the premiere of "Red Riding Hood" in Los Angeles, and, after a whirlwind romance, they tied the knot in October 2011. But it wasn't meant to be: They separated in March 2014 after less than three years of marriage. A few years later, Paul released the EP "Slow Rising." More recently, Paul has been dating "The Walking Dead" star Emily Kinney. The two joined forces and created a new band — The Sweetheart Deal. In June 2018, he released a new album, "Modern Hearts." He's set to tour with Joshua & The Holy Rollers in November 2019.
In 2009, Kris Allen bested Adam Lambert to win top honors during the eighth season of "American Idol" — and faced reports that the competition had been fixed in his favor.
After his time on "American Idol," Kris Allen scored a major hit with his single "Live Like We're Dying" and released five studio albums. In July 2013, he and wife Katy O'Connell welcomed their first child, son Oliver. In 2016, daughter Rosie came along. Their third, son Marlo, was born in 2019. In 2017, Kris started a new venture — a band called The Dames. In May 2018, he joined the "American Idol Live!" tour as a special guest and that June, he released a new single, "When All The Stars Have Died." He will begin a solo tour in October 2019.