American Idol just finished its eighth season, and thanks to a few popular contestants, as well as possibly the biggest upset victory in eight years, it's finally the buzz-filled, watercooler show that used to dominate the ratings. Despite slipping in viewership again, the actual announcement of the winner drew more viewers than any other in the show's history. Since AI is finally buzzy again, sites like WhatNottoSing.com are becoming popular once more, blogs are getting more traffic than ever, and it's fun to discuss Idol again. Now that we've come to a cool point in Idol history, here's the Top Ten best Idols of all time. And not just the winners; all former finalists are applicable. They're chosen based off of performance in the show and post-Idol experience.
10) Chris Daughtry
The rocker who placed fourth in Season Five has had one of the best careers, with his first album going multiplatinum and selling out arenas on his first tour. He's had major Nickelback-style success, but his attitude and familiar sound create more than a few detractors. He's still one of the best male finalists in history, and he's definitely the champ of Biggest Idol Ego.
Download: It's Not Over, Hemorrage (In My Hands)
9) Jordin Sparks
The Season Six winner didn't deserve to win her season, but she has had a strong career, complete with the most downloaded single from any Idol (No Air). Her new single, Battlefield, was just released, and is enjoying critical success. She is definitely one of the better winners, despite an overall weak performance in her season.
Download: Battlefield, I (Have Nothing)
8) Adam Lambert
He shook up TV's biggest talent show with big performances and bigger glam, but he still couldn't deliver as he was defeated by Kris Allen in the show's biggest upset in eight seasons. Despite this, he was still responsible for some of the best performances last season, and is sure to have a massive international career.
Download: Mad World, Tracks of My Tears
7) Jennifer Hudson
The seventh-place finisher from Season Three is the only Oscar-winner in the show's history, for her historic performance in Dreamgirls. She's both an actress and a Grammy-winning artist. Though she suffered through several major tragedies last year with the deaths of several of her family members, including her beloved mother, her career is on a major upward slope and she'll be here for years to come.
Download: If This Isn't Love, And I Am Telling You
6) Allison Iraheta
Save the rocker! Allison "Cherry Bomb" Iraheta, the fuschia-haired power balladeer from Season Eight rocked out more than a few great performances, yet a tiny fan base led her to be eliminated before the instantly-forgettable Danny Gokey. Still, Daughtry showed us how finishing fourth can boost a post-Idol career. Until her undoubtedly awesome debut album comes around, enjoy two of her finest performances of the season.
Download: Give In to Me, I Don't Wanna Miss a Thing
5) Kris Allen
Don't believe everything you hear. Though Lambert was heavily favored for most of the finals this past season, this Arkansas good ol' boy came on strong with unbelievably strong, innovative performances including the stirring Falling Slowly, the super original She Works Hard for the Money and Heartless, and (in my opinion) his best performance of the season, the genius Ain't No Sunshine. Lambert may have had the bombast, but Allen has the chops.
Download: Heartless, Ain't No Sunshine
4) Carrie Underwood
One of the top champions, Underwood's country stylings allowed her to verge in a different direction from past Idols and forge her own path. Though she didn't catch on right away (Jesus, Take the Wheel was a bigger flop than most remember), a little song called Before He Cheats dug its keys into the side of our pretty little souped-up four-wheel drives and carved its name into the leather seats. The rest, as they say, is history.
Download: Before He Cheats, I Told You So (f/ Randy Travis)
3) Elliott Yamin
Who says nice guys finish last? Turning in consistently good performances throughout Season Five only led Yamin to a third place finish when faced with Taylor Hicks' inexplicable popularity and the unstoppable force that was Katharine McPhee's Somewhere Over the Rainbow. Still, his first album went gold despite being on an independent label, and his single, Wait for You, fared better than anything Hicks or McPhee could dream up. Now with his second album out, the crooner's doing just fine.
Download: Fight for Love, Wait for You
2) Melinda Doolittle
When you think of the shocking eliminations of Idol lore, the names that arise (Gray, Hudson, Maroulis, Daughtry, Johns, Smithson) never include the brilliant Melinda Doolittle, an impressive former backup singer who turned in the most impressive run of performances in Idol history. Yet when faced with two young rivals (Sparks and Blake Lewis), Doolittle fell. Still, she is a brilliant vocalist, and her debut album is better than Lewis and Sparks' efforts combined.
Download: My Funny Valentine, Have a Nice Day
1) Kelly Clarkson
There's no one who tops the original. Clarkson's Stuff Like That There is the best performance in Idol History, she has sold more albums than any other Idol or finalist in eight years, and she has won two Grammys. She famously fought with her label over her artistic direction, which led to the unspeakable mess My December, but she's back with a new album, a new single, and a new attitude. She is truly the American Idol.
Download: Since U Been Gone, Because of You