American Idol’s Top 12 Female Performers, Ranked

American Idol’s Top 12 Female Performers, Ranked

American Idol’s top female performers have all forged incredible music careers since the singing competition gave them the chance to showcase their talents to the world. The show originally premiered in June 2002 and quickly became a platform upon which scores of artists launched their careers. Little wonder, it is often referenced as the most impactful show in broadcasting history.

American Idol debuted in the summer of 2002 and became the most-watched show on U.S. television sometime in 2004. Given that it held that position for seven consecutive seasons, it is not difficult to see how it became a go-to platform for talented Americans looking to break into the music industry. While being a great performer and winning the competition doesn’t always amount to career success, these female performers from the show have achieved exactly that.

1. Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson winner of American Idol Season 1

Kelly Clarkson is easily one of American Idol’s top female performers of all time. Her career journey took off in 2002 after she won the very first season of American Idol and thereafter signed a recording deal with 19 Recordings and RCA Records. She has thus far sold at least 28 million albums alongside 54 million singles. Her second studio album Breakaway (2004) is the most successful with six Platinum certifications from RIAA. Clarkson has won some of the most coveted awards in the industry including three Grammy Awards and two Academy of Country Music Awards.

2. Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson, one of American Idol's top female performers of all time

Jennifer Hudson is one of the greatest contestants in the history of the show who didn’t win the competition. The Chicago-born singer finished seventh in Season 3 of American Idol but has since built an illustrious career, dwarfing the career attainments of many actual winners of the show. With three studio albums to her name, she has sold roughly 1.5 million records. Hudson has attained the EGOT status as she has won all the major awards in the American entertainment industry: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony. Yes, she’s also an actress.

3. Carrie Underwood

Carrie Underwood, winner of American Idol Season 4

Carrie Underwood isn’t only counted among American Idol’s top female performers; she is also the most successful country music superstar the show has produced. Carrie won Season 4 of American Idol in 2005 and quickly consolidated on that to become the most-awarded country artist of all time. She has received dozens of highly-sought awards, including eight Grammys out of 16 nominations. Underwood has sold about 70 million albums worldwide and seven of her nine studio albums have received Platinum certifications.

4. Jordin Sparks

Jordin Sparks, winner of American Idol Season 6

Jordin Sparks made history when she won American Idol Season 6 at age 17. This saw her become the youngest winner the show had ever seen. Capitalizing on that, Sparks dropped her eponymous debut studio album which has since received a platinum certification from RIAA. She has four studio albums to her name and has sold millions of records worldwide. Her 2008 hit “No Air” earned her a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals. Sparks has taken her career beyond the music industry as she is also an actress.

5. Fantasia Barrino

Fantasia Barrino, winner of American Idol Season 3

Fantasia Barrino and Jennifer Hudson were both competitors in American Idol Season 3. While Hudson finished 7th, Barrino won the season and has retained a spot among American Idol’s top female performers. She has dropped seven studio albums so far, selling no fewer than three million records. Her career has also been decorated with prestigious awards, including a Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance; this was for her 2010 song, “Bittersweet”.

6. Gabby Barrett

Gabby Barret in American Idol Season 16

Gabby Barrett has been singing and performing since she was eleven and this boosted her confidence as a contestant in American Idol Season 16. She finished third behind Caleb Lee Hutchinson and Maddie Poppe who won the season. Leaning on the popularity she gained from the show, she independently released her debut single “I Hope” which earned her a deal with Warner Music Nashville. Barrett released her debut studio album Goldmine in June 2020 and it has attained platinum status. She has also received multiple awards including the American Music Awards, Billboard Music Awards, and the Academy of Country Music Awards.

7. Mandisa

Mandisa, American Idol Season 5 contestant

Simon Cowell had a lot to say about Mandisa’s weight when she competed in Season 5 of the popular singing competition series. This, and the fact she finished ninth didn’t deter the gospel singer from cementing her repute as one of American Idol’s top female performers. Just after her elimination from the competition in July 2007, Mandisa released her first studio album titled True Beauty. She has dropped five more albums since then, selling at least 1.6 million records. Her fifth and most successful album, Overcomer (2013) won her a Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album

8. Kellie Pickler

Kellie Pickler

Kellie Pickler’s Southern charm fueled the attention she received as a contestant on the popular show. She leveraged that to build a career, not only as a country music singer-songwriter but also as an actress and television personality. Pickler finished sixth in American Idol Season 5 and released her debut album Small Town Girl in October 2006. It sold at least 900 thousand copies in the United States to receive the gold certification from RIAA. Four more albums followed but none matched the success of her first. The North Carolina Music Hall of Famer and her partner Derek Hough won Dancing with the Stars Season 16.

9. Lauren Alaina

Lauren Alaina

Season 10 of the series saw Lauren Alaina put up an incredible performance that earned her a spot among American Idol’s top female performers. She finished as the runner-up of the season behind Scotty McCreery and released her debut studio album, Wildflower, in October 2011. This was followed by Road Less Traveled in 2017 and then Sitting Pretty on Top of the World (2021). Following her rise to prominence, she won the American Country Awards for New Artist of the Year (2012). Alaina has received several more coveted gongs since then and has been inducted into the Grand Ole Opry.

10. Katharine McPhee

Katharine McPhee, runner-up for American Idol Season 5

Katharine McPhee finished as the runner-up for American Idol Season 5, behind Taylor Hicks. Shortly after, she dropped an eponymous debut album and has released four more since then. With thousands of records sold, McPhee has also excelled as an actress. She performs on stage and has been seen in popular TV shows and films. Her career has earned her awards like the Young Hollywood Awards and Women’s Image Network Awards amongst others.

11. Tori Kelly

Tori Kelly

Tori Kelly was eliminated before she could reach the top 24 on Season 9 of the show, yet she has managed a career that has etched her name in history as one of American Idol’s top female performers. Kelly first gained mainstream recognition as a teenage Youtuber and would independently release her debut EP, Handmade Songs by Tori Kelly, before she was signed to Capitol Records. She has released four studio albums and two extended plays altogether. Her debut studio album Unbreakable Smile sold over 500,000 copies in the United States and has been certified gold. Kelly has bagged two Grammy Awards out of 5 nominations.

12. Candice Glover

Candice Glover, winner of American Idol Season 12

Candice Glover won American Idol Season 12; she had auditioned thrice before she made it to the live shows and ultimately emerged a winner. The R&B singer released her debut album Music Speaks in 2014. While much hasn’t been heard from her in recent times, her heartfelt performances on the show and singles like “I Am Beautiful” continue to resonate with fans of the series.the most successful country music superstar

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