American Idol is still going strong, finding the best voices from across the country and giving them a shot on the national stage. from season one winner Kelly Clarkson to country queen Carrie Underwood to newest winner Just Sam, click through the gallery to look back at all of the singers who have triumphed over their competition to be crowned the ultimate American Idol.
Season 21: Iam Tongi
After weeks of heated competition, themed musical nights, emotional backstories, and surprising departures, American Idol's season 21 finale came down to Megan Danielle, Colin Stough and Tongi. However, it was the 18-year-old singer who wound up walking away the season champion. ET's Denny Directo spoke with Tongi on the carpet after his big win and the talented vocalist was still in shock over the outcome, explaining, "I need a while it to set in, man, you know what I mean?" On Sunday's show, he wowed with a stellar performance of his original song, "I’ll Be Seeing You," and delivered a gorgeous cover of "Monsters" in a special duet with James Blunt.
Season 20: Noah Thompson
Season 20's finale -- which was Bruce Springsteen-themed -- all came down to the season's top three: Leah Marlene, HunterGirl and Thompson. But after all the songs were sung and votes were counted, it was the 19-year-old Thompson who walked away the new champion. ET's Denny Directo spoke with Noah after the show, and the new Idol winner was still in shock, joking, "I don't know what to do right now." The young winner is, himself, the father of a baby boy, and he told ET, that the best part of all of this was doing something he could show his kid when he got older. "That, for me, that's the biggest thing out of all this. Because, you know, I wanted to do this for him," Noah shared. "I ended up looking up to my dad that way, so maybe I think that's the best part of all of this whole process. I think that's what's cool about it."
Season 19: Chayce Beckham
The rocker from Apple Valley, California, stunned time and again throughout the season and brought his raspy vocals and powerhouse presence to win big during the Season 19 finale. Beckham beat out third-place finalist Grace Kinstler and runner-up Willie Spence with three show-stopping performances. First, he sang The Beatles' classic "Blackbird," followed by "Fire Away" by Chris Stapleton, and finally "Afterglow" by Ed Sheeran. He closed out the finale with a live performance of his original tune "23," as golden confetti rained down around him on stage.
Season 18: Just Sam
The first-ever remote finale (due to the coronavirus pandemic) saw a final five face-off between Dillon James, Francisco Martin, Just Sam, Arthur Gunn and Jonny West, who each performed during two rounds, giving them two chances to win over voters and capture America's heart. In the end, Just Sam was confirmed as the new American Idol champion, and she celebrated with her grandma via video chat from her performance space at her home. "This is exactly, like, my dreams have come true," the overwhelmed songstress said, struggling to find the words to express her excitement. "Thank you so much, America. I never, ever would have expected this!" ET spoke with Sam after her big win, and the 20-year-old songstress reflected on how, even when it came down to just her and Gunn, she never expected to win. "When [Ryan] said 'Our next American Idol is...' I was like, 'Congratulations, Arthur,' in my head," Sam recalled with a laugh. "I didn't even expect to make it this far into the competition, but I did."
Season 17: Laine Hardy
Laine Hardy beat out fellow finalists Alejandro Aranda and Madison VanDenburg to be crowned champion in 2018, and he could barely contain his excitement when talking with ET backstage. "My mind is so overwhelmed right now with so many different emotions. I really need to let it sink in. It hasn't sunk in yet," Hardy told ET. "I'm still processing it but it's been a crazy night." The 20-year-old singer, who previously appeared last season, originally didn't want to audition again. Instead, he accompanied a friend to the Idol audition and was encouraged by judges Katy Perry, Luke Bryan and Lionel Richie to give it another shot, which ultimately paid off. Though he has yet to release a full album, Hardy, 19, put out a three-song EP, In the Bayou, in 2018, followed by the single "Blue Christmas," and embarked on his first headlining tour in the fall of 2019. Two more songs, "Ground I Grew Up On" and "Let There Be Country," hit airwaves in April 2020.
Season 16: Maddie Poppe
Maddie Poppe sang a "Rainbow Connection" duet with Kermit the Frog himself during the epic, two-hour finale of Idol's first season on ABC, but the Clarksville, Iowa, native had an even more special performance moment with the season's runner-up, Caleb Lee Hutchinson, as the two performed a "Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World" medley after announcing that they had begun dating during the season. Pre-Idol, Poppe appeared on The Voice and had released an EP. After winning season 16, Poppe released her first studio album, Whirlwind, in 2019.
Season 15: Trent Harmon
The 15th and final season of American Idol on Fox ended on a shocker as Trent Harmon beat out assumed frontrunner La'Porsha Renae for the victory. "I know that I have a God-given ability, but I didn’t want to take it for granted," Harmon told the crowd tearfully after his win, before performing his single, "Falling," which was co-written by Idol judge Keith Urban. The Mississippi-born country singer released a self-titled EP in 2016, followed by his first studio album in 2018, You Got 'Em All.
Season 14: Nick Fradiani
Going into the last night of competition, it was all down to singers Nick Fradiani and Clark Beckham, who had clawed their way to the top. Fradiani proved he had what it takes to be crowned the winner. Wrapping up the episode after his spectacular victory, Fradiani performed new single, "Beautiful Life," bringing his family, friends and the audience to tears. Fradiani started his pro singing career with the band Beach Avenue, appearing with them on the ninth season of America's Got Talent. Following his Idol win, the Connecticut native released the 2016 album Hurricane with the Big Machine Label Group, followed by an EP the following year, Where We Left Off, as an indie artist. In 2017, he toured with the rock band The Alternate Routes and portrayed Lorenzo Anello in a national tour of A Bronx Tale.
Season 13 Winner: Caleb Johnson
In a heated contest between rocker Caleb Johnson and fellow finalist Jena Irene that included a night of energetic performances -- even Johnson rocking out with KISS! -- Johnson was declared the winner in 2014. The Elijah Hooker frontman released his solo album, Testify, that same year and formed a new group called Caleb Johnson and the Ramblin' Saints. They dropped their first self-released album in 2019, titled Born From Southern Ground.
Season 12: Candice Glover
After auditioning for the show three times, Candice Glover, then 23, took home the top prize in 2013, beating out runner-up Kree Harrison. Glover was the first woman to win Idol since Jordin Sparks nabbed the title in 2007. Fighting tears, the singer tried and failed to deliver a thank you speech but gained her composure in time to belt out her forthcoming single, "I Am Beautiful," as the show closed. The South Carolina native put out her debut album, Music Speaks, in 2014. She has put out two singles but hasn't recorded another full-length album as of early 2020.
Season 11: Phillip Phillips
Then 21, Phillip Phillips was crowned the season 11 champion of American Idol in 2012, beating out Jessica Sanchez for the title. Since that life-changing moment, the Georgia native released his first album, The World From This Side of the Moon, which went multi-platinum, and saw major success with his first single, the mega-hit "Home." Despite health scares, he then hit the road with John Mayer and released his second album, Behind the Light, in 2014. Though he endured public disputes with his record label, he eventually released his third album, Collateral, in 2018. Phillips also tried his hand at acting, playing a diamond smuggler on a 2018 episode of Hawaii Five-0. He wed Hannah Blackwell in 2015, and the two welcomed son Patch in 2019.
Season 10: Scotty McCreery
It was a tough race between finalists Lauren Alaina and Scotty McCreery for the distinction of American Idol's season 10 winner, but in the end, McCreery took home the top prize in 2011. Then 17, the North Carolina native promptly released his debut studio album, Clear as Day, later that year, and it was soon certified platinum. The following year, he opened for country acts Brad Paisley and The Band Perry, and dropped a holiday album, Christmas With Scotty McCreery. He has since released two more albums, 2013's See You Tonight and 2018's Season Change, and scored his first country No. 1 with "Five More Minutes." He also wrote a book called Go Big or Go Home in 2016, which he described as a travelogue. After Idol, McCreery graduated high school in 2012 and pursued a bachelor's degree in communications from North Carolina State University. He and longtime girlfriend Gabi Dugal wed in 2018.
Season 9: Lee DeWyze
In 2010, a then 24-year-old Lee DeWyze beat out Crystal Bowersox, Michael Lynche and Casey James for the coveted title of American Idol. The Illinois native went on to win Choice TV: Male Reality/Variety Star at the Teen Choice Awards later that year. Pre-Idol, he had both a solo career and a band called the Lee DeWyze Band, which produced two albums. After winning the music competition, DeWyze dropped his debut album, Live It Up, in 2010. He has since released six more studio albums, which his most recent, Paranoia, released in 2018. DeWyze wed actress Jonna Walsh in 2012.
Season 8: Kris Allen
Kris Allen defeated Adam Lambert in what was considered an upset in the 2009 contest. Following his win, Allen's coronation song, "No Boundaries," and his version of "Heartless" debuted to great success on the Billboard Hot 100. His self-titled album was released later that year and Allen's second major-label album, Thank You Camellia, dropped in 2012. His fifth and latest studio album, Letting You In, came out in 2016, though a decade after his Idol win, he did release an album called 10, which featured reworked songs from his previous albums. One year before his reality TV appearance, Allen wed his high school sweetheart, Katy O'Connell, and the two have since welcomed two sons and a daughter.
Season 7: David Cook
Hailing from Blue Springs, Missouri, David Cook took home the top prize in 2008, beating out David Archuleta and Jason Castro to become the seventh winner of American Idol. His self-titled album was released later that year and has since been certified platinum, and he followed that up with 2011's This Loud Morning and 2015's Digital Vein. Since winning Idol, Cook has headlined four tours and starred on Broadway in Kinky Boots. Tragically, his older brother, Adam, died of brain cancer in 2009, and he returned to Idol that year to perform "Permanent" in his sibling's honor. In 2015, Cook married Racheal Stump in Nashville.
Season 6: Jordin Sparks
At 17, Jordin Sparks became the youngest contestant to win American Idol in 2005. The Arizona native's self-titled debut album went platinum and Sparks' single, "No Air," was the highest-selling single by any Idol contestant in history until she was ousted by Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," and Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats." She has since received numerous awards and nominations including an American Music Award in 2008 and her first GRAMMY nomination in 2009. She's also tried her hand at acting, making her Broadway debut in 2010 and her big-screen debut in 2012's Sparkle with the late Whitney Houston, and has released a series of perfumes. She took a five-year hiatus from recording, putting out a mixtape in 2014 followed by her third studio album, Right Here Right Now, in 2015. After a three-year relationship with Jason Derulo ended in 2014, Sparks went on to marry fitness model Dana Isaiah in 2017, and the pair welcomed a son in 2018.
Season 5: Taylor Hicks
In a tough season that featured singers Katharine McPhee, Chris Daughtry and Kellie Pickler -- who all went on to find success -- Taylor Hicks became the oldest singer to win American Idol 2006 at age 29. The silver-haired heartthrob soon landed the cover of People magazine as their Hottest Bachelor for 2006, his debut single, "Do I Make You Proud," reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and was subsequently certified gold. He has since released three studio albums, with his last coming out in 2009. He performed in Grease both on Broadway in 2008 and in the national tour the following year, and he became the first Idol winner to have a long-term residency in Las Vegas, which began in 2012. Now 43, Hicks began hosting INSP's Slate Plate in 2016 and released his most recent single, "Six Strings and Diamond Rings," in 2017.
Season 4: Carrie Underwood
At 21, country cutie Carrie Underwood beat out runner-up Bo Bice to become season 4's winner in 2005. Now 37, Underwood is a multi-platinum-selling recording artist who has sold 70 million records worldwide. She has won three GRAMMY Awards, as well as several Billboard Music Awards and American Music Awards, and is also a Golden Globe Award nominee, a three-time ACM and CMA winner and a two-time ACM Entertainer of the Year. In 2008, Underwood was inducted into the Grand Ole Opry. Underwood has released six studio albums, with the most recent being 2018's Cry Pretty. Outside of music, the Oklahoma native started a fitness line in 2015 called CALIA by Carrie and released a New York Times bestselling fitness-and-lifestyle book, Find Your Path, in 2020. Underwood married NHL player Mike Fisher in 2010, and the pair have two sons, Isaac and Jacob.
Season 3: Fantasia Barrino
R&B singer Fantasia Barrino took home the coveted title in 2004 at the tender age of 19, beating out Diana DeGarmo, Jasmine Trias and Jennifer Hudson. In 2005, she released her memoir, Life Is Not a Fairy Tale, which became a New York Times best-eller. Barrino went on to receive four GRAMMY nominations for her debut album, Free Yourself, and in 2011 won her first GRAMMY Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Bittersweet." She appeared on Broadway as the lead in The Color Purple, snagged the lead role in the film Mahalia! as Mahalia Jackson and returned to Broadway in 2013 in After Midnight. In 2014, she was inducted into the North Carolina Music Hall of Fame. She welcomed her second child, rumored to be fathered by fellow Idol contestant Antwaun Cook, in 2011, and married businessman Kendall Taylor in 2015.
Season 2: Ruben Studdard
Ruben Studdard snagged Idol glory in 2003, defeating Clay Aiken by a small margin to take home the prestigious title. The Birmingham, Alabama, native went on to receive a GRAMMY Award nomination later that year for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for "Superstar." He has released seven more studio albums, including his platinum-selling debut, Soulful, and most recently, his 2018's cover album of Luther Vandross songs, Ruben Sings Luther. Now a gospel singer, Studdard made his Broadway debut in 2018.
Season 1: Kelly Clarkson
Reigning from Fort Worth, Texas, Kelly Clarkson is the first and arguably the most successful singer to take home the title of American Idol champion. The then 20-year-old beat out runner-up Justin Guarini for the top prize in September 2002. Clarkson's coronation song, "A Moment Like This," went on to break a decades-old record held by The Beatles for the biggest leap to number one on the Billboard Hot 100. She has since earned multi-platinum status on three records, and won countless awards including multiple GRAMMYs, Billboard Music Awards and MTV VMAs. Clarkson has since released eight studio albums, been a coach on The Voice and hosts her own daytime talk show, The Kelly Clarkson Show. She is also mom to two kids, daughter River and son Remington, with husband Brandon Blackstock.