‘American Idol’s’ decade of hits and myths

We won’t learn whether odds-on-fave Scotty McCreery or sweet underdog Lauren Alaina will be crowned the 10th "American Idol" winner until Wednesday. But we presume record mogul-cum-"Idol"-in-house mentor Jimmy Iovine, who will put out the winner’s first album, is already celebrating. Both of the finalists are solidly in the country-music wheelhouse, and the last country crooner to win, Carrie Underwood, holds the record for biggest debut album sales at 7 million, according to Nielsen SoundScan. — Lisa de Moraes

Average weekly 'Idol' viewers by season

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The debut albums of these
four finalists outsold
the season
winners’
albums.

Series ranking for the year

Chris
Daughtry

Adam
Lambert

Crystal
Bowersox

Clay
Aiken

Season
1

2002

(#21)

Kelly Clarkson

2

2003

(#2)

Studdard

3

2004

(#2)

Barrino

4

2005

(#1)

Underwood

5

2006

(#1)

Taylor Hicks

6

2007

(#1)

Sparks

7

2008

(#1)

Cook

8

2009

(#1)

Kris Allen

9

2010

(#1)

Lee DeWyze

10

24.8
million viewers before the finale

2011

(#1)

Unknown

Winner

Kelly Clarkson

Debut album: Thankful

The first Idol’s career went according to script: "Thankful" went double-platinum, and Clarkson has since won two Grammys.

sales

Runner-up

Justin Guarini

Debut album: Justin Guarini

Guarini parlayed "Idol" into a gig on TV Guide Network, where he co-hosts shows about "Idol" and reality TV.

Winner

Ruben Studdard

Debut album: Soulful

The "velvet teddy bear," who sings soul, gospel and R&B, was the first and last male winner who didn’t rock.

sales

Runner-up

Clay Aiken

Debut album: Measure of a Man

Aiken has released five more albums, sung on Broadway ("Spamalot") and written a best-selling memoir.

Winner

Fantasia Barrino

Debut album: Free Yourself

Won her first Grammy this year for best female R&B vocal performance and stars on Broadway in "The Color Purple."

sales

Seventh

Jennifer Hudson

Debut album: Jennifer Hudson

Most talented Idolette? Once Oscar-winner Hudson finally released an album (in 2008), she won a Grammy.

Winner

Carrie Underwood

Debut album:
Some Hearts

"Hearts" has sold more than 7 million copies. Underwood has five Grammys and is a fixture on country radio.

sales

Runner-up

Bo Bice

Debut album: The Real Thing

The southern rocker did a Beatles tribute tour (go figure) in 2008 and a third album in 2010.

Winner

Taylor Hicks

Debut album: Taylor Hicks

Say what you will, Hicks makes a living with his voice, first touring in "Grease," now performing his own songs.

sales

Fourth

Chris Daughtry

Debut album: Daughtry

If it’s true that this was the deepest talent pool of any "Idol" season, then Daughtry was its Michael Phelps.

Winner

Jordin Sparks

Debut album:
JordinSparks

"Sparks" the album
went platinum, and
Sparks the singer took
the Idolette train to
Broadway ("In the Heights").

sales

Runner-up

Blake Lewis

Debut album: Audio Day Dream

Too quirky to win, Lewis beatboxed his way to a
second album in 2009.

Winner

David Cook

Debut album: David Cook

Cook was the first of a series of scruffy bad(ish)-boy rockers with guitars, beloved by voters who don’t buy their music.

sales

Runner-up

David Archuleta

Debut album: David Archuleta

The 16-year-old guitar-free Mormon Boy Scout was the exact opposite of a scruffy bad(ish)-boy rocker.

Winner

Kris Allen

Debut album: Kris Allen

"This is crazy," he said when he won. Yep. "Allen" the album was the first winner’s debut that hasn’t hit gold status.

sales

Runner-up

Adam Lambert

Debut album: For Your Entertainment

The upset loss only boosted the career of the boundary-pushing performer who expanded the market for eyeliner.

Winner

Lee DeWyze

Debut album: Live It Up

            DeWyze seems
            like a nice guy,
            but we mostly
            remember General Larry Platt’s "Pants on the Ground."

sales

Runner-up

Crystal Bowersox

Debut album: Farmer’s Daughter

The rural, diabetic single mom with a fabulous voice and no-crap demeanor was, sadly, not a rocker boy.

The season 10 winner will be announced Wednesday, May 25.

Alaina

Lauren Alaina

Sweet 16-year-old beat out older, edgier crooners, growlers and wailers.

McCreery

Scotty McCreery

Deep-voiced throwback McCreery absolutely killed on Johnny Cash night.

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Judges' tenures

*Most sales occur within the first year of release. SOURCES: Nielsen SoundScan, FOX, individual performers’ web sites. NOTE: Average viewers for seasons 1-4 are for the live broadcast only; later numbers include viewers who watched on DVR within seven days of the broadcast. PHOTOS: Wires. GRAPHIC: Bonnie Berkowitz, Bill Webster and Kat Downs - The Washington Post. Published May 24, 2011.