Being a contestant on “American Idol” can either be a blessing or a curse.

Just ask Carrie Underwood, who will be headlining a show at the Cumberland County Civic Center on Tuesday. She turned a first-place win on season four into a career as one of the biggest names in country music, including four platinum-selling albums, dozens of awards, a membership in the Grand Ole Opry and a show-stopping performance at this year’s Grammy wearing a CGI-enhanced dress. For more information about her Portland show, turn to Page E9.

But you should also ask Justin Guarini, the second-place winner from season one. He starred in a critically panned and commercially bust movie with first-place winner Kelly Clarkson. Her career recovered; his didn’t. Now he’s a recurring commentator on TV talk shows.

Here’s a look at how other “Idol” contestants have fared since leaving the show:


Kelly Clarkson: Everyone watched with baited breath to see if “Idol’s” first winner could transition from a reality show darling to a successful music career. She not only did it, she’s managed to maintain it, scoring five platinum-selling albums and three Grammys — no small feat for any performer.

•  Jennifer Hudson: Grammy-winning pop vocalist, Oscar-winning actress, successful weight-loss spokesperson — is there anything she can’t do? Hudson placed seventh on season three of “Idol,” proving that you don’t have to win to turn an “Idol” stint into gold.

•  Chris Daughtry: The fourth-place winner of season five eschewed a solo career to lead the rock band Daughtry. The risky move paid off: The band’s first album in 2006 debuted at No. 1 and was the fastest-selling debut rock album in Nielsen Soundscan history. Daughtry’s since released two more albums, both of which hit the top 10.


•  Fantasia Barrino: The winner of season three hasn’t done too shabby for herself. She’s had three best-selling albums, and won three Billboard awards. But she’s far from a household name. Maybe her new album, which is scheduled for release this year, will change that.

•  Kellie Pickler: She placed sixth during the fifth season of “Idol,” and two of her three albums hit No. 1 on the country chart. But she has yet to headline a major tour, and her current stint on “Dancing with the Stars” makes her look like one of those habitual reality show C-listers.

•  Clay Aiken: He placed second on the second season of “Idol,” and his debut album went multi-platinum. But it’s been downhill for Aiken from there — his last album, released in 2012, only went to No. 120.


•  Taylor Hicks: Nicknamed “the Silver Fox” for his prematurely gray hair, Hicks rode the soccer mom vote to first place on season five. While his self-titled first album sold well, his follow-up failed to crack the top 40, and he was soon back to performing in small clubs. He’s currently playing a residency in Vegas.

•  Bo Bice: His long hair and Southern rock style had many hoping Bice would be the next Gregg Allman; instead, he turned out to be the next Dickey Betts but without the guitar chops. Bice was dropped by RCA after his debut, and he’s since released two more albums under his own label that went largely unnoticed.

•  William Hung: OK, Hung was never a serious contestant on “Idol.” But he became such an Internet sensation after his butchering of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs” during “Idol” tryouts in season three, I felt he deserved a place on this list. Hung even managed to secure a recording contract and a top 40 record, but after the novelty wore off, so did his career prospects — his last album only sold 7,000 copies.


Deputy Managing Editor Rod Harmon may be contacted at 791-6450 or:

[email protected]

Twitter: RHarmonPPH