You may scoff at ‘American Idol’ now, but it changed pop culture forever | The Washington Post

31 Mar 2016

March 31 at 9:58 AM



It might be hard to remember now, but “American Idol” had quite an impact.

Though the Fox show has dropped off the grid in recent years, it created music stars and made Paula Abdul a household name again, while sparking an endless era of reality competition singing shows.

As the series ends for good on Thursday, April 7, we look back on 15 years of “Idol” to see the significance it had in several sectors of showbiz.


There are hundreds of former “Idol” contestants, but here are the 12 we think are the most important to the music industry. (Note: Album sales don’t always equal importance, especially since all figures below — which are from the artist’s representatives or recent Wall Street Journal data — are approximate.)

3. Adam Lambert

Second place, Season 8

Lambert’s soaring falsetto made him an instant front-runner, especially when his performance of “Mad World” drew a rare standing ovation from the always-prickly judge Simon Cowell. The Freddie Mercury comparisons started early, and by 2011, he was performing with Queen, eventually standing in for Mercury as the band’s lead singer. Lambert, 34, raked in enough cash last year to land the No. 1 spot on Forbes list of 5 Highest-Paid American Idols In 2015, earning about $10 million.

Album sales: 7 million

Popular songs: “Whataya Want from Me,” “Ghost Town,” “If I Had You”

Season 8 (2009): 25.1 million viewers

Winner: Kris Allen

Runner-up: Adam Lambert


As “American Idol” nears the end of its 15th and final season, here’s a look back at how the show became a cultural touchstone and changed parts of the music industry. (Nicki DeMarco/The Washington Post)

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