[18 March 2013]
Critics raved about The Voice and entertainment writers devoted their time to spin-off The X Factor, but viewers stuck with American Idol. The show had spent seven of its past ten years on television as the highest rated series, and 2012 was no exception.
Despite ongoing controversy about rigged results and claims that the show wasn’t the career-starter that it used to be, three of season 11’s top 10 contestants were signed to record deals within months of being on the show. Not to mention, the winner’s first single became the show’s best selling debut.
If you’re wondering what last year’s top contestants are up to now, read on…
10. Erika Van Pelt
The owner of a mobile DJ company, Van Pelt was a surprise wildcard pick by the judges. Many believed she was voted off the show because of a makeover that turned her blond hair into a shorter jet-black cut. She eventually discussed the subject on the Anderson show.
Van Pelt is still unsigned, but plans on a career as a solo artist. She performs at local events in Rhode Island, including a holiday concert with season three alum John Stevens.
9. Heejun Han
Inspired to audition by the special-needs children he volunteered to work with, Heejun was remembered for his serious ballads and off-stage humor. When voted off the show, he took it gracefully, stating that he had mostly competed in order to bring attention to the children’s cause.
Shortly after leaving the show, Han opened up for the New York Mets. He judged a K-pop singing competition at New York University’s Skirball Center for the Performing Arts last fall. He recently hinted on his official Twitter page that he had just signed a contract.
8. DeAndre Brackensick
The high-school homecoming king with the curly long hair was one of the judges’ wild card picks and frequently found himself in the bottom three. During the 2012 Idol’s Live concert tour, he and fellow contestant Jessica Sanchez announced that they are dating.
He has been recording duets with R&B singer Molia and recently performed at the Tampa Bay Black Heritage Music Festival.
7. Colton Dixon
The Christian rocker/ piano man first auditioned in 2011 and had to be egged on by the judges to sing at his sister’s audition a year later. His flawless performances made his elimination, after two radically different arrangements of Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance” and Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September”, shocking.
Contemporary Christian label Sparrow Records signed Colton within months of his elimination, and he debuted his first single, “Never Gone” during the show’s summer tour. His debut album, A Messenger is now available. His sister, Skylar, is currently a season twelve contestant on Idol.
6. Elise Testone
Elise worked as a voice instructor and performed as an opening act for Snoop Dogg, Nappy Roots, and more. On the show, she performed from a wide variety of genres, including pop, classic rock, and soul.
She is currently writing music for an upcoming album and has played a few solo concerts. She made TMZ headlines for supposedly having a relationship with one of the show’s studio musicians who was married at the time, but she denies such rumors.
5. Skylar Laine
Skylar blew the judges away with her countrified performance of The Faces’ “Stay With Me” and became the show’s only source for the southern sound. Producers frequently paired her up with Colton Dixon for duets, and their awkward lack of chemistry was a running joke throughout the season.
Laine is waiting to complete her degree in nursing before she releases an album, but she did debut a potential single during an Idol concert in November.
4. Hollie Cavanagh
Born in Liverpool, England, Hollie took on big ballads from the likes of Celine Dion and Whitney Houston and was a likely contender for the title.
She is still unsigned, but is currently working on a debut album in Los Angeles. The Liverpool Echo newspaper recently reported that she gave a concert for students at her former primary school and “hit the recording studio” afterwards.
3. Joshua Ledet
Nicknamed “Mantasia” for his love of season three winner Fantasia and their similar vocal styles, the church songwriter/lyricist added a gospel touch to most of his performances.
He debuted an original song during an iHeartRadio concert in August.
2. Jessica Sanchez
A contestant of America’s Got Talent and Showtime at The Apollo before she even entered high school, this teen was the first female contestant to be “saved” by the judges before making it to the finalé.
Jessica debuted her first single, “Fairytale” at an iHeartRadio concert in August. She performed at the National Memorial Day Concert and the National Democratic Convention last fall. Sanchez plans to release her debut album soon and will make her acting debut on Glee later this year.
1. Phillip Phillips
Suffering from intense pain from kidney stones, he almost quit the show, but Phillip Phillips’ inventive covers and strong performances won him the title. Critics dismissed him as a Dave Matthews copycat and were displeased to see another guitar-playing male Idol winner, but they had to eat their words after his “coronation song”, “Home”, became a huge hit.
His album, The World from the Side of the Moon debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard charts and has gone gold. Phillips is currently opening up for Matchbox Twenty on tour, and plays solo gigs at smaller venues along the way.