Season ten of American Idol started with what would later be described as “the worst kept secret in Hollywood”. After judges Simon Cowell, Kara DioGuardi, and Ellen DeGeneres left the show, Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler and dancer/actress/singer Jennifer Lopez were added to the judges’ panel. Critics complained that they were far too easy on a lackluster group of contestants, but Idol remained the highest rated show on television. And despite questions about the series’ hitmaking potential after the sagging sales of its previous winners, season ten lead to eight record contracts and one record-breaking No.1 album.
For every one of its previous nine seasons, Idol was a little bit country, a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, pop, R&B, and everything in between. In the year 2011, however, the Nashville sound completely took over the show, with Georgia‘s Lauren Alaina and North Carolina‘s Scotty McCreery vying for the title. Was it because the show’s audience was rumored to mostly be families seeking family-friendly music? Did massive amounts of teen voters propel two teen contestants to the top? Perhaps the success of modern country acts like Taylor Swift, Lady Antebellum, Miranda Lambert, and The Band Perry led to a renewed interest in the genre.
But there were more to Season Ten’s contestants that just the top two contestants. Read on to find out who else was in 2011’s top five, and what they have been up to lately.
5. Jacob Lusk
The son of a music producer, Jacob Lusk was previously in a gospel group formed by Nate Dogg. Lusk had sung in church since he was five years old, and became known for turning every song into a rousing, gospel-flavored anthem.
Currently unsigned, Lusk describes himself as a singer/actor on his official Twitter page. He will be one of the featured acts at the 2012 Pop Montreal music festival.
4. James Durbin
James Durbin urged the audience to “give metal a chance!” He covered both hard rock showstoppers like “Uprising“, “You Got Another Thing Comin’”, and sensitive rock ballads like “Maybe I’m Amazed” and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow”.
Signed to a record label four months after the show ended, his debut album, Memories of a Beautiful Disaster, is selling well.
3. Haley Reinhart
Critics adored Haley Reinhart and were shocked when she didn’t make it to the finalé. Bringing a unique skat-style to most of her performances, she also had an ear for classic rock, but appeared in the bottom three or four times.
Reinhart’s debut album, Listen Up!, has received some of the most positive reviews of the year. Her music has been featured on TV shows like 90210 and So You Think You Can Dance, and the movie Step Up Revolution. She recently performed at Lollapalooza 2012.
2. Lauren Alaina
Lauren Alaina’s first fan was judge Steven Tyler, who was bowled over during her audition performance of his “I Don’t Want To Miss A Thing”. As the show went on, she rarely strayed from the country genre and only found herself in the bottom three once.
Her “Like My Mother Does” single made it to Billboard’s top 20 and her resulting Wildflower album debuted at No. 5. After touring with Jason Aldean and Sugarland, she released her current single, “Eighteen Inches”.
1. Scotty McCreery
Baritone-voiced Scotty McCreery auditioned with Josh Turner’s “Your Man” and would sing that song multiple times throughout the competition. Accused of being vocally limited, his win surprised many people.
His Clear As Day is the first debut album from a country artist to debut at No.1 on the Billboard charts. Earlier this year, McCreery toured with Brad Paisley and his cover of “Please Remember Me” became the official “exit song” of Idol’s 11th season. He is scheduled to release a Christmas album this fall.