The Only 10 'American Idol' Stars You Need To Know

Well, it finally happened. American Idol has been cancelled. It went from being the biggest thing to happen to television since sliced bread (just roll with it), pulling in 36 million viewers for finales at the peak of the show's popularity, to steadily declining in recent years, this past season delivering a series low of just 11.6 million viewers. It's gotten so bad at this point that I can't even tell you the name of the most recent winner without a trip to Google. I'm being told by the internet that it's Caleb Johnson, which is ringing exactly zero bells for me. In fact, before I recognize a winner, I have to go all the way back to season eleven, when Phillip Phillips took home the prize. Not gonna forget a name like that. Other ones though, they go in one ear and out the other.

I guess what I'm saying is that it's probably a good thing that we're pulling the plug on this show after its upcoming fifteenth season. There are certainly talented people on it, but American Idol isn't really capable anymore of following through on its promise to them — to make them big ol' stars. Idols, if you will. But it wasn't always like this! The show used to churn out stars on the regular, some of whom even became household names! So now that the show is going off the air, here are the only AI contestants that you ever need to know.

Kelly Clarkson

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

I mean duh. She put the show on the map in its first season by being able to sing anything and make it sound effortless, and has dominated the charts ever since her win.

Carrie Underwood

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

In addition to winning season four of Idol, Underwood has also won seven Grammys, so you might want to memorize her name at some point.

Sanjaya Malakar

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Remember him?? He and his hair outstayed their welcome on the show, lasting longer than other more talented contestants on American Idol's sixth season, but the payoff for bringing up his name once in a while is too great to let his memory fade away.

Clay Aiken

Vince Bucci/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

The dude didn't even win season two, but that didn't stop him from being more popular than the guy whom he came in second to, running for congress, and most importantly — fixing that hair.

Jordin Sparks

Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images

Anytime she comes out with a new single, I legit can't get it out of my head for weeks, so great job season six, you done good letting her win.

Brian Dunkleman

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Wasn't actually a contestant; instead, he co-hosted with Ryan Seacrest in the first season before quitting because he didn't think the show was going anywhere. Another very important name to have in your back pocket for bar trivia or as a label for someone who makes a huge mistake, as in: "Oh he walked away from a multimillion dollar career? What a Dunkleman."

Jennifer Hudson

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

She didn't even finish in the top five of season three, instead coming in seventh, but with an Oscar and a Grammy under her belt, she's halfway to an EGOT, so look alive.

Adam Lambert

Kevin Winter/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Season eight, when Lambert was the runner up, was around when I stopped watching, but people are very excited about him and his eyeliner and his good-enough-to-perform-with-Queen voice. Also he was the first openly-gay musical artist to make a career happen on a major level, which is huge!

Katharine McPhee

Vince Bucci/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

She's more known for acting now, like her work on Smash and Scorpion, but once upon a time McPhee was just a humble runner up on Idol's fifth season.

Ruben Studdard

Vince Bucci/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Poor old Ruben Studdard. He's the guy who beat Clay Aiken in season two, but barely anyone remembers him today. Which is why I had to put him on this list... the guy has suffered enough, so let's just do him a solid and remember his name.

Images: Getty (10)