The reality singing competition American Idol is known for discovering some of the most talented singers in the country and transforming them into superstars, including some country sensations. As the series unfolds, it showcases many different genres of music, and country music is always in the mix. Known for its acoustic, guitar-based melodies and storytelling lyrics, country music is perennially popular. American Idol has given the music industry some of the greatest singers in country music today.
the first American Idol country night was during season 2 when the finalists were asked to sing country-rock songs. The night was such a hit that the show dedicated a night to country music from seasons 3-6, with country music superstar Martina McBride serving as the guest mentor during season 6. In season 7, country music legend Dolly Parton mentored the finalists, who paid tribute to her by singing tunes from her iconic songbook. Season 8 brought a tribute to the Grand Ole Opry with the great Randy Travis as the guest mentor. Chart-topping country artist Shania Twain mentored the American Idol contestants in season 9, as they performed some of her greatest hits. In season 13, finalists were asked to sing one rock song and one country song.
In season 16, the country superstar Carrie Underwood returned to the show as a mentor when the contestants sang some of her hits. Carrie won American Idol season 4 and went on to become one of the most successful country music artists of all time. Even in seasons during which the show did not dedicate a night solely to country music, the genre was prevalent because so many of the finalists chose country songs during theme weeks that granted them the freedom to choose a particular style of music. Country music has been at the heart of American Idol for many years, and the show has produced some very successful country artists.
Checotah, Oklahoma’s Carrie Underwood won American Idol season 4 in 2005, at 22 years of age, and then skyrocketed to stardom. She is one of the most successful country music artists of all time. During the show, her pristine vocals and sweet demeanor captured the attention of her fans and judge Simon Cowell. After Carrie’s stunning performance of Heart’s “Alone,” Simon gave her a rave review. The famous judge said, “I will make a prediction. Not only will you win this show, you will sell more records than any other previous Idol winner.” Every part of Simon’s prediction came true.
Carrie has sold the most records of any American Idol alum in the entire history of the show. She has sold over 16.5 million copies of her nine studio albums. her first album, Some Hearts, which was released in 2005, sold 7.5 million copies. She has sold more than 66 million records worldwide and recorded 28 #1 singles, co-writing 14 of them. Carrie from American Idol has won over 100 major awards, including 7 Grammy Awards, 15 ACM Awards, 23 CMT Music Awards, 7 CMA Awards, and 17 American Music Awards. One of Carrie’s proudest moments happened on May 10, 2008, when Garth Brooks inducted her into the Grand Ole Opry.
Carrie’s success outside of the music industry has broadened as well. In 2013, she starred as Maria von Trapp in NBC’s The Sound of Music Live!, and she hosted the CMA Awards for 12 consecutive years. Since 2013, she has performed the opening for NBC’s Sunday Night Football† In 2018, Carrie received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2020, Carrie became a New York Times best-selling author with the publication of her book, Find Your Path.
North Carolina native Scotty auditioned for American Idol season 10 when he was only 16 years old, and turned 17 during the competition, which debuted in 2011. He auditioned with “Your Man” by Josh Turner and “Put Some Drive in Your Country” by Travis Tritt, stunning the judges with his deep voice. Scotty’s fun personality and immense vocal talents allowed him to rise to the top of the competition. His performance of Montgomery Gentry’s song, “Gone,” is still remembered as one of his best. Scotty performed many country songs throughout the season, carving a path to future success in the genre. Scotty and a runner-up, 16-year-old Lauren Alaina (another country singer) were the youngest final two in the history of the show. Scotty won American Idoland his path to country music superstardom began.
Scotty releases his debut studio album, Clear as Day, in October 2011, and it was certified platinum in the United States. He has since released four other albums, including his latest, Same Truck (2021). By age 21, he had sold nearly 2.5 million albums. He has been honored with many awards, including a 2012 CMT Music Award for USA Breakthrough Video of the Year, for “The Trouble with Girls.” He won a 2013 American Country Award for Artist of the Year: Breakthrough Artist. Scotty is successful, as he’s had four consecutive #1 singles.
However, Scotty has ventured into some other creative outlets as well. He released a book in 2020, called Go Big or Go Home: The Journey Toward the Dreamwhich detailed his journey from North Carolina to the American Idol stage to the top of the country music charts. In 2021, Hallmark premiered a movie called Five More Minuteswhich was inspired by Scotty’s 2017 song of the same name from his album, Seasons Change† Although Scotty did not appear in the movie, he was listed as an executive producer.
Lauren, a 16-year-old from Georgia, was a favorite of the American Idol season 10 judges from the start. Only 15 years old at her audition, Steven Tyler proclaimed, “We found the one.” He even sang a duet of “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” with Lauren at the audition, something that does not usually happen. Lauren from American Idol sang many country songs throughout the 2011 competition, proving that she might eventually take her place among some of the most influential country music artists. Lauren was the runner-up to Scotty, launching a very successful career in country music.
Lauren’s first single, “Like My Mother Does,” sold 121,000 copies in its first week. Lauren releases her debut album wildflower in October 2011. It was the best-selling digital album by a debuting female country artist. In 2012, Lauren won the New Artist of the Year Award at the American Country Awards. She won the CMT Award for Breakthrough Video of the Year in 2017, for “Road Less Traveled.” The song, which Lauren co-wrote, also reached number one on country radio. On February 12, 2022, Trisha Yearwood inducted her into the Grand Ole Opry.
In 2017, she appeared in the CMT movie, The Road Less Traveledfollowed by the 2021 Hallmark movie, Road House Romance. In 2019, Lauren competed on Dancing With the Stars season 28 and placed fourth with her partner, Gleb Savchenko. She released her book, Getting Good at Being You: Learning to Love Who God Made You to Be in 2021. In March 2022, Lauren will star in a new reality television series called Beyond The Edgein which she will compete against some other celebrities in the jungles of Panama.
Jimmie, who was born in Delaware, auditioned for American Idol season 10 in 2011. At that time, he was 25 years old. He earned a ticket to Hollywood. However, unfortunately, he was not able to make it to the live rounds. Jimmy from American Idol said that his time on the show was a great learning experience. He returned to the show in 2021 for the season 19 duet round.
Jimmie has since found great success in the country music world. He released his first album, Mercury Lanein 2018, followed by Bettie James Gold Edition in 2021. He performed his hit single “Freedom Was a Highway” on many television shows throughout that year. In 2021, he became the first Black solo performer to win New Male Artist of the Year at the ACM Awards. He also won New Artist of the Year at the CMA Awards later that year. He was nominated for Best New Artist at the 64th Grammy Awards, which will take place in April. In addition to his music career, Jimmie was a Dancing With the Stars contestant for season 30, during which he placed 7th with his partner, Emma Slater. He released a children’s book titled My Voice is a Trumpet in 2021.
Gabby placed third in 2018 on American Idol season 16, when she was 18 years old. Judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie praised her for her stellar performances. In the finale, she and Luke Bryan performed a duet of his song, “Most People Are Good.”
In 2019, Gabby independently released the song, “I Hope,” which caught the attention of music labels. After performing the song on American Idol season 17, she announced that she had signed with Warner Music Nashville, which then officially released it as a single. The song topped many country charts, and Gabby from American Idol eventually recorded a version with Charlie Puth. Gabby releases her debut album, goldminein 2020. The album had 15.98 million on-demand streams in its opening week, which broke the record for the largest streaming week for a debut country album by a female artist.
In 2020, Gabby won the Breakthrough Video of the Year Award for “I Hope” at the CMT Music Awards. In 2021, she was the New Female Artist of the Year at the ACM Awards and earned three Billboard Music Awards, including Top Collaboration and Top Country Song for “I Hope,” along with Top Female Country Artist. In 2021, she won the CMT Music Award for Female Video of the Year and the American Music Award for Favorite Country Album and Favorite Country Song.
clearly, American Idol has gifted the country music world with some of the best artists in modern music. The show has brought new audiences to the country music genre and allowed people to expand their music libraries by introducing them to classic country music artists and their songs. The new artists discovered by the show build a bridge to past artists and their music. Carrie, Scotty, Lauren, Jimmie, and Gabby have long careers ahead of them, but they all started on American Idol†
Next: American Idol: Less Obvious Alums Who Should Be Season 20 Mentors
American Idol season 20 premieres on Sunday, February 27 at 8 pm EST on ABC.
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