Monday, May 21, 2012


The concept of this post derives heavily from my other post where I questioned Idol's relevance in the music industry by drawing out treasure troves of data on its more successful contestants. I already brought up the concept of "piggybacking"--or basically leeching off of an artist who's having success at that time--in that particular post. It's the key here--as you'll see, why did Idol have successes in Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Chris Daughtry? The way to get one foot in the door is to piggyback.

My goal is to list the top 10 best selling albums and singles of each year that Idol ran on, and highlight the ones that are similar (or somewhat similar) to Idol's more successful contestants.

And really, the goal is this:

Here we'll focus on Epoch 1, which is generally known as seasons AI1-AI3, or 2002 to 2004, when Idol was finding its footing, didn't have rockers, encouraged diva belters, etc. We'll take a look at how those contestants did in the real world, and what sold back then:

Let's start with 2002, top 10 best selling albums:
1. Eminem - "The Eminem Show": 7.4 million
2. Nelly - "Nellyville": 4.8 million

3. Avril Lavigne - "Let Go": 3.9 million
4. The Dixie Chicks - "Home": 3.4 million
5. Various - "8 Mile Soundtrack": 3.2 million
6. Pink - "Missundaztood": 3 million
7. Ashanti - "Ashanti": 2.9 million
8. Alan Jackson - "Drive": 2.8 million
9. Various - "O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack": 2.7 million
10. Shania Twain - "Up!": 2.6 million

So that's 4 R&B/hip hop, 4 country or variants of it, and 2 pop rock types.

And then the top 10 singles of 2002:

1NickelbackHow You Remind Me
3NellyHot in Herre
4Nelly feat. Kelly RowlandDilemma
5The CallingWherever you Will Go
6Vanessa CarltonA Thousand Miles
7Linkin ParkIn the End
8Fat Joe feat. AshantiWhat's Luv?
9UsherU Got it Bad
10Puddle Of MuddBlurry

Post-grunge/nu metal type rock apparently sells singles better than they do albums back then, as this type of rock has made 4 appearances. There's 5 R&B/hip hop, and 1 pop. Country doesn't sell singles, I guess?

And let's go to Idol now:

No Idols released albums back in 2002, but Kelly Clarkson did have a song that charted:

Kelly Clarkson (WINNER)
--A Moment Like This (2002)--(#3 1 time)--(13 weeks)

As I mentioned, there were already a few pop rockers in 2002, in P!nk and Avril Lavigne, and Kelly was slightly in that mold (or at least molded herself that way for her Breakaway album). That's why I've bolded her in blue, to reflect that style. So one can say that she was "piggybacking" off those two early on, and there was an opening for another pop rock type in the industry given that there were already two successes there.

Let's go to 2003, top 10 best selling albums:

 1. Get Rich or Die Tryin', 50 Cent   6,535,809 
2. Come Away with Me, Norah Jones  5,137,468 
3. Meteora, Linkin Park  3,478,361 
4. Fallen, Evanescence  3,364,738 
5. Speakerboxx-Love, Outkast  3,089,849 
6. Dangerously in Love, BeyoncĂ©  2,527,485 
7. Chocolate Factory, R. Kelly  2,439,536
 8. Metamorphosis, Hilary Duff  2,405,544 
9. Shock N Y'All, Toby Keith  2,324,437
10. Rush of Blood to the Head, Coldplay  2,183,997

So that's 4 R&B/hip hop, 3 variants of alternative rock/nu metal/goth, 1 pop, 1 country, and let's just give Norah Jones her own category for eclecticism (sort of like Haley's brand of pop/jazz/soul)? But I digress...

And then the top 10 singles of 2003

150 CentIn Da Club
2R. KellyIgnition
3Sean PaulGet Busy
4Beyonce feat. Jay-ZCrazy in Love
53 Doors DownWhen I'm Gone
6matchbox twentyUnwell
7ChingyRight Thurr
8AaliyahMiss You
9Kid Rock feat. Sheryl CrowPicture
10Evanescence feat. Paul McCoyBring me to Life

As you can see, it's again 6 R&B/hip hop as the singles, 3 variants of alt rock/goth again, and let's just give Kid Rock is own separate category of country rock here, more or less. Again, R&B/hip hop is the constant that has dominated both as CDs and singles in 2002 and 2003. Idol? Idol? Bueller? Bueller? Actually, in the early 2000s, as mentioned alt rock/post grunge was selling as well, so there's that.

Let's look at Idol albums now:

Kelly Clarkson (WINNER)
--Thankful 2,747,000

Justin Guarini (#2)
--Justin Guarini 146,000

Clay Aiken (#2)
--Measure Of A Man 2,785,000

Ruben Studdard (WINNER) 
--Soulful 1,791,000

This is how much Thankful sold to this day, not just in 2003. But that number would put her between #5 and #6, or OutKast and Beyonce, and it showed that there was an audience for Kelly. Clay Aiken also did quite well, again that number would put him at #5 and #6 in terms of top selling albums. Guarini massively flopped, and so did Ruben--again, only alternative rock or hip hop was selling, and Idol churns out a old school R&B type and a gospel type. Congratulations. And Idol still does this to this day. And you'll see that I put light pinkish backgrounds for those who didn't fit any of the selling genres I've listed to this point.

And let's go to Idol now:

Kelly Clarkson (WINNER)
--Miss Independent (2003)--(#1 5 times)--(23 weeks)
--Low (2003)--(#6 1 time)--(14 weeks)

Clay Aiken (#2)
--Invisible (2003)--(#3 1 time)--(16 weeks)

As you can see, Clarkson was able to ride the wave of Avril/P!nk of the last year to make a name for herself, having two singles that did very well. She couldn't piggyback off of anyone in 2003 (she wasn't jazzy enough like Norah, and didn't cater to the tweenies like Hilary Duff did). Clay Aiken also did well with his single here, actually not leeching off of anyone here as actually that sort of pop didn't exist high up on these charts..
2004, Albums:

  1. Confessions, Usher  7,978,594 
  2. Feels Like Home, Norah Jones  3,842,920 
  3. Encore, Eminem  3,517,097 
  4. When the Sun Goes…, Kenny Chesney   3,072,224 
  5. Here for the Party, Gretchen Wilson  2,931,097 
  6. Live Like You Were Dying, Tim McGraw  2,786,840 
  7. Songs About Jane, Maroon 5  2,708,415
  8. Fallen, Evanescence  2,614,226 
  9. Autobiography, Ashlee Simpson  2,576,945
 10. Now That's What I Call Music 16, Various Artists  2,560,316

As you can see here, 2 R&B/hip hop albums sold well, 3 country albums made an appearance, 2 alt rock/goth (including Maroon 5's debut album), 1 pop, 1 eclectic (Norah Jones represent!) and 1 random mishmash (with the Now That's What I Call selling well).

2004, Singles:

1Usher feat. Lil Jon and LudacrisYeah!
3Alicia KeysIf I Ain't Got You
4Maroon5This Love
5OutKast feat. Sleepy BrownThe Way You Move
6HoobastankThe Reason
7Mario Winans feat. Enya and P. DiddyI Don't Wanna Know
8OutKastHey Ya!
9Ciara feat. Petey PabloGoodies
10Terror SquadLean Back

Again, hip hop/R&B represent. They dominated this chart--8 of the 10 were R&B/hip hop, and the two were alt rock types. Again, if Colton Dixon, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, whoever....released music in 2004, they'd have a chance. Just keep that in mind once we go to 2008/2009. But clearly, the market is beasting with hip hop from 2002 to now so far.

And let's go to Idol now:

Idol, Albums:

Kelly Clarkson (WINNER)
--Breakaway 6,219,000

Clay Aiken 
--Merry Christmas With Love 1,416,000

--Free Yourself 1,821,000

Josh Gracin
--Josh Gracin 703,000

Ruben Studdard
--I Need An Angel  483,000

Kim Locke
--One Love 212,000

William Hung
--Inspiration/Hung For The Holidays  240,000

Diana DeGarmo
--Blue Skies  168,000

Tamyra Gray 
--The Dreamer  123,000

RJ Helton
--Real Life 22,000

Again, Kelly broke through when she released her album, and Clay Aiken had people buy his album again due to his reputation from the last album. I can't color-code Fantasia red because she's too urban (it's a trend with Idol's black women in general), but she sold well to urban fans, actually. Josh Gracin had a strong showing for a overachieving fourth placer, and country had a strong showing with Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, that year, so he was leeching off of them.

A ton of flops also occurred--Ruben Studdard by 2004 was effectively deemed irrelevant, as Joshua Ledet will soon learn that if the winner can't sell gospel music at 2004, the odds of selling gospel music in 2012 are even slimmer. William Hung, a guy who didn't even make the cut, outsold Tamyra Gray, who again I couldn't put directly into the hip hop category as she was more old soul. Enough said. AI3's Diana DeGarmo also flopped badly, with no relevant singles (see below) and an album that didn't sell much for a second placer, even though she was billed as young pop.

Idol, Singles:

Kelly Clarkson (WINNER)
--The Trouble With Love Is (2004)--(#8 1 time)--(14 weeks)
--Breakaway (2004)--(#2 1 time)--(23 weeks)

Kim Locke (#3)
--Eighth World Wonder (2004)--(#7 1 time)--(18 weeks)
--Wrong (2004)--(#22 1 time)--(7 weeks)

As you can see, Kelly Clarkson was sort of lucky that she didn't introduce herself to the public in 2004--it's most hip hop and alt rock by this time, and she's lucky she had made a name for herself by then. So she was still churning hits. Kim Locke couldn't sell albums at all, but because she was deemed "poppy" enough (she probably sold out to make pop music) she probably was able to leech off some of the same people who bought Ashlee Simpson's album that year (I know, relating those two? Eek).

Come back for part 2 of this series, when we deal with Epoch 2.

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