For those of you who barricaded yourselves in your fallout shelters for the past 8 years, American Idol is a hit television program which debuted on the FOX network on June 11, 2002, and has become one of the most successful shows on American television today. As a fan of gospel music, I have been pleasantly surprised to discover that several American Idol contestants have gone on to sign recording contracts with gospel music companies and to perform Christian music on national tours. Phil Stacey, Mandisa and Chris Sligh performed at the 2008 Dove Awards with Amy Grant and Michael W. Smith, and this year Ruben Studdard from season 2, Mandisa from season 5, and Chris Sligh and Melinda Doolittle from season 6 have all been nominated for Dove Awards! (1)
American Idol alumni who have gone on to record and perform gospel music as well as those current contestants who have ties to gospel music include: Ruben Studdard, RJ Helton, George Huff, Mandisa, Chris Sligh, Phil Stacey, Jordin Sparks, Melinda Doolittle, Clay Aiken, Jennifer Hudson, Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, Stevie Scott, Nadia Turner, Danny Gokey, Kris Allen, Scott MacIntyre, Michael Sarver, Matt Giraud, Lil Rounds, Felicia Barton, Lil Rounds, etc., and Katelyn Tarver who was a finalist on the only season of American Idol Juniors in the early 2000s.
RJ Helton – American Idol – Season 1
RJ Helton gained television and music fame through the hit first season of “American Idol,” where he ended up as a Top 5 Finalist. Helton released his first gospel project, “Real Life,” on Gospocentric in March of 2004. In April of 2004, Helton was a presenter and nominated artist at the Dove Awards.(2) A couple of years later Helton came out of the closet and ended a gospel recording career which never quite took off.
Ruben Studdard – American Idol – Season 2
Ruben Studdard is a pop, R&B, and gospel singer who rose to stardom as the winner on the second season of American Idol. Ruben Studdard was nominated in December 2003 for a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for “Superstar.” Studdard’s projects include: Soulful, released December 2003, I Need an Angel, released November 23, 2004, and The Return, which was released in October 2006. Ruben Studdard’s “Love IS” will be released May 19, 2009. Ruben Studdard is nominated for a 2009 Dove Award.
Clay Aiken – American Idol – Season 2
Clay Aiken made his faith public on American Idol and produced a Christmas album in 2004. However Aiken was plagued with questions about his sexuality and eventually admitted he was gay, following stories of his foray into fatherhood by artificially inseminating the executive producer of his album, On My Way Here. Clay Aiken was recently dropped by the RCA label in February 2009 following a year of controversy.
George Huff – American Idol – Season 3
George Huff, was a season 3 finalist on American Idol. Huff rose to first place among male contestants and was the overall fifth-place finalist. His projects include: “American Idol Season 3: Greatest Soul Classics” which released on April 27, 2004; “Miracles,” which released October 11, 2005; and the “My Christmas EP” which came out on November 9, 2004. George Huff’s new self-titled gospel CD is due in April 2009.
Jennifer Hudson – American Idol – Season 3
Jennifer Hudson was raised in a Baptist home and performed at church often growing up. She recently released a self-titled album. Jennifer Hudson is best known for her Best Supporting Actress Academy Award role as Effie White in Dreamgirls in 2007, as well as for her family tragedy when her mother, brother and nephew were allegedly murdered by her ex-brother-in-law in October of 2008.
Carrie Underwood – American Idol – Season 4
Carrie Underwood who the 2005 competition of “American Idol,” has a background in church performances. Underwood is best known to Christian music listeners as the singer of “Jesus, Take the Wheel,” from her 2006 debut album “Some Hearts.” The single received wide airplay on country and Christian radio, and the album won Record of the Year at the 2006 Country Music Awards and won a Dove Award from the Gospel Music Association for Carrie Underwood.
Nadia Turner – American Idol – Season 4
When Nadia Turner auditioned for American Idol, she had recently studied advertising and psychology at Florida International University and was performing at church functions as a member of the rock/soul Christian band, Tool Box. Turner’s band Tool Box performed at churches and charity groups. An actress as well as a singer, Nadia Turner has released her latest DVD “Lord Help Us,” an inspirational movie that follows the lives of two best friends who help a recently widowed pastor.
Mandisa – American Idol – Season 5
Mandisa is a talented Grammy and Dove Award-nominated singer who was the ninth-place finalist in the fifth season of American Idol. Mandisa’s CD projects include: True Beauty which released July 31, 2007; Christmas Joy EP which released November 20, 2007; It’s Christmas which released: October 14, 2008; and Freedom which released March 24, 2009. Mandisa is nominated for a Dove Award in 2009.
Stevie Scott – American Idol – Season 5
Stevie Scott was a semi-finalist on American Idol and was the 11th girl left standing on season 5 (2006). Scott is a student at California State University, Sacramento, studying music. From a musical family, Scott began her recording career at 15. Stevie Scott is a versatile musician who enjoys performing everything from R&B to opera.
Chris Daughtry – American Idol – Season 5
Chris Daughtry finished in the Top 5 of “American Idol” and went on to form the group Daughtry. His self-titled album was one of the top grossing albums of 2006. Daughtry is fourth in overall record sales of former American Idol contestants following Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken and Carrie Underwood. Chris Daughtry’s single “Home” was also successful on Christian music charts. Daughtry sang with Third Day on the song “Slow Down” on Third Day’s 2008 release “Revelation.” The group Daughtry is releasing a new project this spring.
Chris Sligh – American Idol – Season 6
Chris Sligh is a singer/songwriter who was a finalist on the sixth season of American Idol, in 2007 where he finished in tenth place. His CD projects include: Berg: Vessel as Berg (Chris Sligh) released in 2001; Someone Just Like You which released in 2002; Half Past Forever (with Half Past Forever) which released in 2005: Besides… (with Half Past Forever) which released in 2005: Take A Chance On Something Beautiful (with Half Past Forever) which released in 2007: and 2008’s Running Back To You. Chris Sligh is nominated for a Dove Award in 2009.
Phil Stacey – American Idol – Season 6
Phil Stacey is a country music singer who earned national attention on season 6 of American Idol. After being eliminated from the competition on May 2, 2007, Stacey signed a recording contract with Lyric Street Records. His debut single, “If You Didn’t Love Me,” was released to radio in early 2008 as the lead-off to his self-titled debut album, which was issued April 29, 2008 on Lyric Street. Phil Stacey is now signed to Reunion Records and his debut Christian album is due in 2009. Phil Stacey’s projects include: Phil Stacey (EP) released in 2007; American Idol which released in 2008.
Jordin Sparks – American Idol – Season 6
Jordin Sparks is a pop/R&B singer, songwriter, fashion designer, and plus-size model. Sparks was the winner of the sixth season of American Idol, and followed her victory with the release of her debut album for which she earned an American Music Award and Grammy nominations in 2008. Her self titled debut album was certified Platinum in the U.S. on December 12, 2008. Sparks’ projects include: Jordin Sparks which released in 2007; Tattoo, a Maxi CD which released on March 25, 2008; and her new project which is releasing in 2009.
Melinda Doolittle – American Idol – Season 6
Melinda Doolittle is a singer who finished as the third place finalist on the sixth season of American Idol. Melinda’s projects include: Melinda Doolittle (EP) which released June 12, 2007 and Coming Back to You which released February 3, 2009. Melinda Doolittle is nominated for a Dove Award in 2009.
American Idol – Season 8
Danny Gokey was born April 24, 1980. Danny Gokey is a singer and church music director from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and a finalist on the eighth season of American Idol.
Kris Allen is part of the worship ministry at his home church, New Life Church in Arkansas. He is also involved with Chi Alpha Campus Ministries at the University of Central Arkansas.
Scott MacIntyre has appeared on the Crystal Cathedral Hour of Power and performs with the Gospel quarter, The MacIntyre Family Singers. He performs frequently at his home church, Scottsdale Bible Church.
Michael Sarver leads a praise and worship team at Harvest Church in Jasper, Texas and was formerly a lead singer at Victory Christian Center in Houston.
Matt Giraud has released two independent Christian music CDs, Perspective and Mind, Body and Soul. He has been involved at worship at his church where he played drums.
Lil Rounds is a member of Christ Community Church in Memphis.
Felicia Barton is a worship leader at Freedom Fellowship in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
Katelyn Tarver – American Idol Juniors
Katelyn Tarver was born November 2, 1989. Katelyn is a singer/songwriter and model, who is a native of Glennville, Georgia. Katelyn Tarver was a finalist on the only season of American Idol Juniors in the early 2000s. She released her debut album Wonderful Crazy in 2005 on an independent record label, TC Music. Her debut album was re-released, under the name Brand New Day. Katelyn is now signed to CAA.
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