A countdown of "American Idol" alums' biggest Hot 100 hits ever - and the untold stories behind the songs.
ONTD can you guess what #1 is? even i got it wrong lol
When “American Idol” premiered on Fox-TV on June 11, 2002, it was far from certain that the “Search for a Superstar” (the show’s subtitle) was going to produce one. Music critics didn’t give the series much credibility and radio did not go out of its way to play songs by “Idol” finalists. The industry should have known better, based on the success of “Pop Idol” in the United Kingdom. The first of that show’s two seasons did produce two superstars, in Will Young and Gareth Gates. Young’s first record, “Anything Is Possible” / “Evergreen,” became the fastest-selling single in U.K. history and is the best-selling single of the 21st century. Gates’ first release, a remake of “Unchained Melody,” debuted at No. 1 on the official U.K. singles chart and was certified double platinum. The stage was set for similar success in America but there was no guarantee.
Then along came Kelly Clarkson, though the singer from Burleson, Texas, was not an obvious winner in the early days of season one of “American Idol.” Executive producer Nigel Lythgoe says, “Justin Guarini and Tamyra Gray, we all said right from the beginning, those two. Tamyra was going to win. Kelly didn’t come through. The only thing that stood out was her humor. It was only when we got into the top 10 that all of a sudden, [when Kelly sang] people would stand there open-mouthed.”
Clarkson demonstrated her sense of humor by switching places with Randy Jackson during her audition, but later, when she walked out on the set for the first time, Jackson leaned over to Paula Abdul and said “Who is that? Who is she??” Debra Byrd, vocal coach on “Idol” from season one to the beginning of season 11, explains, “They didn’t remember her. Kelly later said that was her fault. She had changed her look and her hair. But she just wasn’t on their radar.”
Eleven years later, Clarkson is still very much on the radar, dominating the list of “Idol’s” top 100 songs on the Hot 100. She has 18 songs in the top 100, including six in the top 10, two of which rank No. 1 and No. 2.
Clarkson isn’t the only “Idol” to become a superstar. When the top 11 of season four were assigned the theme, “Billboard’s number one hits,” Carrie Underwood sang Heart’s “Alone.” After her performance, Simon Cowell made a bold prediction: “Not only will you win this show, you will sell more records than any other previous Idol winner.” Turns out, he was right. (“I’m sure he must love that,” Underwood laughs). Underwood is the best-selling Idol in the U.S. (Clarkson is tops internationally) and has more songs on the Idol 100 than anyone, with 20.
The success of “Idol” is even bigger than Clarkson and Underwood. The franchise has produced 379 No. 1s to date, counting all national and domestic charts compiled by Billboard. So far, 68 finalists from the first 11 seasons have appeared on the Billboard charts.
To coincide with the first live shows of season 12, here are the top 100 songs by Idols based on chart performance on the Hot 100, with the stories behind the songs, many of them being told for the first time.
"Just a Dream" - Carrie Underwood
Hot 100 Peak: No. 29 (2008)
"Gordie Sampson, Steven McEwan and I would camp out and just write," says Hillary Lindsey. "I think the music was [composed previously]. We had the music and the melody and the verses started flying out. It was clear it was about a girl going to a wedding but she was really going to a funeral. I called my mom about what you put in a shoe. If I'm writing a redneck song about rednecks fishing, I'll call my dad. We had the chorus with the hook, 'It was just a dream.' We were worried it was too clichéd, but then decided who cares if it's a cliché, when it's the truth."
"Catch My Breath" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 19 (2013)
Eric Olson scrapped seven early versions of this song before he finally came up with the opening piano part. "It was a two-week process to get the riff," he says, "and then it only took four or five hours to get the music down." After he and Clarkson's musical director, Jason Halbert, wrote the music they sent the song to Clarkson. "Within a day or two, she had the full song written." Two weeks later, they recorded "Breath" during Clarkson's tour rehearsals. "Kelly was on crutches," Olson remembers. "So she sang the whole song sitting down. Even her worst takes were amazing – she was in and out in an hour and a half."
"I Told You So" - Carrie Underwood ft. Randy Travis
Hot 100 Peak: No. 9 (2009)
Travis first appeared on the Hot 100 in 1998 but he never reached the top 10 until his duet with Underwood peaked at No. 9 in 2009. He first cut his self-penned "I Told You So" in 1983, on a live album he recorded as Randy Ray. A studio version appeared on his 1988 album "Always & Forever" and a single went to No. 1 on the country chart. It was one of Underwood's favorite songs growing up and she recorded a cover version for her album "Carnival Ride." First issued as a solo single, it was quickly followed by a duet version that paired Underwood with Travis.
"I'll Stand By You" - Carrie Underwood
Hot 100 Peak: No. 6 (2007)
Billy Steinberg was a huge fan of the Pretenders and Chrissie Hynde and dreamt of working with her but thought she was too self-contained to collaborate with outside writers. "Tom Kelly and I threw out the idea that we would like to write for her and she said she wanted a hit and was open to writing with us." The result was "I'll Stand By You," which peaked at No. 16 in 1994. Some 13 years later, Underwood's single debuted at No. 6 after she performed it on the first "Idol Gives Back," during the sixth season of the Fox-TV series. Over 300,000 downloads were sold during the brief period the song was available, with all profits going to charity.
"Feels Like Tonight" - Daughtry
Hot 100 Peak: No. 24 (2008)
Chris Daughtry's initial reaction to "Feels Like Tonight" was that he didn't want to record it. "But I ended up loving the song. It has such a great melody with a simple lyric. Once I started singing it, I realized it's actually a fun song to sing." It was the fourth single to chart from Daughtry's debut album and the first not to list Chris in the writing credits. It was also the only single from the album to miss the top 20 of the Hot 100, peaking at No. 24.
"I Do Not Hook Up" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 20 (2009)
Katy Perry and Greg Wells were working on this song before Perry signed with Capitol, and then it was finished much later. "Katy came over to my house and we sat on the kitchen floor and wrote the rest of it," says Kara DioGuardi. "Kelly changed one of the lines. She wouldn't say, 'keep your thing in your pants.'" The new lyric: "Keep your hand in my hand."
"Spotlight" - Jennifer Hudson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 24 (2008)
After her success with "Dreamgirls," Hudson was signed to Arista. The first single from her debut album was written by Ne-Yo with Mikkel Eriksen and Tor Erik Hermanson, the two members of the Norwegian production team known as Stargate. "Spotlight" spent two weeks at No. 1 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. Hudson is only the second Idol to top this chart, after Fantasia, who did it with "When I See U."
"Undo It" - Carrie Underwood
Hot 100 Peak: No. 23 (2010)
Kara DioGuardi, Marti Frederikson, Luke Laird and Carrie Underwood wrote "Undo It" and the follow-up, "Mama's Song," in one five-hour stretch. "Undo It" was born in DioGuardi's bathroom. "I had this idea in the shower, put it down on my Dictaphone, brought it in and Carrie really liked it," says DioGuardi. The session marked the first time DioGuardi met Underwood and they spent part of the five hours just getting to know each other. "It's important to talk and make sure you have a common denominator, that you've gone through similar experiences," says DioGuardi. "We ordered some wine. We needed to vibe, and open up a dialogue on subjects everyone's been through."
"So Small" - Carrie Underwood
Hot 100 Peak: No. 17 (2007)
Luke Laird remembers the second day he got together with Hillary Lindsey and Carrie Underwood to write songs. "Hillary was playing mandolin and I was playing guitar." Lindsey explains, "I can't really play the mandolin but I can make a sound. I started playing a lick while Luke was on the phone and he pointed at me to keep playing so I wouldn't forget it. We had a melody but no idea. A friend's father had passed away and as we were talking, someone said, 'That's what matters. It makes everything else so small.'" Laird continues: "I woke up in the middle of the night, put on my headphones, listened to it and thought, 'This feels really special.'"
"Inside Your Heaven" - Bo Bice
Hot 100 Peak: No. 2 (2005)
When this single debuted at No. 2 on the Hot 100 the week of July 9, 2005, Carrie Underwood's version of the same song fell 1-3. It was the first time in the history of this chart that the same song occupied two of the top three positions. "I had to stand toe-to-toe with Carrie on the finale, singing the same song," says Bice. "Her version was so impressive and that's definitely when I realized what a tough competition this was."
"Don't You Wanna Stay" - Jason Aldean w/ Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 31 (2011)
Andy Gibson, Paul Jenkins and Jason Sellers wrote this song and Gibson intended to record it himself. Then Jenkins and Sellers brought the song to Jason Aldean's producer, Michael Knox. "It was Jason Aldean's vision to turn the song into a duet," says Gibson. "He got hold of Kelly Clarkson." Their collaboration became the definitive version of the song and Gibson has no plans to ever record it. "I play it live so people can hear how it started out."
"Good Girl" - Carrie Underwood
Hot 100 Peak: No. 18 (2012)
Underwood was in Los Angeles when she met with Ashley Gorley and Chris DeStefano for a writing session. Gorley came up with the title that morning. "We worked through two or three different grooves with that title," he remembers. "Then we started something else, but came back to it. We got the 'Good girl, no good for you.’ We kept coming up with cool sections of the song. Most songs are verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus. This is more verse, pre-chorus, chorus, post chorus and then something else and another part of the chorus. It was different, especially for country. We were writing over the electric guitar licks and drum patterns you hear on the record. Being in L.A. probably made us go a little more out of the box. But I’m not afraid to rock with her. She crushed the song."
"Truth Is" - Fantasia
Hot 100 Peak: No. 21 (2005)
"'Truth Is' was not written for Fantasia," says writer/producer Soulshock. "We just wrote songs. The track came first. It was kind of a hip-hop groove. We wanted to get a gritty sound, like vinyl static. We had the track going and thought about melodies. We wrote it very fast. Came up with the hook and we had a very rough mix of it. We were four guys (Soulshock, Karlin, J.Q. White and Alex Cantrall) in the studio, so we hired a demo singer because it wouldn't work sung by a guy. We sent it to Clive Davis, who loved it and sent it to Fantasia. She loved it and we got a note to fly to New Orleans where Fantasia was on the Idol tour. She was under tremendous pressure being on tour and having to record at the same time. During the first takes, I don't know if she felt it. We talked about the lyrics and suddenly she came out of her shell. We went in and she was just amazing. It got really soulful."
"Remind Me" - Brad Paisley Duet w/ Carrie Underwood
Hot 100 Peak: No. 17 (2011)
Brad Paisley had been working on his "This Is Country Music" album for months and was almost finished when he called songwriter Kelley Lovelace just as the Super Bowl was about to begin. "We were supposed to write with Sheryl Crow that week, so I thought he wanted to get an idea for Sheryl," says Lovelace. "Brad said, 'No, I'm trying to think of something for me. I'm missing something.' I had already pitched him everything I had. So I went over there after the game." Paisley looked through Lovelace's computer to scroll through his list of ideas. "He was thinking of Eminem and Rihanna's 'Love The Way You Lie' and the way the female vocal comes out of nowhere. He was looking for a song that could do something similar in a country version." Paisley found Lovelace's line "Remind me so I don't forget." "We all worked on it with Chris DuBois the next day. Then Brad left Carrie a voice mail." Paisley wanted a demo, so he asked Sheryl Crow to record it with him. "Then Carrie came in and they recorded it on Brad's farm. Brad wanted us there to come up with alternative lines in case Carrie didn't like something. We had to change a few things, but mostly we sat around listening to Carrie, saying, 'This is pretty awesome.'"
"Blown Away" - Carrie Underwood
Hot 100 Peak: No. 20 (2012)
Listening to the thunderstorm and rain sound effects on this song, it would be easy to assume they appear on the track because of the lyrics. But actually, it's the other way around. Songwriters Chris Tompkins and Josh Kear, who also composed "Before He Cheats" for Underwood, wanted to write songs for her fourth album and met at Tompkins' office in Nashville. "I have a bank of sound effects on my keyboard and sometimes I'll goof off and Josh will roll his eyes at me," says Tompkins. "We messed around with this track, with drums and a string arrangement. I looped off thunderstorms and rain, all these sound effects. Then we wrote the verse." When they came up with, "There's not enough rain in Oklahoma to wash the sins out of that house," they realized, "This song really wants to be a Carrie Underwood song. It was a little dark and poppy. It had every characteristic of a Carrie song."
"Flying Without Wings" - Ruben Studdard
Hot 100 Peak: No. 2 (2003)
Simon Cowell signed Irish boy band Westlife to RCA in the U.K. Their third single, "Flying Without Wings," was released in 1999 and was the third of their 14 No. 1 hits. Four years later, as season two of "Idol" was coming to an end in America, Clive Davis met with the top four finalists and told them "Wings" would be the finale song for Ruben Studdard and Kimberley Locke, should they be in the top two. "I remember thinking, 'What am I going to do with this song?'" says Studdard. "But then I worked with Babyface on it and he showed me a few different things I could do with my vocals."
"I Believe" - Fantasia
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for one week (2004)
Songwriters Louis Biancaniello, Sam Watters and Tamyra Gray – the same Tamyra who competed in the first season of "Idol" – submitted a song titled "Through It All" for the winner of season three. When it was turned down, they sent in the other song they had written that week, "I Believe." Watters recalls, "Fantasia had a really extensive gospel music background singing at church and that song just put her right where she was really comfortable and she knocked it out in a heartbeat."
"No Surprise" - Daughtry
Hot 100 Peak: No. 15 (2009)
"We were almost done with the 'Leave This Town' album when we had a window of opportunity to go to Vancouver and write with Chad Kroeger," says Chris Daughtry, who had known the Nickelback founder for a while. "We were friends but we hadn't had the chance to write together." Kroeger had been working on a song with Eric Dill and Rune Westberg. "The chorus had been written," Daughtry confirms. We had to figure out what to say in the verses." The result was "No Surprise," which was released as the first single from Daughtry's second studio album.
"Cowboy Casanova" - Carrie Underwood
Hot 100 Peak: No. 11 (2009)
Underwood and Brett James (one of the writers on "Jesus, Take the Wheel") invited a third writer to work with them on this song: rap producer Mike Elizondo, best known for his work with Dr. Dre, 50 Cent and Eminem, but who had also produced for Natasha Bedingfield, Alanis Morissette and Fiona Apple. James credits Elizondo for the beat and the riffs on this track, one of Underwood’s highest-ranked songs on the Hot 100.
"Jesus, Take the Wheel" - Carrie Underwood
Hot 100 Peak: No. 20 (2006)
At one of their typical songwriting sessions, Brett James, Gordie Sampson and Hillary Lindsey were having coffee and catching up with what was going on in their lives. "Gordie was talking about his family," Lindsey remembers. "His aunt always said, 'When Jesus takes the wheel...' They started playing guitars and we started singing the melody. I don't feel like we had a big part in the writing of the song. It was like it was given to us." They didn't have any artist in mind. "I called my dad and we started talking about Carrie and he said, 'I think she's going to win.' I just wanted to have just one song on her album. Leslie Roberts and Renee Bell at RCA were fans of the song, so I think they got it in their hands. I do know it wasn't pitched that much. It certainly had never been recorded."
"Do I Make You Proud" - Taylor Hicks
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for one week (2006)
Dave Way and the production duo known as Absolute were asked to work with Elliott Yamin, Katharine McPhee and Taylor Hicks, the top three finalists on season five, to prepare the coronation song for the winner. They recorded "Do I Make You Proud" with Yamin and the next day he was voted off the show. "We figured that was the end of that," says Way. "Then we got a call that Taylor wanted to record the song. We had one night to get it done and Taylor learned the song in the car on his way to the studio. His take on it was a lot different than Elliott's and to his credit, he really made that song his own. Not an easy thing to do, especially when you have to learn the song a half an hour before you're going to do the vocal. He did a great job."
"One Step at a Time" - Jordin Sparks
Hot 100 Peak: No. 17 (2008)
When Robbie Nevil and Lauren Evans received a track from Jonas Jeberg and Mich Hansen in Denmark, they hopped in Nevil's car and drove to the beach to write lyrics while overlooking the ocean. "We thought about who we were writing for and Jordin came to mind," says Evans. "I was familiar with her story, how she auditioned in Los Angeles but didn't make it to Hollywood Week and had the courage to audition again. I listened to the track and pictured her heels walking on the sidewalk. I blurted out, 'One step at a time.'" A few hours later the song was complete and the writers drove back to Nevil's office in Santa Monica to record the vocal for the demo. "So often your song is picked up by someone completely different than who you wrote it for," Evans says. "This song told Jordin's story and my story and everybody's story who pursues music."
"Over You" – Daughtry
Hot 100 Peak: No. 18 (2007)
Chris Daughtry and Brian Howes had already written the rock song "What I Want" and another tune that was never recorded when they collaborated on a third effort, "Over You." It was composed during the Idols summer tour that followed Chris' season on the show. "I wrote every day of the Idol tour, never taking a day off," he remembers. Daughtry and Howes set up shop in a hotel room in Alabama to write the song that originally had different lyrics and was titled "Half." Daughtry explains, "It didn't sound tough enough. We wanted more testosterone so we settled on a lyric change."
"The Time of My Life" - David Cook
Hot 100 Peak: No. 3 (2008)
The winner of season seven's songwriting competition was Regie Hamm, who was inspired by his wife Yolanda to submit "The Time of My Life" for the May finale. "The first time I heard it was at CBS Studios [home to "American Idol"]. I thought it was a great song but I asked if we could add some guitars," says Cook. The single spent 15 weeks at No. 1 on the Adult Contemporary chart. During the summer of 2008, Cook and Hamm met on the Idols live tour. "At the end of a meet and greet, I got the chance to talk to him."
"Never Again" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 8 (2007)
Six years after its release, this song and its parent album, "My December," which expressed Clarkson's emotional pain after a breakup with David Hodges, are still making headlines. After Clive Davis wrote about both in his 2013 memoir, "The Soundtrack of My Life," Clarkson responded, saying in part, "'My December' was an album I needed to make for myself for many reasons and the fact that I was so completely disregarded and disrespected was so disheartening, there really aren't words to explain." "Never Again" was the only single from the album to chart on the Hot 100.
"Live Like We're Dying" - Kris Allen
Hot 100 Peak: No. 18 (2010)
This was a cover version of a song by the Irish band the Script, written by the group's Mark Sheehan and Danny O'Donoghue with Andrew Frampton and Steve Kipner. The original version was a bonus track on the Japanese edition of their debut album and the B-side of their first single "We Cry" in several countries, including the U.K. and Australia. Billboard's review of Allen's remake said he improved on the Script's recording, "with a nuanced vocal and a nimble, rhythmic delivery."
"Battlefield" - Jordin Sparks
Hot 100 Peak: No. 10 (2009)
Louis Biancaniello, Sam Watters, Wayne Wilkins and Ryan Tedder composed this song in Denver just after Tedder moved to the mile-high city. They had Christina Aguilera in mind. "Clive Davis liked it for Leona Lewis and Barry Weiss wanted it for the Backstreet Boys," says Watters. One morning, the writers were told the song was being considered as a duet for Rihanna and Chris Brown. Later that same day, reporters were breaking the story that Brown had assaulted Rihanna. That's when Jeff Fenster, then senior VP of A&R for Jive, told Watters that RCA/Jive Label Group chairman/CEO Weiss wanted "Battlefield" for Sparks.
"Mr. Know It All" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 10 (2011)
"I always wanted to write a song called 'Mr. Know It All.’ It’s like 'Mr. Big Stuff.’ These guys who think they know everything and think they can treat you any way they like," says Ester Dean, who composed this hit for Clarkson with Brian Kennedy, Brett James and Dante Jones. "It’s an anthem for women, but a different kind of anthem that says, 'You don’t know about me.’ I did the demo. I sang my little heart out." Kennedy adds, "Dante created the track a year ago. Ester came up with melodies and lyrics in our studio. We went to Nashville, where Kelly knocked it out in 45 minutes to an hour." The track was remixed for country radio by Dann Huff. "I liked the country version more than the pop version," says Kennedy.
"Whataya Want from Me" - Adam Lambert
Hot 100 Peak: No. 10 (2010)
Max Martin and P!nk wrote the song for the latter to record. She never released it but she did directly pass it along to Lambert, who included it on his first album for 19/RCA. Lambert recognized the song was about a relationship but saw another message in the lyrics, one to the public and the media – "Whataya want from me? I'm doing the best I can."
"Crush" - David Archuleta
Hot 100 Peak: No. 2 (2008)
Reviewing Archuleta’s debut single in Billboard, Chuck Taylor called it, "a hummable, age-appropriate midtempo pop ditty for the 17-year-old, showcasing his fine mass-appeal vocal stylings with creamy harmonies and some nice falsetto effects." The single debuted and peaked at No. 2 on the Hot 100, a thrill for the long-time fan of the charts, who admitted he became "obsessed" with "The Billboard Book of Number One Hits" and "Billboard’s Hottest Hot 100 Hits" when he was 13. "There was a point where I read the books so much, people would ask me what was the number one song of this year or what was the number one song on their birthday," says Archuleta. "I discovered a lot of songs that way, songs I hadn’t heard before. I didn’t even know 'One Sweet Day’ until I saw it in the book. It was No. 1 for 16 weeks. Those are very influential books to me."
"Walk Away" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 12 (2006)
"'Walk Away' is so much fun to sing," says Clarkson. "To me, it's like a Prince/Annie Lennox/Aerosmith song. It's very in-your-face. I absolutely love the Annie Lennox part in the bridge. The label didn't like this guitar part in the whole song, but I do that anytime I perform it. The guitar part is ridiculous. That's where it brings in Prince. It's a little all over the place, very feisty."
"Already Gone" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 13 (2009)
Clarkson wrote the song with Ryan Tedder but wasn't happy when she heard another song he had written – "Halo" by Beyoncé. Clarkson accused Tedder of using the same musical track for both songs. The OneRepublic frontman issued a statement denying that the tracks were the same: "They are two entirely different songs conceptually, melodically and lyrically and I would never try to dupe an artist such as Kelly Clarkson or Beyoncé into recording over the same musical track; the idea is both hurtful and absurd."
"Inside Your Heaven" - Carrie Underwood
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for one week (2005)
When songwriter Andreas Carlsson heard one of his songs was going to be recorded by the winner of season three, he thought it was "The Best of Me," written with Desmond Child and John Reid. Then he was told it was a song he had written a year and a half earlier, "Inside Your Heaven." Child produced the recording and says, "Carrie can sing a song from beginning to end without stopping. She doesn't make any mistakes and it's perfectly in tune and then she sings it again even better than before. She's stunning. She's also prepared. She goes in there and she knows the song. That's rare."
"Wait for You" - Elliott Yamin
Hot 100 Peak: No. 13 (2007)
When Danny Strick from Sony/ATV Music gave Yamin this song written by Taj Jackson and Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Eriksen of the Stargate production team, the season five finalist wasn't crazy about it. "My manager urged me to give it a chance and go into the studio with Stargate. Everyone smelled a hit," says Yamin. Once he heard the finished track, Yamin agreed. One change the producers made from Jackson's demo: they lowered the key for Yamin. "I performed the song at the ASCAP Pop Music Awards," he recalls. "I invited Taj to sing it with me. We did it in my key and he adapted."
"Miss Independent" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 9 (2003)
Destiny's Child had this song on hold for their "Survivor" album and Christina Aguilera was also interested. "She helped start the lyric for the verse and part of the chorus," says producer and co-writer Rhett Lawrence. "The song didn't have lyrics for the chorus yet, so I wrote that with Christina. We decided to make the title 'Miss Independent.' The verse starts off as a song about a girl who's independent minded, then I decided to slip it in the opposite direction for the chorus. Then Christina decided not to record it. I played the track for Kelly without any lyrics, just the original track and she immediately said she wanted it to be her first single." Lawrence flew to Miami where Clarkson was filming the "From Justin to Kelly" movie. "We wrote the bridge and lyrics together because I wanted her to be part of it and she did a great job."
"Sorry 2004" - Ruben Studdard
Hot 100 Peak: No. 9 (2004)
Clive Davis was looking for a song that would garner radio airplay for Studdard and please "Idol" fans at the same time. Harvey Mason, Jr. and a team of writers composed this tune especially for the second season winner at a late-night writing session. "We called it 'Sorry 2004' because it was about Ruben apologizing for everything he did in the previous year and saying how he was going to spend 2004 making up for what he did," says Mason. The single was recorded over two days in Los Angeles and Mason found Studdard to be very mellow and easy-going. "He gave a great vocal performance."
"This Is the Night" - Clay Aiken
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for two weeks (2003)
The top four finalists from season two met with Clive Davis at his Beverly Hills Hotel bungalow and he played two songs for them without revealing which contestant would be singing which song. Aiken recalls, "He played 'This Is the Night' first and we realized this is going to be the 'A Moment Like This' of this year. I almost cried. 'This Is the Night' gave me chills. Then he played 'Flying Without Wings' and it was a great song and I loved it, but it didn't do what 'This Is the Night' did for me. And then he said, 'The first song I played, I'm going to assign…' and I had my fingers crossed, "Please God, let it be me, let it be," and he said, 'That's the song for Clay and Josh [Gracin].' Yes!" "This Is the Night" debuted at No. 1 the same week Ruben Studdard's "Flying Without Wings" debuted at No. 2, the first time in Hot 100 history that the top two songs on the chart were new entries.
"Home" - Daughtry
Hot 100 Peak: No. 8 (2007)
"I had already auditioned for 'Idol' and knew I was leaving for Hollywood," says Chris Daughtry, who had been writing songs since he was 16. "I was sitting on my couch – oddly, I wrote 'Home' at home. I felt it was a song that could go on pop radio." A year later, when his group Daughtry recorded the song for their debut album, it had the same structure and chords that Chris had fashioned at home in North Carolina. When the producers of "Idol" asked to use "Home" for the season six exit song for eliminated contestants, Chris' reply was an enthusiastic, "Absolutely, please use it."
"Tattoo" - Jordin Sparks
Hot 100 Peak: No. 8 (2007)
Tor Erik Hermansen and Mikkel Eriksen, better known as the Stargate production team, met with Amanda Ghost and Ian Dench at Battery Studios in New York to write "Tattoo," a title suggested by Ghost. "Amanda comes from a more artistic side. She does her best writing when she’s having fun," says Hermansen, adding, "Jordin was a pleasure to work with. She was wide-eyed and happy to be there. That’s one of the fun things about 'Idol.’ The singers are getting a chance of a lifetime and they’re really into it."
"A Moment Like This" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for two weeks (2002)
"'A Moment Like This' is one of the most difficult songs I've ever had to sing," says Justin Guarini, who performed the song on the season one finale, as did Clarkson. "No conspiracy theory, it was written before anyone knew I going to be part of the finale. It's just not written for someone who does what I do. I struggled and struggled with it in the studio….There was a point after the finale when I was with Kelly and I said, 'Baby, I did everything, but you're going to win tomorrow night. I love you.'" "A Moment Like This" was the first "Idol" song to go to No. 1 on the Hot 100. When it jumped 52-1 the week of Oct. 5, 2002, it broke the Beatles' 38-year-old record for the biggest leap to the top ("Can't Buy Me Love" rocketed 27-1 the week of April 4, 1964).
"It's Not Over" – Daughtry
Hot 100 Peak: No. 2 (2005)
Ace Young and Chris Daughtry met when they both auditioned for "Idol" in Denver. One year later, they were in Columbus, Ohio, on the summer live Idols tour. Daughtry was in his dressing room working on a song written by Gregg Wattenberg and Mark Wilkerson that they had submitted to Pete Gabarg, who was doing A&R for Daughtry's first album. "Chris needed a chorus for 'It's Not Over,' and we came up with it literally right before we went on stage," says Young. "It was the first thing I sang when I heard it. We came up with a couple of lyrics and the song was done. I had no idea it would become the number one rock song of the year. We were nominated for a Grammy and lost to Bruce Springsteen. It was amazing."
"Before He Cheats" - Carrie Underwood
Hot 100 Peak: No. 8 (2007)
When Chris Tompkins and Josh Kear wrote this song, they didn't have Underwood in mind. "I was thinking Gretchen Wilson, who had just had a big success with 'Redneck Woman,'" says Tompkins. After Underwood won "Idol," Tompkins' publisher said she was going to pitch the song to her. "Carrie flew into Nashville on a jet and all the song pluggers went on the jet and played her songs." The demo of "Before He Cheats" was more lighthearted and "cabaret," according to Tompkins. "It wasn't a big vocal, like Carrie. They made it a better song – I think it was Mark Bright's production, the musicians and Carrie's vocal." The song crossed over to pop, even though there was no remix for pop radio. "It's completely driven by that fiddle," says Tompkins. "I'm glad they realized whatever magic the single had translated to everyone." As a result of its pop crossover, the single remained on the Hot 100 for 64 weeks, the fifth longest run for any song in the chart's history.
"My Life Would Suck Without You" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for two weeks (2009)
Co-producer/co-writer Dr. Luke credits Max Martin for coming up with the title of the song. "The chorus was written a long time ago," he says. "We wrote it after 'Since U Been Gone' and 'Behind These Hazel Eyes,' thinking, 'Hey, we'll write stuff for Kelly's next record.' The verse came about a long time later." Co-writer Claude Kelly was sleeping when he was awakened by a phone call from his manager. "He said, 'Dude, the song jumped from 97 to 1. It broke a record.' I had a feeling it was going to do okay, but I had no idea that it was going to jump that fast and jump that big."
"Because of You" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 7 (2005)
Clarkson wrote the song with David Hodges and Ben Moody of Evanescence. "Ben came over to my apartment in L.A. and my wisdom teeth had just been taken out and I looked horrible and we just started talking about a couple songs I wanted to do with him. He heard 'Because Of You' and fell in love with it and said, 'I so want to work with you. I love this song. It's so passionate and so very much from the heart.' I didn't think that one was going to catch him. I thought he was going to say, 'that's a little sappy.'"
"Home" - Phillip Phillips
Hot 100 Peak: No. 6 (2013)
Drew Pearson and Greg Holden had never met when their publishers arranged a one-day songwriting session. Pearson recalls, "He walked in my studio and we shook hands, talked for a few minutes and then sat down and wrote 'Home.’ I don't know if I ever told him, but after he sang the demo I secretly wanted Greg to take the song. He said in the session that he felt like the song was something he could sing. Then a few months later he sent me a video of him performing the song live, but that was as far as it got." Pearson’s publisher, Pulse Recording, sent "Home" to Jimmy Iovine at Interscope and that’s how it became Phillips’ finale song. To date, "Home" has topped 10 different Billboard charts, including Hot Digital Songs, Adult Contemporary, Adult Top 40 and Rock Digital Songs. It is the highest-ranked coronation song on the Idol 100. "Having a song in Billboard has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, so I had to keep pinching myself over the last year," says Pearson. "It’s been really exciting to see the song connect with so many people."
"Breakaway" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 6 (2004)
"I was about to go on stage and my manager said, 'Before you go on, there was an idea that was thrown to us about "The Princess Diaries 2" movie,'" Clarkson recalls. "The first movie was really cute…so I listened to it and what I love about 'Breakaway' is it's not a big power ballad. It's not like 'Miss Independent' or Usher's 'Yeah.' It's a really simple little lullaby anthem, and it's just pretty and the lyrics fit me to a 'T.' I thought it might be a great bridge song to hold the audience over until my next album."
"Behind These Hazel Eyes" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 6 (2005)
The last song recorded for Clarkson's second album was based on real life. "I wrote a song about a relationship that I thought was going really well and then all of a sudden, it wasn't, and you find out that the person is not that into you and you're like, 'Wow, we spent so much time together.' The lyrics are perfect for what I was feeling at that moment. The song hits more personally than a lot of the other ones."
"No Air" - Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown
Hot 100 Peak: No. 3 (2008)
"No Air" was created for a male artist to sing but co-writer Harvey Mason, Jr. played it for Sparks as an example of his work. "She reacted like she thought the song was average but then called Jeff Fenster, her A&R man, raving about it, saying 'I love it.' Jeff stalked us for six months. We agreed to give it to Jordin on the condition that they make it an event duet record." Mason and his team had been working with Chris Brown and suggested him as a singing partner. Mason spent time working on Sparks' vocal track, both in New York and Los Angeles. Then Brown recorded his part, and later, Sparks went back in the studio to "toughen up" her vocals, according to Mason.
"Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 1 for three weeks (2012)
The second single from Clarkson's "Stronger" album set new records by going to No. 1 on 15 different Billboard charts, including the Hot 100, Hot Digital Songs, Hot Dance Club Play, Adult Contemporary, Adult Top 40 and Mainstream Top 40 and by becoming the best-selling "Idol" single of all time. As of July 2012, "Stronger" had sold 3,510,000 copies, one thousand more than the previous record holder, Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats."
"Since U Been Gone" - Kelly Clarkson
Hot 100 Peak: No. 2 (2005)
Clarkson went to Sweden for two days to record "Since U Been Gone." "I'd love to tell you that I knew anything about Max Martin. I didn't even know that he had written a lot for Britney or Backstreet Boys. I was so in the dark but he's a heavy hitter, really talented and such a nice guy. He and Dr. Luke, they're both great guys." Clarkson remembers the first time she heard the song. "I said, 'This is really poppy. Do you mind if we rock the track up a little?' They put in some heavier guitars and harder drums. It's just a really fun song to sing. It's very explosive and a great contrast to a lot of the other songs on the album."
i guessed Stronger lol. i love my flawless queen. and LOL at Craptasia not being int the top 30.