15 American Idol losers who found their own stardom

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Adam Lambert (Season 8)

From one LGBTQ contestant to possibly the highest profile one, Adam Lambert was never shy about his sexuality, even on the show. Could that have cost him the win? Even if it did, that didn’t stop him from becoming a household name and for lasting over 10 years in the music industry. Kris Allen who?

Adam Lambert started his career on a cruise ship, then went into musical theatre in local and touring productions. He performed in the ensemble of Wicked on its first national tour and was also the understudy for Fiyero. But that wasn’t enough for him, so he auditioned for the eighth season of American Idol in 2009.

The 26-year-old walked into the San Francisco auditions and sang “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, which was foreshadowing for his future career path. Simon felt like he may be too “theatrical” but Paula thought he was the most diverse talent they had seen. Despite some pushback, Lambert got a yes from all four judges.

He had no trouble reaching the Top 36, and then breezed through to the Top 13. His renditions of the Rolling Stones hit “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, Michael Jackson’s “Black or White”, and “Mad World” by Tears for Fears got him rave reviews from the judges, with the latter even getting him a standing ovation from Simon. By the Top 3, Simon told Lambert that if he wasn’t in the final, it would be one of the biggest upsets in the show’s history.

The singer did make it to the finale, but didn’t win, despite being a judge favorite. But he didn’t need to win in order to be a star, and released his debut album For Your Entertainment in November 2009, working with producers and songwriters like Dr. Luke, Max Martin, P!nk, Ryan Tedder, and a then-up-and-coming Lady Gaga. The album’s second single, “Whataya Want From Me” peaked at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was nominated for a Grammy.

Lambert has since released three studio albums, but that’s not what has put him on the map. He first performed with Queen on the season 9 finale of American Idol, along with winner Kris Allen, but his powerhouse vocals and theatricality perfectly suited the band’s style, and reminded many of the late Freddie Mercury. Soon after, Adam Lambert took a permanent position performing with the band. They’ve been touring the world together for over five years now, and Lambert even appeared briefly in 2018’s Bohemian Rhapsody.