A compilation of twelve previously available recordings, American Idol – 10th Anniversary – The Hits: Volume 1 presents one track from each of the show’s nine winners plus three notable finalists. The tunes are arranged chronologically based upon which season each artist appeared on the show. Don’t look here for anything fancy commemorating a decade of American Idol. The packaging is disappointingly simple. There are no photographs or biographies of any kind in the booklet. The only information provided is songwriting, production, and musician credits for each song.
With only about forty-five minutes of music, the overall value isn’t great. There are legitimate complaints to be made about which contestants were omitted. Season four runner-up Bo Bice had a huge hit with “Inside Your Heaven,” his 2005 debut single. Katharine McPhee, season five’s runner-up, was certified gold for her 2007 release “Over It.” Blake Lewis, second place in season six, scored a top ten Billboard Dance chart hit in 2008 with “How Many Words.” Season seven runner-up David Archuleta nearly topped the charts with “Crush” in 2008. All these hits are missing in action, despite ample room on the album. It should be noted that hits recorded by artists not under contract to 19 Entertainment (Josh Gracin, Elliot Yamin, among others) were likely not considered due to licensing issues.
The original Idol champ, Kelly Clarkson, kicks the set off with her 2004 smash “Since U Been Gone.” Peaking at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, the single wound up selling more than two million copies. Season two victor Ruben Studdard might’ve been better represented by his 2004 top ten single “Sorry 2004.” Instead we get his cover of Delaney and Bonnie’s “Superstar,” the B-side of his winner’s single. It was a major hit for Studdard on Billboard’s R&B chart, earning him a Grammy nomination for Best Male R&B Vocal. Incidentally he lost to Luther Vandross, whose own 1984 version of “Superstar” was the model for Studdard’s take on the song.
The first non-winner to appear on the album is season two runner-up Clay Aiken, with his 2004 single “Invisible.” Though it barely grazed the Billboard Top 40 (peaking at number thirty-seven), it fared much better on the Adult Contemporary chart. Strictly based on chart performance, either song from Aiken’s double A-side single “The Way/Solitaire” would have been more appropriate. Third season winner Fantasia Barrino had an R&B chart-topper with “When I See U,” certified gold in 2007. Of her several big hits, this double Grammy nominated song (Best Female R&B Vocal, Best R&B Song) was an ideal inclusion.
“Before He Cheats” was a no-brainer when it came to representing the fourth season winner, Carrie Underwood. This scorching country smash was certified triple-platinum and won two Grammys (Best Female Country Vocal, Country Song of the Year). The song was nominated a slew of other awards as well, winning several. Of course, Underwood has enough smash singles for her own “hits” compilation. Seeing as this compilation was limited to just one song per artist, this was the right choice.
Season five champion Taylor Hicks had a Billboard Hot 100 number one with his debut, “Do I Make You Proud.” For whatever reason, the producers of this compilation chose not to include that gold-certified single. Instead they included the B-side, his version of the Doobie Brothers’ “Takin’ It To the Streets.” Actually the song is far more representative of Hicks’ style, becoming his signature song during his time on Idol. It even slipped into Billboard’s Hot 100 at number sixty-nine. Apparently the decision was made to exclude all “winner’s singles” for this compilation. In that case, I might’ve gone with one of the Adult Contemporary hits from Hicks’ 2006 debut Taylor Hicks, “Heaven Knows” or “Just To Feel That Way.”
Season five is also represented by fourth-place finisher Chris Daughtry. His self-penned “Home” was a top five Billboard hit and sold more than two million copies. The song, issued under his band’s name Daughtry, was nominated for a Grammy as Best Pop Performance by Duo or Group. It’s an appropriate choice, with strong Idol ties due to its use as the “exit song” during season six when each contestant was voted off. Speaking of season six, the crown went to Jordin Sparks that year. Her duet with Chris Brown, “No Air,” was another obvious choice for this compilation. The worldwide multi-platinum smash was bolstered by Brown’s massive popularity.
Co-written by Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and songwriter Brian Howes, “Light On” was a platinum success for season seven’s David Cook. The 2008 song is easily the hardest rocking track here. Besides his winner’s single “The Time Of My Life,” it’s his biggest hit and the perfect choice for this collection. Season eight, like two and five, is represented by two contestants. The catchy “Live Like We’re Dying” is winner Kris Allen’s biggest hit to date by far. Despite a modest Hot 100 peak of eighteen, the single ended up being certified platinum with more than one million sold. Runner-up Adam Lambert earned a Grammy nomination (Best Male Pop Vocal) for his top ten hit “Whataya Want From Me.” The song was co-written by P!nk for Funhouse, but was not included on that album.
Closing out this compilation is season nine winner Lee DeWyze with “Sweet Serendipity,” the lead-off single from his first post-Idol album Live It Up. The single stumbled commercially, missing Billboard’s Hot 100 entirely. It did manage to dent the Adult Pop Songs chart, peaking at number thirty-eight. DeWyze co-wrote the breezy pop tune with David Glass and Jordan Lawhead.
American Idol – 10th Anniversary – The Hits: Volume 1, a bit of a misnomer considering only nine seasons were complete at the time of release, is a nutshell summary of what the show has produced so far. It could’ve easily been more expansive, providing a broader view of the diversity that has emerged over the years. The artistic merit of each performer’s contribution can be debated endlessly. From a purely commercial standpoint, Idol has churned out short-term hitmakers with impressive consistency.