Kelly Clarkson's new album is pretty darn good. But where does it rank in the pantheon of pop from previous American Idol stars? Herewith, my five best albums from folks who got their start having to sing while staring into Paula Abdul's cleavage:
5. Carrie Underwood, Some Hearts (2005). We're still waiting for Carrie to uncork that album of hair-metal covers. But her debut disc — the biggest-selling Idol album of all time (7 million and counting) — remains a cool crossover blend of God-fearing good girl and knife-wielding Crazy Jane.
4. Fantasia, Fantasia (2006). There aren't many people — on Idol or off — who can sell such rump-slapping genius as "See that wobble wobble / Shaped just like a cola bottle." Day-yum!
3. Kelly Clarkson, All I Ever Wanted (2009). It's that good, gang. A beach-day feast of big hooks and a bigger voice. Apply Coppertone and press play.
2. Chris Daughtry, Daughtry (2006). When I first heard the Bald Wonder's debut, I thought it was as subtle, savvy and memorable as his goofy wallet chain. Two years and a half-dozen hits later. … dude, where can I get one of those wallet chains?
1. Kelly Clarkson, Breakaway (2004) The second-biggest-selling Idol disc of all time, but easily the best. Since U Been Gone, Because of You, Behind These Hazel Eyes, Breakaway — sheesh. In finding her voice, KC also found new fans who never gave a hoot about AI.
Sean Daly, Times Pop Music Critic