From 2002 through 2016, American Idol was an important showcase for country music, and after Carrie Underwood shot to superstardom following her Season 4 win, the reality singing competition got even more involved in finding some of the best young country singers in the world. The show helped discover a virtual Who's Who of contemporary country, including Kellie Pickler, Scotty McCreery and Kree Harrison.
As Idol gears up for a return to television, The Boot looks back at the country talent who first made their way into our hearts on the TV show. Our list of the Top 10 American Idol Country Singers features a mix of established stars and younger artists, culling the best of the best from every season so far.
Gracin was the first country star discovered on American Idol. The former Marine placed fourth on the show's second season, and after his discharge, he signed to Lyric Street Records in 2004. His self-titled debut album produced three Top 10 singles, one of which, "Nothing to Lose," reached No. 1.
Gokey placed third in the eighth season of American Idol. The former church worship director auditioned for the show just weeks after the death of his first wife, Sophia, and stayed in it until the finals. After the show, he released an album, My Best Days, and scored a hit single with "My Best Days Are Ahead of Me."
James was already somewhat of a veteran when he came to Idol, which showed in his seasoned live performances. The singer and guitarist quickly became a fan favorite, placing third on the show's ninth season. He then signed with Sony, and in 2012, he released his self-titled debut album.
Covington competed on the fifth season of American Idol. The singer ultimately placed eighth, and signed with Lyric Street Records. His self-titled 2007 debut album reached No. 1 and scored three Top 10 singles, including "A Different World."
Harrison is Nashville veteran who had a publishing deal and a record deal before she was ever on Idol, but neither quite panned out. She dominated the stage from the first time she performed during Season 12, however, and placed second. Now, Harrison is preparing to release a new album in mid-2020.
Pickler is one of the most beloved performers in Idol history. Competing on Season 5, she rode her combination of a winning personality and strong voice to finish in sixth place, then released two albums that scored her a string of melodic country hits. Pickler won a season of Dancing With the Stars and, more recently, earned her own reality show, I Love Kellie Pickler, on CMT and co-hosted the daytime TV talk show Pickler & Ben.
Clarkson was the very first winner of American Idol, way back in its first season in 2002, and she has since become an international superstar. Although her success has been primarily rooted in pop, Clarkson has released a duet with Reba McEntire, and she's also recorded with Vince Gill, qualifying her for a spot on this list.
Alaina placed as the runner-up on Season 10 in 2011 and subsequently released an album titled Wildflower. The album did reach No. 5 in the country charts, and the singer opened for both Jason Aldean and Sugarland. In 2017, Alaina earned her first No. 1 song with "Road Less Traveled."
Few performers inspire as intense loyalty as McCreery. From the moment he appeared on Season 10 of American Idol, he dominated the competition with his mix of vocal ability and humble charm. After winning the show, he released his debut album, Clear as Day, in 2011. It placed several hits and was certified platinum.
Underwood is by far the biggest country star to arise from American Idol. Since winning the show's fourth season, she has gone on to become the best-selling Idol star across all genres, and one of the biggest superstars in the country genre.
Who Are Your Favorite 'American Idol' Country Singers?
That's a pretty impressive list of the Top 10 American Idol Country Singers, but do you agree? Or are there other singers from the show that you think deserved a place here more? Let us know in the comments section below!