Several "American Idol" alums dropped new albums this year, like Daughtry, Kelly Clarkson, David Cook, Jennifer Hudson, and the Season 10 crop -- Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, and James Durbin. But several more "Idol" finalists, from country star Josh Gracin to contemporary Christian powerhouse Mandisa, also released new material this year. And if you're looking for a Christmas stocking stuffer for an "American Idol" fan on your shopping list, you just might be able to find something from one or more of the artists whose new albums flew under the media's radar in 2011.
The albums are listed from most recent to oldest release date:
Josh Gracin: Redemption -- This Season 2 fourth-place finisher, who has had four Top 10 hits (including 2004's No. 1 "Nothin' To Lose"), searched around for a label for over two years before he found one and dropped his latest offering. Unfortunately, the new album, released on Nove. 8, has four songs that were released as singles in the interim, but there is still plenty of new material. Gracin's current single, "Long Way To Go," placed in the Billboard Adult Contemporary Top 20.
Kendra Chantelle: Unthinkable -- Chantelle was a Season 10 Wild Card Finalist (which placed her in the Top 16). For those needing a memory jog, she was artist that paired up with Paul McDonald (eighth place) for an unforgettable version of "Blackbird" before the live shows began. She released her first album on Nov. 7.
Tim Halperin: Rise & Fall -- This finalist from Season 10 made it to the Top 24 before being cut. The day after his contract with "American Idol" expired (Sept. 27), he released his first album. It debuted at No. 1 on iTunes Singer/Songwriters chart.
Kimberly Caldwell: Without Regret -- Although "American Idol" fans are familiar with Caldwell from her post-"Idol" work on television (TV Guide Channel's "Idol Tonight" and other programs). But she finished in seventh-place in Season 2. And although it seems to have taken her some time to get that first album out, she finally did so on April 19, 2011.
Mandisa: What If We Were Real -- The fourth studio album from this contemporary gospel singer has been what is commonly called a "sleeper" -- making its appearance on the Billboard 200 album chart at No. 66 in April (release date: April 5) and bouncing on and off the chart for much of 2011. However, the Season 5 ninth-place finalist has made a strong showing on Christian radio, scoring a No. 1 song with "Stronger" and a No. 8 with "Waiting For Tomorrow" on the Christian Adult Contemporary songs chart. What If We Were Real has been nominated for Best Contemporary Christian Music Album at the upcoming 2011 Grammy Awards.
There were a couple of EPs released this year from "Idol" alumni as well, including small sets by Season 7's Brooke White and Season 8's Anoop Desai.
All in all, not a bad year for "American Idol" and its finalists. The show finished No. 1 again for the eighth straight television season. Twelve artists from the show released albums, seven of which placed in the Billboard 200, with six of those debuting in the Top 10. Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Hudson scored No. 2 albums. Scotty McCreery, the latest winner, debuted at No. 1.
The only thing that would have made the show's Christmas cheerier would have been a Christmas album release. Although not a full studio album, Season 8's runner-up David Archuleta obliged. The Mormon Tabernacle Choir release "Glad Christmas Tidings" in September, featuring Archuleta on six of the album's tracks.
For a list of the major releases from "American Idol" alums from 2011, see "Your 'American Idol' 2011 Albums Christmas Shopping List."
For those fans who want to hear their favorite "Idol" finalists singing songs of the holidays, see "'American Idol' Christmas Albums: Sounds of the Holidays From Your 'Idol' Favorites."
(photo credit: Jyle Dupuis, Creative Commons)