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Kelly Clarkson Reclaims Top Spot On Forbes’ Idol Earners List

Lyndsey Parker
The Juice
January 31, 2013

Forbes just released its annual ranking of the top-earning "American Idol" alums (covering May 2011 to May 2012), and original Idol Kelly Clarkson has reclaimed the top spot on the list, bumping last year's top "Idol" earner, Carrie Underwood, down to number two. On last year's list, Kelly placed fifth, with earnings of $2.5 million, but this time, she earned $8 million (compared to Carrie's $5 million), thanks to the gold sales of her fifth album Stronger, her television appearances on "The Voice" and "Duets," a Toyota commercial, and tireless touring.

Interestingly, Forbes points out that Kelly's $8 million earnings are roughly equal to what Nicki Minaj is pocketing as a judge on "American Idol" this season, and are twice the amount that another new "Idol" judge, Keith Urban, is making. Kelly's paycheck is also less than half of what Mariah Carey, reality TV's highest-paid judge, is earning on "Idol" this year. Debate the justice and/or injustice of this payscale amongst yourselves...

Anyhoo, Kelly's top spot should perhaps come as no surprise, considering what a great year she has had. But there are some surprises on the Forbes list. For instance, Chris Daughtry doesn't sell records like he used to (his band's most recent album, 2011's Break The Spell, just missed going gold, compared to 2006's Daughtry, which sold nearly 5 million copies), yet he's still tied for second place with Carrie, thanks to lucrative touring: Forbes reports that he rakes in a six-figure paycheck for a single concert. Also, Season 10 winner Scotty McCreery never crossed over completely from country to mainstream pop, but he still placed fourth on the Forbes list, with a cool $4 million, out-earning "Smash" actress Katharine McPhee, Sparkle movie star Jordin Sparks, and even Jennifer Hudson. Scotty too has toured extensively, opening for acts like Brad Paisley. With a solo tour in the works, he's likely to make another appearance on the Forbes list next year.

Adam Lambert (photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images]Other slight surprises on the list include David Cook, David Archuleta, and Kellie Pickler--all of whom recently parted ways with their record labels, but seem to be doing just fine--and Adam Lambert, who, despite his sophomore album Trespassing not selling nearly as much as his 2009 debut, still pocketed $1.5 million from television appearances and international touring. (Adam dropped from the number-two spot on last year's Forbes list mainly because he took a lengthy touring break to record Trespassing, which came out shortly before the window for this Forbes list closed.) This just goes to show that the success of many Idols is not entirely based on record sales, despite what Interscope Records' Jimmy Iovine might want to believe.

Reigning "Idol" champ Phillip Phillips missed landing on the list, since the tally covers May 2011 to May 2012, cutting off right around the time that he won Season 11. However, Forbes predicts that P-Squared will make next year's list, with his single "Home" since going triple-platinum and his debut album already having sold more than 600,000 copies. Plus, Phillip's upcoming tour with Matchbox Twenty is sure to earn him more fans--and more money.

Below is Forbes' full top Idol earners list. Did your favorite Idols make the big bucks last year?

1. Kelly Clarkson - $8 million
2. (tie) Carrie Underwood / Chris Daughtry - $5 million each
3. Scotty McCreery - $4 million
4. Jennifer Hudson - $3 million
5. Jordin Sparks - $2 million
6. Adam Lambert - $1.5 million
7. (tie) Katharine McPhee / Kellie Pickler - $1.1 million each
8. (tie) David Archuleta / David Cook - $1 million each

More stories from Forbes:
The Highest-Paid Women In Music
The World’s Highest-Paid Musicians
Hip-Hop’s Cash Kings
The World’s Highest-Paid DJs

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