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The wonderful American Idol years

Last updated on: January 28, 2011 13:33 IST

The wonderful American Idol years

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One of the most popular television shows across the world, American Idol is stepping into its tenth season.

And everything seems different: there's no more Simon Cowell, for example. The brutal judge (and co-producer of the show) was one of the iconic things about Idol, but he's moving on and perhaps audiences will too.

The 2011 lineup of judges includes Steven Tyler of Aerosmith, Jennifer Lopez and returning judge Randy Jackson.

Here, then, is a look back on the first nine seasons of Idol, and the moments worth remembering from, let's face it, The Cowell Years:


Image: American Idol judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell pose as they arrive for a party for the finalists of season one in 2004
Photographs: Fred Prouser/Reuters
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Season One

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Besides introducing us to the now-omnipresent Ryan Seacrest, the first year of Idol featured a final showoff between Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson.

The blonde youngsters looked great together -- something Hollywood later tried to exploit with the disastrous film From Justin To Kelly -- and the boy was tipped to win, until Clarkson put enough soul to make her rendition of Aretha Franklin's Natural Woman soar much higher.

Kelly won season one, and her single, A Moment Like This, immediately hit number one, breaking several records in the process. 


Image: Justin Guarini and Kelly Clarkson hug each other at the conclusion of their performances at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood
Photographs: Fred Prouser/Reuters
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Season Two

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The big story in season two was mostly off-stage, not that it stopped the broadcasters and tabloids from playing it up. Contestant Corey Clark was disqualified, allegedly for having a police record.

Clark himself, however, had a different version of events, stating that the show bumped him off because he had an affair with judge Paula Abdul, an affair that led to him getting preferential treatment during the show.

Abdul denied these claims, while Clark wrote a tell-all book about the alleged scandal.


Image: Paula Abdul arrives for the final competition of American Ido at the Universal Amphitheatre in Universal City, California
Photographs: Robert Galbraith/Reuters
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Season Three

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Probably the most momentous Idol season till date, season three had several massive moments: the controversial elimination of Jennifer Hudson (who went on to win an acting Oscar for Dreamgirls) which led to Sir Elton John labelling the voters racist; the year's winner Fantasia Barrino singing Summertime; and, perhaps most iconically, the emergence of William Hung -- whose version of She Bangs became an Internet phenomenon, redefining the very nature of video going viral.


Image: Fantasia Barrino cries after performing her final song at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood
Photographs: Fred Prouser/Reuters
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Season Four

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With the age limit for contestants being increased to 28, season four was the first time rockers started showing up on Idol, the first two being Constantin Margoulis and Bo Bice.

Yet America wasn't quite ready to vote in a rocker just yet, and despite over 500 million votes cast, the fourth American Idol was the lovably blonde Carrie Underwood.

Underwood went on to carve quite a stunning career for herself.


Image: Bo Bice and Carrie Underwood after singing Up Where We Belong at the American Idol finale.
Photographs: Chris Pizzello/Reuters
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Season Five

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If the rockers showed up last year, this was the time they made their presence serious.

Chris Daughtry did a cover of Fuel's Hemmorhage In My Hands that was so stunning that the band invited him to join them as a new lead singer.

A distinct identity, Daughtry built his own brand a little too well, as Idol viewers and judges gravitated towards the voluptuous Katharine McPhee and the unconventional Taylor Hicks.

In a major surprise, Hicks won over McPhee, but then vanished almost entirely.


Image: Katharine McPhee and Taylor Hicks arrive for the final telecast of the show
Photographs: Fred Prouser/Reuters
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Season Six

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The fact that Jordin Sparks won Idol 6 seems hardly as relevant as the contestants who didn't make it.

Indian-origin teen Sanjaya Malakar, making a name for himself via horrible singing and an eclectic assortment of extreme hairdos, became a star despite being eliminated.

Also noticed was Antonella Barba, who hit headlines because risque pictures of her surfaced on the Internet.


Image: Contestants Stephanie Edwards and Sanjaya Malakar at a party celebrating the Top 12 in Los Angeles
Photographs: Fred Prouser/Reuters
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Season Seven

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Attention came back to the music in a big way in season seven, the finalists showing off quite a stunning smorgasbord of talent.

The highlights were all performances: David Archuleta's cover of John Lennon's Imagine brought tears to guest judge Jennifer Lopez' eyes; David Cook's take on Michael Jackson's Billie Jean was one the show's standout moments; and Cook's winning song, The Time Of My Life, remains a bestseller and reality show staple.


Image: American Idol finalists David Archuleta and David Cook appear together on NBC's Today show in New York
Photographs: Brendan McDermid/Reuters
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Season Eight

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While the show's producers aimed to make the talent hunt even more of a reality show by focussing more on the contestant's varied lives and backstories, Idol saw a fourth judge, Kara DioGuardi take her place on the voting table.

Adam Lambert and Kris Allen were the two finalists, Allen winning despite controversy alleging that his home state of Arkansas was 'power-texting' more votes than the rest of the country.

Finally, it was announced that judge Paula Abdul was leaving the show.


Image: Finalists Adam Lambert and Kris Allen pose with judge Paula Abdul.
Photographs: Phil McCarten/Reuters
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Season Nine

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Talkshow success Ellen DeGeneres came in to replace Abdul. But the ninth season of Idol became all about the leaving Simon Cowell, setting the stage for a true shakedown in terms of judges.

Lee DeWyze won the competition, picking U2's Beautiful Day as his coronation song, but the attention was firmly focussed on Cowell, now less acerbic than ever, even being uncharacteristically nice to contestants.


Image: Simon Cowell
Photographs: Mario Anzouni/ Reuters
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