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Top 21 ‘Australian Idol’ Stars, Ranked

24 January 2023 | 2:18 pm | Jeff Jenkins

Whatever way you look at it – particularly if you put it in a head-to-head battle with The Voice – Australian Idol’s strike rate is remarkable. You can argue about the order, but this is a pretty impressive list of stars from Idol’s first seven years.

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21. BROOKE ADDAMO (11TH, 2008)

Post-Idol, Brooke Addamo – who performs under the name of Owl Eyes – collaborated with Illy. The single It Can Wait went gold. Her debut album, Nightswim, hit #28 in 2013.

20. WES CARR (winner 2008)

Pre-Idol, Wes Carr had been in a band, Tambalane, with Silverchair drummer Ben Gillies. After the show, he had a #1 single (You) and #2 album (The Way The World Looks).

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19. DEAN GEYER (THIRD, 2006)

After Idol, Dean Geyer had a Top 10 single (If You Don’t Mean It) and album (Rush), starred in Neighbours and Glee, and was briefly engaged to The Veronicas’ Lisa Origliasso.

18. AXLE WHITEHEAD (FINISHED OUTSIDE THE TOP 12, 2003)

Axle Whitehead’s debut single, I Don’t Do Surprises, was a Top 10 hit and went gold. He was also Cleo Bachelor of the Year, starred in Home and Away, and came third in The Masked Singer.

17. NGAIIRE (FINISHED OUTSIDE THE TOP 12, 2004)

Following her brief Idol stint, Ngaiire worked with Blue King Brown and Paul Mac. She’s also had two Top 50 albums – Blastoma and 3.

16. EM RUSCIANO (NINTH, 2004)

One of the Idol’s most versatile contestants, Em has been a radio host, a runner-up in The Masked Singer and she also did a stand-up comedy show, Em Rusciano Is Not A Diva

15. STAN WALKER (WINNER, 2009)

Idol’s most recent winner has battled stomach cancer, but also had three Top 10 albums and two Top 10 singles in Australia, as well as six Top 10 albums and eight Top 10 singles (including two chart-toppers) in NZ.

14. COSIMA (THIRD, 2003)

Cosima’s cover of Cold Chisel’s When The War Is Over went to number one. All of the songs on her self-titled debut were written by American hitmaker Diane Warren, who called her “a younger, edgier Celine Dion”. The album reached #2.

13. ROB MILLS (FIFTH, 2003)

Post-Idol, Millsy had a famous liaison with Paris Hilton, a Top 10 single (Ms. Vanity), a Top 40 album (Up All Night), as well as starring roles in Neighbours, Wicked and Hairspray. 

12. PAULINI (FOURTH, 2003)

Paulini rose above the “scandal” of the gold dress to enjoy a #1 album and single, as well as starring roles in The Bodyguard and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. She was also a founding member of Idol supergroup Young Divas, which also featured Ricki-Lee, Kate DeAraugo and Emily Williams (with Jess Mauboy replacing Ricki-Lee for their second album).

11. DAMIEN LEITH (WINNER, 2006)

For Idol’s disco show, Damien Leith did Kool & the Gang’s Celebration. Mark Holden said it was the most bizarre thing he’d ever seen, while Kyle Sandilands called it the worst thing he’d ever seen on television. Two months later, Damien was the winner of Australian Idol. He’s had two #1 albums and a #1 single.

10. COURTNEY ACT (13TH, 2003)

In Idol’s first year, Shane Jenek auditioned and failed to get through. He reappeared the following day as Courtney Act and a star was born. Courtney’s debut single, Rub Me Wrong, reached #29 and she was runner-up on RuPaul’s Drag Race and Dancing With The Stars.

9. RICKI-LEE COULTER (SEVENTH, 2004)

Ricki-Lee was expected to finish much higher in Idol’s second year – Dicko called her departure “a scandal”, while Mark Holden said, “You are so radiant, you are so beautiful, you are a superstar.” She’s since had five Top 10 singles and is co-hosting this year’s Idol.

8. CASEY DONOVAN (WINNER, 2004)

Idol’s youngest winner – she was just 16 when she won the second season – topped the charts with her debut single, Listen With Your Heart, and her album, For You, hit #2 and went triple platinum. Casey also won the third series of I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out Of Here.

7. CASEY BARNES (11TH, 2009)

Casey has become the king of country radio, and his most recent album, Light It Up, won an ARIA for Best Country Album, as well as a Golden Guitar for Top Selling Album of the Year.

6. LISA MITCHELL (SIXTH, 2006)

Lisa Mitchell is the only Idol to win the Australian Music Prize for Album of the Year, a feat she achieved with her debut, Wonder, one of her three Top 10 albums.

5. MATT CORBY (RUNNER-UP, 2007)

Matt Corby said going on Idol was a “big fucking mistake”, but it kickstarted a career that has included two ARIAs, a #1 album and a J Award for Album of the Year (Rainbow Valley).

4. ANTHONY CALLEA (RUNNER-UP, 2004)

His detractors labelled him “Plastic Fantastic”, but Anthony Callea soon traded plastic for platinum, with The Prayer becoming the fastest-selling single by an Aussie artist. He’s had two #1 singles and three #1 albums.

3. SHANNON NOLL (RUNNER-UP, 2003)

What about Shannon? He rose to the top of the charts with his debut single, What About Me, the start of a remarkable run – Shannon is the only Aussie male to have 10 consecutive Top 10 singles. He’s also had seven Top 10 albums, including two chart-toppers. 

2. JESSICA MAUBOY (RUNNER-UP, 2006)

Sometimes you don’t have to win to come out on top. Since coming second in Idol’s fourth season, Jessica Mauboy has had three #1 albums and nine Top 10 singles, plus two ARIA Awards and an AACTA Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Sapphires

1. GUY SEBASTIAN (WINNER, 2003)

No Aussie bloke has had more number one singles than Idol’s first winner. Six chart-topping singles, three number one albums, seven ARIA Awards. What a Guy!

The new season of Australian Idol premieres 7:30pm Monday, 30 January on Channel 7 and 7plus.