The first season of American Idol premiered on June 11, 2002 (under the full title American Idol: The Search for a Superstar) and continued until September 4, 2002.

This season was won by 20-year-old Texas waitress Kelly Clarkson, who has since gone on to become a Grammy Award-winning superstar.

This season was co-hosted by Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman, the latter of whom left the show after this season.

Auditions[edit | edit source]

The following cities hosted auditions for Season 1. The dates of the auditions are also shown.

  • Los Angeles, California - April 20-22, 2002
  • Seattle, Washington - April 23-25, 2002
  • Chicago, Illinois - April 26-28, 2002
  • New York City, New York - April 29-May 1, 2002
  • Atlanta, Georgia - May 3-5, 2002
  • Dallas, Texas - May 5-7, 2002
  • Miami, Florida - May 11, 2002

At the end of the auditions, a total of 121 golden tickets were given out. This is the only season of American Idol where the auditions were aired in one episode.

Hollywood[edit | edit source]

The Hollywood week rounds were held in Pasadena Civic Center where 121 contestants competed for a place in the finals. The contestants first emerged on stage in groups of 9 or 10 but performed solo unaccompanied, and those who did not impress the judges were cut after the group finished their individual performances. 65 were selected to proceed on to the next round. The singers were expected to learn their songs that night and perform the next day in groups of three. The girls and boys were separated and given crash course to learn their song, which was Dionne Warwick's "I Say a Little Prayer" for the girls and "For Once in My Life" for the boys. Many however frequently forgot the lyrics. Again those who failed to impress were cut immediately after their performance. 45 made it to the next round, and the 20 cut were given their last chance to voice their opinion to the judges before leaving. In the final round, the remaining 45 were given new songs to learn and each performed solo and a cappella. 30 contestants would be chosen after this round. In this round Justin Guarini impressed the judges and his fellow contestants alike. The Top 15 were first announced, the judges then select 15 more out of the remaining 30. The 30 were split into two groups and the judges then go to each group to announce the chosen group. Delano Cagnolatti was initially amongst those announced as the Top 30, but he was later disqualified for falsifying his age, and became the first person to be disqualified on American Idol. He was replaced by EJay Day.

Semi-finals[edit | edit source]

The 30 contestants who reached this stage in this season were referred to in the show as the finalists. Before their performance, the contestants took part in intensive music work shop where they were given vocal coaching by Debra Byrd and advice by stylists. The contestants were held in the Red Room before they each emerged to perform solo with piano accompaniment. There was no studio audience at this stage and the performance was pre-taped. The audience voted after each round of performance, and the results of the vote were announced the next day live. A total of 3.3 million votes were cast in the first week of voting. Below are the three semi-final groups with contestants listed in their performance order. In each group, three people advanced to the next round, based on votes by the viewers.

Tamyra Gray Jim Verraros Adriel Herrera Rodesia Eaves Natalie Burge Brad Estrin Ryan Starr Justinn Waddell
Kelli Glover Christopher Aaron Alexis Lopez Gil Sinuet Angela Peel A. J. Gil Tenia Taylor Alexandra Bachelier
Jazmin Lowery Jamar Kelly Clarkson Justin Guarini R.J. Helton Kristin Holt Mark Scott Nikki McKibbin
Christopher Badano Melanie Sanders EJay Day Tanesha Ross Khaleef Chiles Christina Christian

Wild Card Round[edit | edit source]

After 9 singers advanced on to the Top 10, five contestants were chosen by the judges to compete in the Wild Card Round. The contestants competing were Kelli Glover, Christopher Aaron, Alexis Lopez, R.J. Helton & Angela Peel. Helton was chosen to continue on in the competition.

Top 10[edit | edit source]

The following contestants were Season 1's Top 10

The Finalists; Standing: EJay Day, R.J. Helton, A.J. Gil & Tamyra Gray; Seated: Kelly Clarkson, Ryan Starr, Justin Guarini, Nikki McKibbin, Christina Christian & Jim Verraros

Finals[edit | edit source]

Top 10 perform[edit | edit source]


During the first round of the finals, the Top 10 performed a song from the Motor City for a spot in the Top 8.

Eliminated Contestants[edit | edit source]

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EJay Day was one of the two eliminated contestants on July 17, 2002, bringing the total down to 9 remaining contestants.

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Jim Verraros was one of the two eliminated contestants on July 17, 2002, bringing the total down to 8 remaining contestants.

Top 8[edit | edit source]

The following contestants were safe from that round and advanced on to the Top 8.

Performances[edit | edit source]

The contestants performed in the following order:

Top 8 perform[edit | edit source]


During this round of the finals, the Top 8 performed a song from the year 1960 for a spot in the Top 7.

Eliminated Contestant[edit | edit source]

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A.J. Gil was the eliminated contestant on July 24, 2002, bringing the total down to 7 remaining contestants.

Top 7[edit | edit source]

The following contestants were safe from that round and advanced on to the Top 7.

Performances[edit | edit source]

The contestants performed in the following order:

Group performance:

  • "California Dreamin'" by The Mamas & the Papas

Top 7 perform[edit | edit source]


During this round of the finals, the Top 7 performed a song from the year 1970 for a spot in the Top 6.

Eliminated Contestant[edit | edit source]

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Ryan Starr was the eliminated contestant on July 31, 2002, bringing the total down to 6 remaining contestants.

Top 6[edit | edit source]

The following contestants were safe from that round and advanced on to the Top 6.

Performances[edit | edit source]

The contestants performed in the following order:

Group performance: "Joy to the World" by Three Dog Night

Top 6 perform[edit | edit source]


During this round of the finals, the Top 6 performed a song from a Big Band for a spot in the Top 5.

Eliminated Contestant[edit | edit source]

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Christina Christian was the eliminated contestant on August 7, 2002, bringing the total down to 5 remaining contestants.

Top 5[edit | edit source]

The following contestants were safe from that round and advanced on to the Top 5.

Performances[edit | edit source]

The contestants performed in the following order:

Group performance:

  • "Bandstand Boogie" by Barry Manilow

Top 5 perform[edit | edit source]


During this round of the Finals, the Top 5 contestants performed love songs from composer Burt Bacharach for a spot in the Top 4.

Eliminated Contestant[edit | edit source]

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R.J. Helton was the eliminated contestant on August 14, 2002, bringing the total down to 4 remaining contestants.

Top 4[edit | edit source]

The following contestants were safe from that round and advanced on to the Top 4.

Performances[edit | edit source]

The contestants performed in the following order:

Group performance:

  • Burt Bacharach Medley

Top 4 perform[edit | edit source]


During this round of the finals, each contestant will perform a song from the year 1980 and a song from the year 1990 for a spot in the Top 3.

Eliminated Contestant[edit | edit source]

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Tamyra Gray was the eliminated contestant on August 21, 2002, bringing the total down to 3 remaining contestants.

Top 3[edit | edit source]

The following contestants were safe from that round and advanced on to the Top 3.

Performances[edit | edit source]

The contestants performed in the following order:

Group performance:

  • Paula Abdul Medley

Top 3 perform[edit | edit source]


During this round of the finals, the Top 3 performed a song of their choice and a song picked by the judges for a spot in the Top 2.

Eliminated Contestant[edit | edit source]

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Nikki McKibbin was the eliminated contestant on August 28, 2002, bringing the total down to 2 remaining contestants.

Top 2[edit | edit source]

The following contestants were safe from that round and advanced on to the Top 2.

Performances[edit | edit source]

(The first round of performances was the contestant's choice and the second round were chosen by the judges). The contestants performed in the following order:

Group performance:

  • "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Neil Sedaka

Top 2 perform[edit | edit source]


During the final round of the finals, the Top 2 performed two of their first winning single and a previous song from the past round for a spot as first season's American Idol.

Runner-up[edit | edit source]

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Justin Guarini was the runner-up of Season 1. Kelly Clarkson being the winner.

Performances[edit | edit source]

The contestants performed in the following order:

Winner[edit | edit source]

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Kelly Clarkson won the first season of American Idol on September 4, 2002. Watch her journey in American Idol.




Controversies[edit | edit source]

Tamyra Gray's Elimination[edit | edit source]

On the top 4 results show, fans, audience members and the judges were stunned when it was announced that front runner Tamyra Gray had the lowest number of votes and would be going home. Throughout her run, Gray had earned virtually nothing but praise and acclaim from the judges and the audience members alike, with many predicting she would win the competition. After she was announced to be eliminated, the audience errupted in boos and the judges showed their dismay for the results.

Notable past Idol contestants[edit | edit source]

  • Kelli Glover, who had made the semifinals, later tried out for season 9 of America's Got Talent and made the top 24. She had previously tried out for the show in 2009.

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Season 1
Finalists
Kelly Clarkson · Justin Guarini · Nikki McKibbin · Tamyra Gray · R.J. Helton · Christina Christian · Ryan Starr · A.J. Gil · Jim Verraros · EJay Day
Semifinalists
Christopher Aaron · Kelli Glover · Alexis Lopez · Angela Peel · Chris Badano · Khaleef Chiles · Kristin Holt · Tanesha Ross · Melanie Sanders · Mark Scott · Alexandra Bachelier · Jamar · Jazmin Lowery · Gil Sinuet · Tenia Taylor · Natalie Burge · Rodesia Eaves · Brad Estrin · Adriel Herrera · Justinn Waddell
American Idol
Seasons
1  · 2  · 3  · 4 · 5  · 6  · 7  · 8  · 9  · 10  · 11 · 12 · 13 · 14 · 15 · 16 · 17 · 18 · 19
Judges
Simon Cowell (Seasons 1-9)  · Paula Abdul (Seasons 1-8) · Randy Jackson (Seasons 1-12) · Kara DioGuardi (Seasons 8-9) · Ellen DeGeneres (Season 9) · Steven Tyler (Seasons 10-11)  · Nicki Minaj (Season 12)  · Mariah Carey (Season 12) · Jennifer Lopez (Seasons 10-11,13-15)  · Keith Urban (Seasons 12-15)  · Harry Connick, Jr. (Seasons 13-15)  · Katy Perry (Seasons 16-)  · Luke Bryan (Seasons 16-)  · Lionel Richie (Seasons 16-)
Hosts
Ryan Seacrest (Seasons 1-16) · Brian Dunkleman (Season 1)
Winners
Kelly Clarkson · Ruben Studdard · Fantasia Barrino · Carrie Underwood · Taylor Hicks · Jordin Sparks · David Cook · Kris Allen · Lee DeWyze · Scotty McCreery · Phillip Phillips · Candice Glover · Caleb Johnson · Nick Fradiani · Trent Harmon · Maddie Poppe · Laine Hardy · Just Sam
Runners-up
Justin Guarini · Clay Aiken · Diana DeGarmo · Bo Bice · Katharine McPhee · Blake Lewis · David Archuleta · Adam Lambert · Crystal Bowersox · Lauren Alaina · Jessica Sanchez · Kree Harrison · Jena Irene · Clark Beckham · La'Porsha Renae · Caleb Lee Hutchinson · Alejandro Aranda · Arthur Gunn
Coronation Songs
"A Moment Like This" · "Flying Without Wings" · "I Believe" · "Inside Your Heaven" · "Do I Make You Proud" · "This Is My Now" · "The Time of My Life" · "No Boundaries" · "Beautiful Day" · "I Love You This Big" · "Home" · "I Am Beautiful" · "As Long As You Love Me" · "Beautiful Life" · "Falling" · "Going Going Gone" · "Flame"
Spin-offs
From Justin to Kelly · Juniors · Christmas
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