The winner of the seventh season of Fox's American Idol competition, David Cook is a rock-oriented vocalist with a bent toward a commercial post-grunge sound.
Often referred to as "the Battle of the Davids," the 2008 finale of American Idol pitted Cook against 17-year-old wunderkind David Archuleta, who many critics and fans predicted would beat the elder Cook. However, on May 21, 2008, Cook ultimately received 56 percent of the final vote and was crowned the winner. Two weeks later, 11 songs by Cook entered the Billboard Hot 100, an unprecedented feat that nearly doubled the chart's previous record.
David Cook, his eponymously titled full-length major-label debut, was released six months later, featuring collaborations with artists like Chris Cornell, Collective Soul's Ed Roland, and Our Lady Peace's Raine Maida. The album was certified platinum in early 2009, just as the new season of American Idol was starting up. Cook toured for much of the year and began working on material for his second album, This Loud Morning, after the show wrapped up in December. As before, he called upon a number of co-writers for help, working with everyone from Ryan Tedder (who helped write the lead single, "The Last Goodbye") to Johnny Rzeznik. Recording sessions began in June 2010, with the album hitting stores one year later.
This Loud Morning debuted at seven on the Billboard Top 200 but it was the last he made for RCA. Cook parted ways with the label in 2012, resurfacing in 2013 with "Laying Me Low," a single released on Simon Fuller's new XIX Recordings; it peaked at 36 on the Billboard Pop Digital Songs charts. By the time he began working on a full album in 2014, Cook returned to independent status and he wound up releasing Digital Vein on his own Analog Heart Music imprint in September 2015. In early 2016, he returned to where it all started, mentoring a pair of semifinalists (C.J. Johnson and Olivia Rox) on the 15th and final season of American Idol. Cook's second EP, Chromance, was released in 2018, landing in the Billboard 200 and peaking in the Top Five of the U.S. indie chart.
Although not the first contestant to play his own instrument on American Idol, Kris Allen benefitted more than most from the experience, and his coffeehouse singer/songwriter vibe earned him a first place finish in 2009. Pitted against powerhouse vocalist Adam Lambert during the show's finale, Allen emphasized his wide-ranging abilities as a musician, playing piano during a cover of "Ain't No Sunshine" and strumming the guitar for an acoustic take on Kanye West's "Heartless." The instrumental accompaniment paid off, as Allen won the competition on May 20, 2009.
Hailed as the competition's dark horse, Allen slowly amassed a TV following with performances of the Swell Season's "Falling Slowly," Michael Jackson's "Remember the Time," and Donna Summer's "She Works Hard for the Money." Although he shared a room with Adam Lambert throughout the season, Allen proved to be the stylistic opposite of his contender, whose theatrical performances often contrasted with Allen's unassuming demeanor and laid-back, guitar-driven arrangements. Such differences contributed to Allen's first-place victory, and the singer hit the road shortly thereafter on the annual American Idol tour. He also prepped his debut album for release in late 2009, working with songwriters and producers including Eg White, Chris Daughtry, and David Hodges. The album's first single, "Live Like We're Dying," was released in September and peaked at number 89 on the singles charts, followed two months later by Allen's self-titled debut album.
Allen returned in 2012 with his sophomore album, Thank You Camellia. Purportedly named after his house in Los Angeles, the album found Allen working with a handful of producer/songwriters including former Sugarcult singer Tim Pagnotta, Nasri & Adam Messinger, and Boots Ottestad, among others. Included on Camellia was the lead-off single, "The Vision of Love."
Despite the relative success with his first two major-label releases, he parted ways with RCA that year. A holiday EP, Waiting for Christmas, was released at the end of the year and Allen continued to tour through 2013.
In 2014, Allen unveiled his fourth effort, Horizons, which he released on his own Dog Bear Records label. Letting You In arrived in 2016, and was his second consecutive release to debut in the Top 20 on Billboard's Independent chart.