When it comes to American Idol’s top earners, Adam Lambert is the champion, my friends. The Season 8 runner-up, who released his third solo album in June 2015 and famously moonlights as the lead singer of Queen, raked in a pretax income of $10 million last year, according to Forbes’s annual American Idol earners list. It’s a career high, and a Forbes high, for the Original High singer.
Although this isn’t really rebound per se for Lambert, who’s always been one of Idol’s biggest success stories since competing on the show in 2009, it’s still a spectacular feat. This news comes after his very public departure from both RCA Records in 2013 (he left the label due to conflicts over the direction of his third LP; RCA wanted him to record an ‘80s covers compilation) and 19 Management in 2011, along with a new label deal with Warner Bros. in 2015.
Last year, Lambert spoke to Yahoo Music’s Reality Rocks about getting out of his rut after his split with RCA. “I think one of things I realized after [sophomore album] Trespassing was I was a little disappointed with the commercial life of it. I expected it to have more life. I was in a little bit of a rut because I was like, ‘Well, what do I do?’ I was trying to figure out if I wanted to make this album or not. What I realized was, I don’t know how it came into my head, ‘You got to let go of the fear here. You know you’re always going to work.’ I had a conversation with a close friend of mine who kind of shook me and was like, ‘You’re always going to have work. You’re not going to starve. You’re going to be able to put food on your table. You have a talent you can put into a number of different things. Just relax and go for it.’ It was so simple, this idea of not putting so much pressure on everything and not being so hard on myself. I’ve gotten a lot more relaxed.”
Apparently this attitude is working for Lambert.
Forbes only released a top five list this year, which is indicative of Idol’s diminishing power to create and sustain superstars. But the paychecks earned by the rest of this year’s lucky list-makers are nothing to sneeze at. Forbes’s top five is rounded out by the usual Idol A-listers: Kelly Clarkson ($4 million), Scotty McCreery ($4 million), Phillip Phillips ($5 million), Chris Daughtry ($6 million), and Carrie Underwood ($8 million).
In most of these cases, it was touring, not album sales, that brought in the big bucks. Lambert of course had his lucrative Queen stadium gig, while McCreery, Phillips, and Daughtry respectively played 55, 83, and 91 concerts during Forbes’s scoring period of June 2014 through June 2015. (Clarkson would have ranked higher, but she only played three shows during Forbes’s eligibility window.) Underwood is likely to reclaim her top spot on the Forbes list, which she held in 2013 and 2014, next year, since she is about to embark on her Storytellers tour.
American Idol’s farewell season premieres tonight. Will the 15th and final Idol ever come close to the success of Lambert et al? That remains to be seen. In the meantime, check out Yahoo Music’s Reality Rocks two-part interview with Lambert below about his illustrious career.