15 Amazing ‘American Idol’ Auditions Over the Years (VIDEO)

Kevin Winter & Michael Buckner for Getty Images.

Beginning 17 years ago on Fox, American Idol took the nation by storm, taking viewers on a journey like no other.

From auditions to Hollywood, fans got an up close-and-personal look at the contestants who’re just regular Americans like them, but the first season’s winner proves that one opportunity can turn into a lifetime of success — that’s right, we’re talking about Kelly Clarkson.

Clarkson went from a small-town Texan to undeniable superstar, as did many others through the years, including Carrie Underwood, Katharine McPhee, Adam Lambert, Jennifer Hudson and many more — and man of them didn’t even win their seasons.

Winning didn’t guarantee success, but what all of the contestants did have was pure talent, which viewers got to witness in their first televised auditions in front of the judges — starting with original judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul.

The phenomenon was real, and continued with American Idol‘s first season on ABC in spring 2018. As fans gear up for Season 17 (the second on the Disney-owned network), we thought we’d take a look back at some of the most memorable first impressions of past and (nearly) present. See our roundup below.

Kelly Clarkson

Season 1

Fantasia Barrino

Season 3

Carrie Underwood

Season 4

David Cook

Season 7

Jordin Sparks

Season 6

Katharine McPhee

Season 5

Todrick Hall

Season 9

Adam Lambert

Season 8

Jennifer Hudson

Season 3

Chris Daughtry

Season 5

Lauren Alaina

Season 10

Austin Percario

Season 13

Mackenzie Bourg

Season 15

Catie Turner

Season 16

Zach D’Onofiro

Season 16

American Idol, Season Premiere 17, Sunday, March 3, 8/7c, ABC