As I’ve made very clear numerous times this has not been a vintage year for American Idol (see my Fallen Idol piece)

Whereas in years past I was excited for the likes of Kris Allen, David Cook, Brooke White and of course Adam Lambert, the most I can muster this year is a small cheer for Crystal Bowersox – and maybe Lee Dewyze (as for Casey James – well the dude is lucky he even made the Top 12 as far as I’m concerned).

But though this may be Idol’s ‘Season of Suck’ – let’s not forget the many good (and sometimes even great) artists Idol has discovered over the years. Here’s my top 10 countdown of the best singles ever released by American Idol alumni…

10) FANTASIA – EVEN ANGELS

For me Fantasia is probably the biggest Idol ‘disappointment’ to date. On the show itself Fan was stunningly good – I think most people would rank her ‘Summertime’ as probably the show’s greatest performance ever. But while many of us expected Fantasia to be the second coming of Tina Turner she’s not really released a defining or breakout song – yet.

I mean who on earth picked stinkers like ‘Hoodboy’ or Baby Mama’ – tracks that completely alienate the Idol audience and are just nasty, L’il Kim cast offs. Thankfully there are signs Fantasia is trying to turn her track record around – witness ‘Even Angels’, an upcoming cut from Fan’s next album. Finally here’s a glimmer of what could be…

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9) CARRIE UNDERWOOD – SO SMALL

This was a tricky call! A big part of me thinks ‘Before He Cheats’ has to make an Idol Top Ten list – but as much as I love the song – it’s just been played so much now that it’s gone into Shania Twain ‘Man I Feel Like A Woman’ karaoke territory. So instead I’m opting for ‘So Small’, a slightly overlooked song with a great message that proves that balladry doesn’t have to equal boring.

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8- BLAKE LEWIS – SAD SONG

Poor Blake Lewis. By rights he should be enjoying Adam Lambert style accolades by now, since he was among the first Idols to really mix up and experiment with song arrangements on the show (witness his superb take on ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’). But Blake’s post Idol career has been fairly poor from a sales point of view – which is a real shame as ‘Break Anotha’ was a good first single (despite it’s truly awful student budget video), and ‘Sad Song’, the first track from Lewis’s second album is better than the majority of output from the likes of Daughtry, Ruben and David Cook (sorry guys). Blake sounds so much like Erasure lead singer, Andy Bell, it’s uncanny and I love that he’s pursued his own, unique musical path and sound. By rights this should have been a top 10 song… but don’t count Blake out quite yet…

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7) JENNIFER HUDSON – IF THIS ISN’T LOVE

Like Fantasia, J Hud hasn’t quite found her musical path yet – but both ‘If This Isn’t Love’ and ‘Spotlight’ were good singles, and a tantalizing taste of what could follow down the line (remember Kelly Clarkson didn’t really find her form until the second album). This was a mid-size hit, very Toni Braxton like to me, but I wish they’d been more imaginative with the video (a note many Idol alumni should take note off – seriously who’s directing these things and why are they always so bland?)

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6) DAVID COOK – PERMANENT

Less of a single, and more a charity release, Permanent is undoubtedly David Cook’s best track to date (though I do quite like ‘Light On’ too). Written about his late brother’s battle with brain cancer the song is minimal, wrenching and plain tragic. Knowing the back-story behind the song just makes the lyrics more heartbreaking.

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5) ADAM LAMBERT – WHATAYA WANT FROM ME

Well there had to be one Adam Lambert song in here – and it certainly wasn’t going to be ‘For Your Entertainment’! I’m definitely a Lambert fan, as much for what he represents as the music itself – the music industry in 2010 desperately needs an out and successful mainstream singer.

Adam’s album is a surprisingly consistent affair for a first release and I could have gone with the Justin Hawkins penned ‘Music Again’ or next single ‘If I Had You’ – but for now I’m picking ‘Whataya Want From Me’ – simply because it’s so accessible, so darn catchy and even after months on the charts hasn’t become annoying yet (one of the reasons I left Kris Allen’s ‘Live Like We’re Dying’ off the list!)

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4) DAVID ARCHULETA – CRUSH

I’m surprising myself with this one! I had an irrational dislike of David Archuleta in Season 7 (I was thrilled when David Cook triumphed) – and expected him to disappear into post Idol obscurity. But then Archie went ahead and released one of the catchiest Idol tracks ever – a slice of pure pop goodness that deservedly became a chart smash.  The video is another generic Idol affair – close ups, pretty people, bland, bland, bland – and the single cover made Archuleta look pained – but who cares! Nothing David’s done since has been in this league – and since he’s now releasing Christmas albums, this may become his one and only hit – but what a song to go out on!

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3) KELLY CLARKSON – BREAKAWAY

Of course there had to be a Kelly Clarkson track on this list – but which one to choose? Of all the Idols so far, Kelly has undeniably racked up the strongest track list and is hands down the biggest star (please don’t tell me Carrie is bigger – in America maybe – but she does zero business overseas).

I could have chosen ‘Since U Been Gone’ (but I’ve just heard it too many times now), ‘Because of You’ (love it – but prefer the duet version with Reba McEntire), ‘My Life Would Suck Without You’ (but I think Kelly mangles half the lyrics) and even ‘A Moment Like This’ (an underrated single that’s an easy target for Idol haters). But for personal reasons I’m going with ‘Breakaway’ – the ultimate song for anyone who’s ever dreamed of changing their life and escaping their small town past. It’s Kelly’s story in a nutshell and the perfect encapsulation of the Idol dream. But boy I wish the video wasn’t plugging the Princess Diaries 2 – what a way to kill a great song!

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2) KATHERINE MCPHEE – OVER IT

Chances are, Katherine McPhee is likely going to be a bigger and better actress than a pop star. But for one brief moment in 2007 there was potential for Kat to become a real musical force. ‘Over It’ did lukewarm chart business – and Katherine herself bizarrely distanced herself from the song – but for me it’s right up there with the best of the best. That chorus is amazing, and never gets boring and though the video is as typically bland as her Idol cohorts (what is this – a hair care commercial?) this is one little gem worth adding to your Itunes playlist!

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1) JORDIN SPARKS – BATTLEFIELD

Let’s be honest Jordin Sparks is not the biggest personality to emerge from the Idol stage. She seems very sweet, but completely pliable as an artist, with little sense of who she is or what her sound should be. But who needs musical maturity to have hits (exhibit A: Britney Spears).

‘Battlefield’ is the perfect example of what happens when you pair a great songwriter (One Republic’s Ryan Tedder) with a big voice. It’s ridiculously over the top, bombastic and over-produced and I love it! How many songs have not just one great hook – but two – witness the trademark chorus that then spins off into the absurd but delightful ‘you better go get your armor!’. There were so many creative possibilities for the music video but once again the record company played it safe and I think shot themselves in the foot. A Lady Gaga like video clip could have made this number one across the world. But at least we’ll always have the song…. I’ve listened to this single over and over and it never gets boring. So for now – ‘Battlefield’ gets my top spot…

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Well that’s my countdown of the ten best Idol singles to date. Do you agree? Which do you love – and loathe? Which tracks do you think should go on the list…. Fire away (while I go ‘get my armor!’). Looking forward to reading all your comments and getting the debate started!