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'American Idol' stocking stuffers: A 2013 albums checklist

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Looking for the perfect stocking stuffer? Something that don't suck (like socks, rock candy, gag gifts, and gift cards to places you'll never shop)? MTV News found -- and posted on Dec. 18 -- a bunch of cool, non-sucking stocking stuffers (like an inflatable Christmas tree and an iPhone-attachable Amplifier Egg), but with only a few more days until Christmas, there's always the perfect fallback stocking stuffer gifts -- CDs, albums, music download gift cards.

Besides money and jewelry, albums makes the best stocking stuffers. Why? Because who doesn't like music? And a hard copy CD is just the right size to fit inside that stocking tacked over the mantle. For all you "American Idol" fans out there, the growing number of alumni dropped a few albums this year that you might have missed or haven't had the chance to pick up just yet, so what better time than Christmas?

David Archuleta, Season 7's runner-up to David Cook, released his sixth album, No Matter How Far, in March. The soon-to-be 23-year-old co-wrote seven of the ten tracks on the compilation (plus one original song), which also featured two songs previously unreleased in the U. S. and songs from his Philippines-only release, Forevermore.

Still, Archuleta wasn't the first "Idol" alum with a new album out in 2013. That honor went to Season 7's Jason Castro, who finished fourth overall that season, when he released Only A Mountain, his third studio album, on Jan. 15. Castro co-wrote all 11 songs on the contemporary Christian album (and the iTunes extended deluxe version, which totaled out to 14 songs).

(An aside: You will notice that many of the former "American Idol" contestants have been very hands-on with their music, writing a good number of the songs on their releases.)

Another contemporary Christian music performer, Season 11 finalist (seventh place) Colton Dixon, scorched the Christian music charts with his first album, A Messenger, which was released two weeks later at the end of January. With a little help from Season 12's Angie Miller, who performed his hit, "Never Gone," on the show, the album and his singles saw longer life on the charts.

(Angie Miller released a Christmas single, "This Christmas Song," she co-wrote in early December on iTunes. She also released "O Holy Night," a rendition of the holiday traditional.)

Crystal Bowersox's sophomore album, All That For This, was released in March, right after it was announced that she would be going to Broadway to play the lead role in "Always, Patsy Cline." She, too, wrote most of the music on her album (nine of the 12 songs by herself, two with a little help). In November, she released a holiday single showing solidarity with the LGBT community, "Coming Out For Christmas."

Season 3 winner Fantasia returned with Grammy-nomination-worthy music in late April, releasing her third studio album, Side Effects of You. Of the 13 tracks, she co-wrote six on the standard release and the two bonus tracks on the deluxe edition.

Season 11 runner-up Jessica Sanchez followed a week later with Me, You & the Music. Sanchez co-wrote five of the 11 songs on the standard version of the collection, seven on the 13-song Philippines edition. The hard-working teen also contributed to the star-studded Typhoon Haiyan relief album in October. All proceeds from the album went to the Red Cross relief efforts.

Lee DeWyze returned to the airwaves in 2013, releasing Frames in August. The Season 9 winner took a Mumford & Sons-style approach to his new music, writing six of the 13 songs on the new album by his lonesome. He co-wrote the other seven.

A week later, on Aug. 27, Season 5 finalist Mandisa (who finished in ninth place) released her fifth studio album, Overcomer. It, too, would be considered Grammy-worthy. And like Colton Dixon, she would enjoy a stint atop the Christian Albums chart. Of the 11 songs on the album, Mandisa co-wrote five. On the deluxe edition, where there are 15 songs, she helped pen another.

Scotty McCreery checked back in with his third album in October. See You Tonight debuted at No. 1 on the Country Albums chart. He promptly won the 2013 American Country Awards Breakthrough Artist award. The album produced his third Top 20 single (of four singles released overall), the title track, one of five songs co-written by the "Idol" alum for the album. (He co-wrote a sixth for the deluxe edition.)

Two weeks later, the first "American Idol" winner, Kelly Clarkson, dropped the perfect stocking stuffer for the "Idol" fan -- her first holiday album, Wrapped In Red, which topped the Holiday Albums chart. She would chalk up another No. 1 single, "Underneath The Tree," the same day the Recording Industry Association of America announced Wrapped In Red had gone platinum (1 million in sales). The achievement would give Clarkson a singular distinction among "American Idol" graduates -- she was the first to see five album titles earn platinum certificates.

Season 5 finalist and "Dancing With The Stars" champ Kelly Pickler released her fourth studio album, The Woman I Am, on Nov. 11. Now on an independent recording label, the seventh placer would top the Independent Albums chart. Pickler co-wrote three of the albums 12 songs.

Eight days later, fellow season 5 finalist, Chris Daughtry, and his band, Daughtry, released their fourth studio collection, Baptized. The album was the band's fourth Top 10 Billboard 200 album, debuting at No. 6 on the all-genres chart, and contains the hit "Waiting For Superman." And who wrote the songs? Chris Daughtry co-wrote all 12 songs on standard and the extra three songs on the deluxe edition as well.

If an even dozen new albums by "American Idol" alumni isn't enough to provide just the right stocking stuffers, there's one more, making the total a baker's dozen. Carrie Underwood's portrayal of Maria Von Trapp in the live NBC Television production of "The Sound of Music" was captured and released, along with songs from the rest of the cast, in early December.

Surely that's enough albums to stuff within a few stockings for Christmas this year. Well, that is, if you're an "American Idol" fan. And if the graduates of the show aren't quite what you're looking for, there's a plethora of albums by current judges Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez, and Harry Connick Jr., not to mention former judges Paula Abdul, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, and Steven Tyler (and Aerosmith).

"American Idol" returns for its thirteenth season in January on Fox Television.

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