‘Australian Idol’ turns 20: A look back on the show’s biggest stars

It has now been 20 years since Guy Sebastian was crowned the winner of the debut season of Australian Idol in 2003.

When the now-beloved crooner first took to the stage with his audition cover of Stevie Wonder, he couldn’t have known the impact that Idol would have on the Australian music landscape — nor could he have predicted the fellow stars it would spawn. 

Now counting himself among some of Idol’s most successful alumni, Sebastian is only part of the story. Across its eight-season run and decades-long mainstay on the airwaves, Idol has played host to bonafide music royalty, birthed countless chart-toppers, and launched a new generation of music exports who still feature in our collective memories (and playlists) to this day. 

Guy Sebastian
Credit: Wolter Peeters

So enriched is the reality competition in our zeitgeist that Spotify has today (November 20) unveiled its official list of the most-streamed Australian Idol contestants, with a smattering of household names making the cut.

Spanning Matt Corby to Shannon Noll, the playlist is a nostalgia trip that proves these “Idol stars are still a regular part of the nation and the world’s music listening habits,” Spotify Australia Head of Music Alicia ​​Sbrugnera said. 

So as Australian Idol marks 20 years in the nation’s imagination, we’re sifting through the competition’s most streamed contestants on Spotify Australia.

Guy Sebastian

It might come as little surprise that Australian Idol’s first winner is also the competition’s most-streamed artist locally.

Amassing some 275 million streams between 2008 – 2023, Guy Sebastian is now synonymous with the Idol era, and earned much of his streaming traction from his 2019 smash hit, Choir. 

Matt Corby

Now with an illustrious career encompassing three albums, countless accolades and production credits on some of Australia’s biggest releases, the public might’ve forgotten thatMatt Corby first got his start on Australian Idol.

Placing second in the 2007 season, Corby has since made a spotlight all his own, placing second (again) with 224 million local Spotify streams. 

Jessica Mauboy

Who could forget Jessica Mauboy’s illustrious run on Australian Idol’s fourth season in 2006?

While she was eventually voted runner up, that didn’t stop the powerhouse vocalist from capturing Australia’s heart, becoming a national treasure, and earning a coveted top three spot on Spotify’s most locally streamed Idol contestants.

Mauboy’s most-streamed song is 2019’s Little Things. 

Stan Walker

Entering fourth place as one of Idol’s newer sensations, Stan Walker has steadily continued his success in the years since his winning the show’s 17th season in 2009.

His biggest hit, Take It Easy, arrived in 2013, and he’s had plenty of million-strong streaming smashes since then.  

Shannon Noll

In an ironic twist, beloved Aussie hero Shannon Noll might be left questioning, what about me? after placing fifth on Spotify’s most locally streamed Idol artists.

The nation’s collective mouth was left agape when Noll — long thought to take the Idol crown in its first season — was seemingly robbed of the top spot by Sebastian. Not to worry, Noll still boasts some 18 million streams for What About Me? 

Lisa Mitchell

Lisa Mitchell placed sixth during her run on Idol’s 2004 season, losing out to Mauboy and Damien Leith but eventually carving her own sonic trajectory.

Since then, Mitchell has released four studio albums, received five ARIA nominations, and earned her top six spot among Idol’s most-streamed contestants. 

Casey Barnes 

Though his recent successes include an ARIA Award win for Best Country Album in 2022, Casey Barnes started out humbly on the Idol stage 14 years ago.

The country singer placed 11th on the show’s 2009 season, but now sits higher on this list with a respectable seventh-place score among Idol’s most streamed artists. 


Appearing on Idol’s sophomore season, Ricki-Lee faced some fierce competition in the likes of Casey Donovan, Anthony Callea and Courtney Murphy.

Ricki-Lee placed seventh in that 2004 edition, but she’s since enjoyed an illustrious career in television and radio. The singer cracks the top ten of Idol’s most-streamed artists, with this writer probably contributing to most of that from infinite replays of Can’t Touch It.   


Also an Idol season two alum, Ngaiire cracked the top thirteen of the sophomore instalment, but her career was far from over.

In the decades since, the R&b and future soul artist has released three studio albums, garnered four ARIA nominations, and appeared often on the Australian charts. Ngaiire’s most streamed song, Once, helped her score ninth place among her Idol peers. 

Anthony Callea

Anthony Callea outperformed Coulter and Ngaiire to become Idol’s season two runner-up, and the crooner’s enrapturing voice has remained on our airwaves ever since.

Six studio albums have followed, but Callea’s crowning glory remains his cover of The Prayer, which is the fastest selling Australian single and contributed to his tenth-place score on Spotify’s Idol playlist.