"American Idol" is back. Will North Carolina singers be in the spotlight again?

Scotty McCreery talks about his first No.1 Single

McCreery co-wrote “Five More Minutes” as a tribute to his late grandfather. He talks about becoming emotional when singing it during an interview on Monday, February 26, 2018 in Raleigh, N.C.
Up Next
McCreery co-wrote “Five More Minutes” as a tribute to his late grandfather. He talks about becoming emotional when singing it during an interview on Monday, February 26, 2018 in Raleigh, N.C.

“American Idol” returns after a two-year hiatus, this time on a new network.

If you're looking for a gambling angle: Bet on North Carolina.

During the show’s initial 15-season run on Fox, North Carolina produced three winners. High Point’s Fantasia Barrino won in 2004, followed by Garner's Scotty McCreery in 2011 and Asheville’s Caleb Johnson won in 2014.

That’s one more "Idol" winner than Alabama — 2003’s Ruben Studdard and 2006’s Taylor Hicks. No other state has more than a single winner.

“I think North Carolina fits perfectly with the audience that watches ‘Idol,’ and I’m sure a lot of votes come from the state to keep people in,” McCreery said right before the 2016 finale. “I’d also like to think the main reason is that North Carolina has a lot of talented folks coming out.”

Speaking of McCreery, he just snagged his first No. 1 single on the Billboard country chart, "Five More Minutes," and is about to debut his latest album, "Five More Minutes."

North Carolina’s “Idol” dominance is even more impressive when you consider those who didn’t win but went on to solid careers:

Season 2 runner-up Clay Aiken, who later ran for Congress and competed on Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice,” is in fourth place of all-time top “Idol” album sellers — two spots ahead of 2003 winner Studdard.

North Carolina rocker Chris Daughtry performs at Carowinds Paladium. Théoden Janes tjanes@charlotteobserver.com

Season 5's Chris Daughtry finished fourth in 2006 but is third all-time in album sales, well ahead of season-four winner Taylor Hicks.

Season 5's Kellie Pickler finished sixth in 2006 but is eighth all-time in album sales.

In fact, five of the top 11 “American Idol” sellers are from North Carolina: Daughtry, Pickler, Aiken, Fantasia and McCreery.

People Fantasia Barrino
In this April 7, 2016, file photo, Fantasia Barrino performs at the “American Idol” farewell season finale at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles. Matt Sayles Invision/AP

As for the fact that North Carolina has produced 20 percent of “American Idol”’s winners, the statistical likelihood of that is rather small.

“North Carolina has about 3 percent of America’s total population,” said Jim Williams, a polling analyst at Public Policy Polling, in 2016. “So you’d expect it to take 100 seasons of ‘American Idol’ to get three winners from here. Instead, three winners in 15 seasons is 20 percent. North Carolina is producing ‘American Idol’ winners at a rate seven times higher than you’d expect.”

What are the statistical odds of a state with 3 percent of America’s population producing 20 percent of all “Idol” winners? Run the numbers and it comes to less than a 1-in-100 chance – or 0.91 percent, to be precise, statistician Richard L. Smith said in 2016.

Clay Aiken 2003
No one in North Carolina lost more Twitter followers than Clay Aiken, show here during his "American Idol" run in 2003. Chris Carlson

But what does it mean?

“That meets the criterion for the result to be ‘highly significant’ in the language of statistical significance,” said Smith, the former director of the Statistical and Applied Mathematical Sciences Institute. “On the other hand, North Carolina is only one of 50 states, and one could have asked the same question about any of the other states. The probability that at least one state had at least three winners, assuming random outcomes, is about 56 percent, which is not at all a small probability. So from that point of view, the result doesn’t look significant.”

But obviously, long shots do come in.

Thad Ogburn contributed to this report.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer