Last Friday, Melanie Martinez released her debut album Cry Baby on Atlantic Records. This album is a long time coming, as she came to national prominence in 2012 on Team Adam. To celebrate her success, this playlist will shed a light on Martinez and artists like her who reached prominence on reality singing competitions. It is important to note that no one from American Idol appears on this playlist, because that show has produced so many successful alumni that that would merit its own playlist (and probably will when the show returns for its final season in January.)
Dollhouse – Melanie Martinez – The title track of Martinez’ EP is a perfect introduction to Martinez as an artist. It is creepy, dark, and tells a good story that is both specific and relatable. This song sets a good tone for the rest of the album and fulfills the artistic promise she showed as a contestant on The Voice.
Miss Movin’ On – Fifth Harmony – Fifth Harmony has achieved such an outstanding level of success that it is easy to forget that they were second runners-up on the second season of The X Factor U.S.A. This single was their first as a group and it slowly but surely brought them to national prominence. The single was followed by an EP and then by successful singles like the name-dropping “BO$$.”, the Meghan Trainor written “Sledgehammer” and their current smash hit “Worth It”. The sky is the limit for this group as they wrap up their headlining tour on September 15.
I Am Invincible – Cassadee Pope – This former Hey Monday frontwoman released a solo EP but still didn’t really break through as a solo artist until she won Season 3 of The Voice for Team Blake. The Florida-born singer shocked some of her Hey Monday fans by returning to her country roots and winning the competition singing songs by Faith Hill and Blake Shelton’s wife Miranda Lambert (sorry, ex-wife, we’re not over it yet). This song, released as the theme for this year’s Special Olympics, shows how strong Pope’s voice is and how well it fits into a more pop/rock driven country sound.
Hurricane – Dillon Francis and Lily Elise – It has been a long time coming for Lily Elise. She was on Team Christina in the debut season of The Voice, most notably beating Cherie Oakley on the show, who co-wrote “Turn On the Radio” for Reba McEntire before being eliminated in the Top 16. There were concerns at the time that she did not really know who she was as an artist, and time has certainly been good to her on that front. She has re-emerged as a dark, indie-pop singer/songwriter extraordinaire with singles like “Taken” and “Generator” generating serious attention (sorry, couldn’t help the generator pun). This turn as a vocalist on Dillon Francis’ album Money Sucks, Friends Rule could be the push she needs to reach a level of prominence.
End of Time – Beyonce – Yes, Beyonce was on Star Search back when Destiny’s Child was still called Girl’s Tyme, but so did a ton of other artists we all know and love. This song in particular is about Todrick Hall, who was a contestant on American Idol in Season 9 before making viral videos including a flash mob at Target choreographed to this song. His reality show, Todrick, will debut on MTV on August 31, and if it is anything like his other work on YouTube, it will be outrageously entertaining.
Aha! – Pentatonix – On the a cappella competition The Sing-off, usually at least half of the competing groups were college a cappella groups. Sometimes there would be a professional group that would do reasonably well, but for the first two years the winners were college groups. Enter Pentatonix, an a cappella quintet that only sang together for the first time at their audition. They won fans and impressed the judges by singing electronic influenced songs like Katy Perry’s “E.T.”, as that style is usually challenging to a cappella groups. They have since changed the face of contemporary a cappella, winning The Sing-off and earning millions of fans thanks to their hugely popular YouTube videos. Years after The Sing-off has left the air (kind of), Pentatonix are now signed to RCA, sold over a million copies of their Christmas EP That’s Christmas To Me, and are opening for Kelly Clarkson on her Piece By Piece Tour after selling out clubs all over the world. This Imogen Heap cover, from their first EP, is everything they are all about: making a cappella as exciting and interesting as regular pop music.
Crystallize – Lindsey Stirling – Speaking of reality TV stars turned YouTube stars turned music stars, Lindsey Stirling has turned the music world upside down. She first appeared as a quarterfinalist on America’s Got Talent, but was frequently criticized for dancing while playing the violin by the judges who thought it was distracting and didn’t know how she could do both well. She proved them wrong with a #2 position for her second album, Shatter Me, a hit radio single for the album’s title track featuring Halestorm’s Lzzy Hale, six million subscribers on YouTube, and an appearance on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in Music: Class of 2015. This song from her eponymous debut album shows how daring Stirling is and she breaks all the rules of genre and style using her prowess on her instrument.
Fire N Gold – Bea Miller – Before releasing her debut album Not an Apology in July and landing the cover of BTS’ second issue, Bea Miller was known as Beatrice and was coached by Britney Spears on the second season of X Factor USA, competing against Fifth Harmony, who were being coached by Simon Cowell and would later include her as an opening act on their headlining tour. Miller only managed to come in ninth place, after singing a procession of serious songs that sounded a bit off sung by the the then-13-year-old. Regardless, Miller was co-signed to Syco Music and Hollywood Records and has had radio hits with her first single, “Young Blood”, as well as this song, her most recent radio smash.
Bitter – Emily West – After a few opportunities singing on a variety of shows including The Celebrity Apprentice and Body of Proof, West finally broke through as a contestant on the ninth season of America’s Got Talent covering artists as diverse as Roy Orbison, Roberta Flack and Sia, with her symphonic Bond-esque cover of Sia’s “Chandelier” going viral. “Bitter” is her first original single and shows off her earthy, passionate voice.
Stop the Bleeding – Sarah Darling – Remember Rising Star? The show where you vote at the same time as someone is singing? No? Oh well. Josh Groban was a good host of that show, but that show had issues. To be fair, the format works in other countries but it just didn’t click here. Another travesty of the show was Sarah Darling’s far-too-early elimination in the second round. This song from one of her independent albums puts her in company with Ashley Monroe as great heartbreak country singers.
Dime Store Cowgirl – Kacey Musgraves – It’s hard to imagine someone with a songwriter’s’ voice as dynamic and unique as Kacey Musgraves succeeding on a talent competition, but imagine it because it’s true. Musgraves appeared on Season 5 of Nashville Star, and shares alumna status with Miranda Lambert, who competed on the show’s first season. She got 7th place on the show, but she has moved past it and into a very successful career as a singer/songwriter/dime store cowgirl. That’s part of why these shows are so great: you never really know what’s going to happen next.