American Idol is over — shhhh! don’t tell my heart! — and The Voice doesn’t exactly trumpet the post-show output of its alumni. So what’s a reality-singing competition junkie supposed to do to discover new tunes from the shows’ most-talented artists?
Welcome to TV on the Radio, TVLine’s brand new roundup of current and kick-awesome tracks from singers who got their careers underway beneath the unwavering scrutiny of the TV cameras.
I’m in an old-school kinda mood, so for this edition, let’s stay inside The Concert Hall That Kelly Clarkson Built and limit the list to Idol grads. Sound good? Of course it does — as soon as you start pressing PLAY!
KRIS ALLEN, “WAVES” (ABOVE)
American Idol‘s Season 8 champ looks and sounds great in any color, but the moody, blue-hued video for his new single “Waves” (from the excellent album Letting You In) is an especially nice accompaniment to a sweeping, Tedder-esque track about powerful romantic love. Make sure you’re next to the fainting couch when Kris hits those falsetto notes!
HALEY REINHART, “BETTER”
Season 10’s third-place finisher follows up the breakout success of her Extra Gum ad — yep, her rendition of “Can’t Help Falling in Love” cracked the Yop 20 of Billboard’s AC chart — with the bangin’ title track from her sophomore set. The Slayer’s husky growl explodes on a retro, horn-infused chorus in which she gets her groove back by giving the kiss-off to a do-wrong lover. Spoiler alert: You’re unlikely to find anything better coming to radio anytime soon. Programmers, recognize!
Wait, did the Season 3 champ just go… country? Oh, you know she did… and she proves absolutely transcendent in the genre, you probably won’t be surprised to hear. It helps that “Ugly” gives Fantasia the ear-wormiest hook of her entire post-Idol career — and when she takes it to church and the chorus kicks in in the back half, I defy you not to throw a Gospel hand in the air.
PIA TOSCANO, “YOU’LL BE KING”
I won’t lie: I let out an excited expletive as Pia’s voice crumbled at the end of the first chorus of this sparse, piano-driven ballad. Almost crushing in its intimacy, this tale of a love gone wrong allows the ninth-place finisher from Season 10 to prove that her ouster was grossly premature, and move one step closer to fulfilling her destiny as a rightful diva in a chart filled with too many pretenders.
DAVID COOK, “BROKEN WINDOWS”
You’ll recognize the Season 7 champ’s gritty rock vocals from the first note — and this track from Cook’s Digital Vein CD percolates nicely with a pretty, gritty chorus and a very cool staccato bridge.
KREE HARRISON, “THIS OLD THING”
We’ve waited a long time for music from the Season 12 runner-up, and this soulful, uptempo jam — complete with Memphis-y horns and a shuffling beat — puts Kree’s distinctive, supple tone at front and center (right where it should be).
JESSICA MEUSE, “RIO GRANDE”
OK, this ditty is a few months old, but this country travelogue about a can’t-quit-you kind of relationship has a sweeping chorus that — just like the love Jessica is singing about – is bigger than Texas.
JENA IRENE ASCIUTTO, “INNOCENCE”
The Season 13 runner-up — who strangely, wasn’t part of the series finale earlier this month — comes out guns blazing with a wickedly crescendoing track (and dramatic video) about one naive girl’s broken heart.
THE KNUCKLES, “LOVE POTION” (NSFW)
Longtime readers of my Idol coverage know I’m almost unhealthily obsessed with Season 4 semifinalist Aloha Mischeaux (who later changed the spelling to Mi’Sho). But this dreamy, drumline-infused jam from her new duo The Knuckles — a hybrid of jazz and hip-hop and something otherworldly — proves maybe I’ve been onto something for the last decade.
Your turn. What do you think of the aforementioned tracks? Which Idol and Voice alum are blowing up your speakers? Sound off below!