Season 14’s ‘American Idol’ top 24 have been announced, and along with the expected ringers, there are quite a few surprise omissions: Cody Fry, Emily Brooke, and Jaq Mackenzie to name but three. I’m sure they’re feeling pretty rejected, and dejected, right now, as they watch their peers move on to the live ‘Idol’ stage while they pack their bags and Greyhound-bus it back to the small towns from whence they came. But they shouldn’t sulk. They should realize that quite a few talented singers were turned away by ‘Idol’ producers, but went on to bigger and better things. Here are 11.
Lady Antebellum’s famous frontwoman auditioned not once but twice for ‘Idol,’ and never even made it past the preliminary rounds. “I never got to see [the judges]. I literally performed for the production assistants and the interns, and I just didn’t make it,” she later told Entertainment Tonight. No worries. Hillary simply formed Lady Antebellum instead, and went on to win five Grammys in 2011 alone, including Record and Song of the Year. No Idol winner has ever done that.
This plucky songstress also auditioned unsuccessfully for ‘Idol’ twice, and on her second try she even warbled her own original ditty, “Bubbly.” (“I was shy. I was nervous. I didn’t look the greatest. I wasn’t ready for it yet. I was glad, when I auditioned, that they said no,” she explained to USA Today.) Apparently Colbie had reason to be glad. Not only did “Bubbly” eventually become a massive international hit for her, without ‘Idol’s’ help, but it’s since been covered by various other ‘Idol’ hopefuls, like Casey James, Katie Stevens, and Katelyn Epperly. Apparently Colbie wasn’t too bitter to grant the show rights.
The “She Keeps Me Warm” songstress, best known for singing the hook of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’s marriage equality anthem “Same Love,” tried out for ‘Idol’ at age 16 and, according to an interview with Ryan Seacrest, “did not go far at all!” Ironically, she is now dating a singing-show alum: ‘The Voice’ Season 4 runner-up Michelle Chamuel.
The ‘Glee’ diva auditioned for ‘Idol’ at age 17, but she too didn’t even make it past the producers. But obviously, the singer also known as Mercedes Jones made it onto the Fox Network anyway. (And one of her biggest standout solo performances on ‘Glee’ was “And I Am Telling You,” a song famously performed by Idols like Jennifer Hudson and LaKisha Jones.) “You know what? I still work on Fox and I get paid! Thank you, ‘American Idol,'” Amber later gloated to Access Hollywood.
Amber’s fellow Gleek once auditioned for the show in San Francisco, but she was cut in the first round. In an interesting twist of fate, the same song she sang at her ‘Idol’ audition, “Emotion” by the Bee Gees, later landed her a role on ‘Glee.’
Looking back on ‘Idol’s’ lackluster Season 9, it’s hard to believe someone as talented as Tori was cut that year before the top 24 round. The rising singer-songwriter has since built up a passionate following via her YouTube channel (her cover of Frank Ocean’s “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You” has racked up more than 22 million views); she’s now managed by Scooter Braun and signed to Capitol Records; and she has opened for Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith. Not too shabby for a “reject,” huh?
Alex & Sierra
Alex Kinsey and his girlfriend Sierra Deaton auditioned, separately, for ‘American Idol’ Season 12; Alex made it to Hollywood Week before getting cut, while Sierra didn’t even make it past the producers. Less than a year later, they both made it all the way to the winners’ circle, as a duo, on ‘The X Factor USA’ Season 3. They are now signed to Simon Cowell’s Syco label and touring with Andy Grammer.
Mickey Guyton is the bright new hope of Nashville, a breakout country star for 2015. But she was cut right before the live shows of ‘Idol’ Season 8, and she received a particularly brutal edit: The only evidence of her entire run was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it snippet of her sitting in a Green Mile chair, being told “it’s a no.” Clearly, Mickey is ready for her close-up now.
Alan’s first memorable TV appearance was a Season 3 striptease in an effort to seduce the impressionable Paula Abdul. That effort only got him to the top 87, but he went to play Aquaman on the CW’s ‘Smallville’ and Thad Castle on Spike TV’s ‘Blue Mountain State,’ and has also had film roles in ‘The Hunger Games: Catching Fire’ and the 2014 remake of ‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.’
This likable, haystack-haired heartthrob auditioned for Season 7 and reached the top 48; he was cut right before the live shows. Six years later, joined by his younger sibling Zach in the Swon Brothers, he made it to ‘The Voice’ Season 4 finale. The Swon Brothers are now signed to Arista Nashville.
Robyn may be the least-known name on this list, but she made it to the Grammys only a few weeks after her Hollywood Week elimination aired, when she won Yahoo Music’s own “My Grammy Moment” talent search. The grand prize: A chance to duet on the 2006 live awards telecast with none other than Justin Timberlake! (And Jennifer Hudson introduced her!) Since then, Robyn has recorded with Santana and Nas, and she is currently prepping her debut album.