I started this series with my picks for the Top 5 videos of 2015 by former contestants from The Voice.
Yesterday, I presented my choices for the Top 5 albums/EPs from the past year.
Today? The toughest list of all: my selections for the Top 15 songs released in 2015 by former contestants.
Folks, this list could easily be four times as long and I’d still have lot of quality tunes left over. Former contestants released that many great songs since last December. And an incredibly wide array of music at that.
On with my list …
15. Dawn and Hawks, “Life is a Good Song”
What a great, feel-good tune to start off the Top 15. This comes from Dawn and Hawkes’ fine “Yours and Mine” album released in October and is far from the only great track. Miranda Dawn and Chris Hawkes made a splash on The Voice when their Season 6 blind audition cover of The Beatles “I’ve Just Seen a Face” became an iTunes hit.
14. Angela Wolff, “Honeybee”
Talk about pleasant surprises. Angela hadn’t released new music since appearing on Season 1 of The Voice and being bumped in the battle round when she ran into eventual winner Javier Colon. In October, the former lead singer for Dirty Pollyanna released a great five-track “Surrender and Release” EP, sounding better than ever, with this love song as the standout track.
13. Vicci Martinez, “Best Dress”
Remember Vicci Martinez, a finalist on Season 1? She released her second post-show album in May, the 10-track “I am Vicci Martinez.” And she certainly found the pop sweet spot with this song. I find myself singing along every time I listen. She was invited back to The Voice to perform “Bad News Breaker” from the same album. The Voice should do that — invite back past contestants — much more often.
12. Nelly’s Echo, “Voices of America”
Performing as Nelly’s Echo, Nelson Emokpae has two albums and two EPs to his credit. This uplifting song came from his latest EP, “Voices,” released in May. Remember the violence that erupted in Baltimore last April after Freddie Gray died from injuries while in police custody? Nelly put together a video of positive images from the streets of Baltimore, backed by this tune, as a message of hope. He was a Season 3 contestant on The Voice.
11. Jonny Gray, “DMFD” (lyric warning)
Enjoy those uplifting songs? Well, this one is far bleaker, but a great song nonetheless. It comes from the Season 5 contestant’s “Promises Broke” album, released in June. A former member of the military, Jonny said the song was inspired by a story he heard while serving in the Middle East back in 2004. Please note the explicit lyric warning.
10. Taylor John Williams, “Song of a Dead Man”
Next up, another singer-songwriter number, this one courtesy of the guy who finished fifth on Season 7 of The Voice. It comes from Taylor John’s five-track EP of the same name, released in August. And it comes complete with tributes to Johnny Cash and Jeff Buckley.
9. Judith Hill, “Beautiful Life”
But it is a “Beautiful Life.” Just ask Judith Hill. She worked with Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson pre-Voice. A Top 8 finisher in Season 4, she got to work on her post-show album with none other than Prince. This is the best song from “Back in Time,” released in October. And a sensational vocal, of course.
8. Luke Wade, “As Long as She Knows”
Take a touch of country, a touch of soul, add Luke’s passionate vocals and this is the result: a fine single released back in April. A Season 7 standout on The Voice, Luke also released a cover of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” with Mia Z this year and will be delivering an EP of new music early in 2016.
7. Cassadee Pope, “I am Invincible”
With all those Team Blake graduates, there was no shortage of new country music in 2015. This is my absolute favorite, a message of female empowerment and anti-bullying from Season 3’s winner. How was this not a huge country hit? Cassadee said she got inspiration from her mom, who she says “was a force to be reckoned with” after her parents divorced as she was growing up.
6. Ddendyl, “Kicking and Screaming”
My favorite kiss-off song of 2015. Ddendyl was introduced to us as a lounge singer from Washington, D.C., during the Season 6 blind auditions. In truth, she grew up in a small farming community in New York, which provides the setting for most of her videos, including the one for this song. It’s from a superb “Lonely Heart” EP she released in May.
5. Secret Someones, “Headfirst”
Talk about pure ear candy. The Secret Someones hit the mark with this tune from their self-titled debut album, which came out in October. Shortly after her way-too-short Season 3 run on The Voice, Lelia Broussard joined with fellow singer-songwriters Bess Rogers and Hannah Winkler and percussionist Zach Jones to form Secret Someones. This is just one of the standout songs from their debut album.
4. Meghan Linsey, “Best of Me”
Meghan enjoyed country stardom as part of the duo Steel Magnolia. She hit The Voice stage wanting to return to her soul roots. After finishing second to Sawyer Fredericks in Season 8, it took her all of two months to release a splendid EP called “Believer.” She sure poured out her vocal soul on this song, which she called “very personal” and the hardest to write.
3. Sawyer Fredericks (with Mia Z.), “Stranger”
The Voice’s Season 8 winner released long-awaited new music in November, a four-track EP. This wasn’t the lead single, but it sure should have been. Sawyer gets a huge vocal assist from fellow Season 8 teen standout Mia Z. I sure hope it isn’t the last time they share a microphone. A full-length Sawyer album is coming in 2016. Can’t wait.
2. Tony Lucca, “Delilah”
The Season 2 finalist is one of the most prolific former Voice contestants. Heck, he released a pair of albums in 2015 alone. This haunting rocker was the lead single from a self-titled album he released in January. And my favorite Tony Lucca song yet, though I’m sure there will be a lot more to come. Oh, the other 2015 album was “Made to Shine” and hit iTunes last month.
1. Kat Robichaud, “Why Do You Love Me Now”
Love this song. Love the vocal. I mean, what an impassioned finish. Oh, the stray cat imaginary is pretty great, too. What’s greater? The fact that Kat released a brilliant album in January filled with songs you need to hear. Kat says the premise for this song was the acceptance she found on The Voice after years of struggling to be heard.