Tuesday I started my look back at 2016 with Idol Chatter’s picks for the Top 5 post-American Idol videos released in the past year.
Today, that look back continues with my picks for the Top 10 post-American Idol songs from the past year.
Coming tomorrow: The Top 5 albums/EPs. And coming next week: A look at the best from The Voice alumni in 2016.
These picks were by no means easy. The end of American Idol’s 15-year run on FOX drew extra attention to the show’s past contestants in the spring and clearly led to the release of more post-show music.
I’m not ranking the songs; they’re all great. I’ve limited the selections to one song per artist. And the songs must have been released during 2016.
That, for instance, is why you won’t find Kelly Clarkson’s brilliant “Piece for Piece” despite the fact that her performance of the song on American Idol was one of 2016’s most memorable moments.
Besides, “Piece by Piece” made this list a year.
Now, my picks for this year —
“Caught” by Casey Abrams: A wonderful, jazzy, fun song from an EP you might have missed, Casey’s “Tales from the Gingerbread House,” which came out way back in January. The five tracks also feature an always welcome duet with Season 10 friend Haley Reinhart.
“Firestarters” by South Haven: Haven’t heard of South Haven? Well, it’s what happens when Season 14 finalist Maddie Walker, joins forces with Ray Taaffe, Brit Willson and former Voice contestant Nicolette Mare to form a new country-pop girl group. This great introductory single came out in April, followed by a debut album (“Crossing Lines”) in November.
“Nothing At All” by Halo Circus: It was so great to hear from Allison Iraheta again in 2016, this time as frontwoman for her band Halo Circus. This rocker is my favorite track from the band’s debut album, “Bunny,” released in June after several delays. One of the most talented young singers ever to come from Idol, Allison finished fourth in Season 8.
“Ugly” by Fantasia: If you have doubt that the Season 3 winner of Idol can sing absolutely anything, please check out this song from her “A Definition Of …” album. It’s a country song, for crying out loud. And it’s fabulous. Oh, and here’s a bit of trivia: It was co-written by Nicolle Galyon, a former The Voice contestant.
“La La Land” by Jax: One of the year’s best songs landed courtesy of Jax no more than 2016 started. It’s her not totally flattering portrayal of her time on American Idol (she placed third in Season 14). While Jax said she’d “do it all again in a heartbeat,” the Jersey gal also said she felt obligated to share “her truth” about the show. Best of all, the video including cameos from lots of fellow Season 14 contestants, including Daniel Seavey and Rayvon Owen. Better yet, Jax’s debut EP will be out in early 2017.
“Belong” by Pia Toscano: And another of the best post-Idol songs was one of the last released in 2016, the title track from Pia’s surprise EP that landed just before Christmas. Pia calls the song an autobiography written with Bryan Ellis “at the most vulnerable and uncertain time of my life,” when she was plagued by self-doubt. Her connection to the lyrics comes through in a fabulous vocal, complete with a vow to overcome that self-doubt.
“Drinking for Two” by Kree Harrison: Kree was runner-up on Season 12 of American Idol, then waited three years to release her solid debut album, “This Old Thing,” in July. She co-wrote this wonderful heartbreak song with Benjy Davis and Mike Walker. Drinking songs are a bit of a cliche in country music, but who cares when they sound like this?
“My Little Prayer” by David Archuleta: The Season 7 runner-up had been quiet musically since returning from a mission trip to Chile. Until this fall when he’s released a pair of singles, “Numb” and this absolutely fantastic Christian single. It’s one of the most lovely and heartfelt songs from David since his Idol run eight years ago.
“Innocence” by Jena Irene Asciutto: The best new song from Jena Irene’s debut EP is one she wrote about losing her virginity to a guy who turned out to be a jerk. In the video for the song, she takes a baseball bat to the guy’s car, Carrie Underwood “Before He Cheats” style. “Girls can have their fantasy revenge too,” she wrote on Facebook. Jena finished second on Season 13 of Idol.
“Automatic” by Castro: The best song on the very fine debut EP from Casto, which includes Jason (4th on Season 7 of Idol), brother Michael (a contestant on Seasons 8 & 9) and younger sister Jackie. Dang, does she sound great on the opening to this song? Then the very familiar voice of Jason cuts in on verse number two. Here’s hoping the trio continue making music together. I haven’t ranked these songs, but this is my absolute favorite from 2016.