Confession: After 11 seasons, The Voice sometimes becomes tiresome.
But I never grow tired of meeting the new artists featured on The Voice.
And I’m convinced the real magic happens when those artists leave the show and release new original music.
That was certainly the case in 2016, and this week I’m highlighting my favorite post-show music from the year just completed.
Yesterday, I presented my picks for Top 5 post-Voice music videos from 2016. Tomorrow, I’ll present my favorite albums.
Today, the focus is on individual songs, and I’ve selected 20 to highlight, all of which you can listen to on the Spotify playlist at right. (Be aware, there are explicit lyrics here and there.)
Think 20 songs isn’t a very selective list?
Think again. I could have easily made this list four times as long and still not included all of the post-Voice songs I’ve enjoyed discovering in the past year. Some artists I listen to regularly failed to make this list.
Fortunately, I got to highlight a couple of those yesterday and will get to do the same with a couple more tomorrow.
My hope is that this list will alert you to some artists with new music you might have missed in 2016 and prompt you to check out more. There’s certainly plenty of new music out there to keep your ears busy. By my count, former Voice contestants released more than 700 songs in 2016.
Now, my favorites … and if you’ve got a favorite that didn’t make this list, feel free to comment below.
A great year for country …
“Killing Me” by The Swon Brothers: Did Zach and Colton have a good 2016? Well, let’s see. They toured with Carrie Underwood. And they released a fine “Timeless” EP featuring six songs they co-wrote after having just one writing credit on their debut album. This is my favorite of four fine “girl-you’re-special” songs. Wonder if any were inspired by fellow Season 4 contestant Caroline Glaser, who released her own fine music in 2016?
“The Devil Leads” by 2Steel Girls: The fun “Red, White & Blue Girls” was the title track and single from the fine four-track EP Allison Steel and daughter Crystal released in June. But this clever ballad is the track that immediately caught my attention. Wow, don’t they sound great together? The 2Steel Girls were on Season 3 of The Voice.
“Jimmy Choos” by South Haven: Speaking of clever, there’s this addictive slice of country-pop courtesy of a gal group I’m hoping gets a real shot at the big time in Nashville. South Haven includes Brit Willson, Ray Taaffe, former Idol finalist Maddie Walker and Nicolette Mare from Season 8 of The Voice. And this song is my favorite from the debut album (“Crossing Lines”) that they released in November.
“Red Wine” by Teresa Guidry: I have a soft spot for contestants who devote time to The Voice, then get absolutely no screen time. Especially when those singers turn around and release original music that proves the show got it wrong. That’s certainly the case with Teresa, who released a great six-track, self-titled EP in September. “Just Doing Me” and “The Last Time” are also tracks you need to check out. We met Teresa — well, not really — on Season 10.
“Truth or Dare” by Justin Whisnant and Cold Water County: Unfortunately for Justin, he bowed out of Season 10 in the live playoffs, sooner than I expected. The silver lining in that outcome is that it probably led to an earlier release of the excellent EP he was working on with Cold Water County before The Voice came calling. This is a fabulous country rocker. Also be sure to check out “Sippin’ on Shine” and “Whiskey.”
Hearts on their sleeves …
“I Hate That Part” by Caroline Glaser: Caroline arrived on Season 4 of The Voice with little experience, but has been busy since, releasing three EPs before dropping her first full-length album, self-titled, in June. She’s got a great, distinctive voice and never sounded better than on this autobiographical sounding tune about missing her family as she pursues a career in music.
“Gravity” by Javier Colon: Need a reminder of why Javier won the very first season of The Voice? He delivers one with the plaintive vocal on this song about disappointing his lady love. It comes from his early-2016 album by the same name. “Giant,” “Clear the Air” and “Walking Blind” are other tracks you should find time to check out from that 13-track album. Javier covers “Hallelujah,” too.
“Only You” by Jeffery Austin: The fourth-place finisher from Season 9 released just one song in 2016 — this single that came out in October. If this is an example of the music we’re going to get from Jeffery post-Voice, we need more, much more, as soon as possible. Remember, this is a guy who hadn’t given a major performance in more than six years before his Voice audition aired.
“Unraveled” by Ellie Lawrence: I’m a sucker for raw emotion in a performance, and you don’t get rawer than this fabulous vocal from Ellie. The song comes from her debut “If You Knew Me” EP. Ellie says the song is “about giving 100 percent of yourself to someone who doesn’t appreciate or deserve you.” She also said it was the first recorded for the EP and the “most difficult to get through.” Ellie was Top 24 on Season 9 of The Voice.
Undeniable hooks …
“No Such Thing” by Owen Danoff: You just knew Owen was going to deliver some great singer-songwriter music after his Top 11finish on Season 10 of The Voice. And he wasted no time doing it, serving up his six-track “Love on Your Side” EP just four months after Season 10 ended. This is my favorite original Owen’s released yet, and he put out an album and an EP before appearing on the show.
“The Wish We Made” by Michelle Chamuel: I fell in love with this addictive electro-pop song the first time I heard it. It comes courtesy of Season 4’s runner-up with a nice vocal assist from Christopher Norman. The song is featured on a six-track “Feel It” EP that Michelle released independently back in April.
“Bones” by Matt McAndrew: The Season 7 runner-up is one of several very talented artists to discover a post-Voice record deal isn’t necessarily musical utopia. So he turned to fans to help finance a post-show EP that includes this marvelous single. Other tracks you shouldn’t miss from “Rush In Slowly” — “Carried Away” and “Hard Day.”
“Not a Fool” by Xenia: This young lady not only has a distinctive voice, but a real knack for catchy pop hooks. I loved her “Window Pain” single from 2015. And this single — released in June — is just as addictive. Xenia, just 16 when she made it to the Top 8 on Season 1, also released her second EP in 2016. She named it “Artemisa,” after her grandmother.
“You Don’t Know Me” by Sam James: Who? I was asking the same thing, especially after listening to the absolutely brilliant EP (“It Never Happens”) that he released in late-September. Sam was 25 when he landed a spot on Team Adam in Season 3 after failing to turn a chair the year before. He admits on his website that it took him a while to quit imitating his idols and find his own voice. I’d say he found it.
Yep, The Voice women rock!
“Born to Drive” by Angie Keilhauer: Before focusing on music full time, Angie worked at a Mustang-only salvage yard and befriended a co-worker who had “a crazy passion” for driving cars that matched her passion for music. She combined their stories for this fun song, one of the highlights from the “Wild” album she released in September. Also check out her excellent ballad, “The Greatest Thing.”
“Drown in You” by Queen Hilma: Remember Andi and Alex from Season 9? They changed their stage name to Queen Hilma in 2016. The name choice was a tribute to their late grandmother. The name change was designed to focus fans on their original music. “We want them to see us as creative artists, and not just two girls who could sing pretty on TV,” Andi explained. A fine debut EP helps, and this is the standout track.
“Say Hello” by Juliet Simms: I’m still baffled as to how Juliet didn’t win Season 2 of The Voice. I mean, passion and energy oozes from everything this woman sings. That’s certainly true of her eight-track “From the Grave” album, released in July. This is the best rocker among a great collection of songs that were searching for a home, hence the album’s title.
“Ride Ride” by Chevonne and the Fuzz: I haven’t ranked these, but this take on the Little Red Riding Hood story would be my pick for the most flat-out fun song of 2016. It’s also the one I’ve listened to most often. Chevonne was a contestant on Season 3. Then she joined the Fuzz and the fun started. This song comes from their high-energy second album; there’s also a song called “The Higher the Hair (the Closer to Heaven).” Chevonne’s husband, Chris Ricci, is the guy playing the big bad wolf.
Reasons to look forward to 2017
“Three Days” by Luke Wade: This soulful tribute to a woman who’s got Luke thinking “one woman is more than enough” is the lead single from his upcoming album. It’s one of three songs Luke has leaked from his “Only Ghosts” album, which is available for pre-order on iTunes and will be released Jan. 13. Luke was Top 8 on Season 7 of The Voice.
“Insecure” by RaeLynn: I’m loving the new, more mature music RaeLynn has released from her upcoming album with Warner Nashville. Four songs are out so far from “WildHorse” (due in June), and this upbeat tune is my favorite. Oh, and special kudos to Nicolle Galyon. RaeLynn and Nicolle were on Season 2. RaeLynn’s obviously the better known singer and performer. But Nicolle’s name keeps popping up as a songwriter on all of my favorite country songs, including some of Miranda Lambert’s best.