2017 in Review, After The Voice

Top 20 post-Voice songs of 2017

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Past contestants from The Voice released — now get this — more than 600 original songs in 2017.

This week, I’ll be reviewing what I consider the best of those releases from a year that featured more than 60 post-Voice albums and EPs, more than 150 stand-alone singles and more than 80 music videos.

We’ll start off with my picks for 20 best post-Voice songs from 2017.

Of course, best is a relative term and has a lot to do with musical preferences. At minimum, these are must-hear tracks from a wide array of singers from the show, from winners to one young lady we never got to hear because both of her Voice performances were montaged.

This amazing collection of songs is also one reason I get so frustrated, irritated, sometimes even angry when I turn on a Voice results show and find Charlie Puth, Bebe Rexha, Machine Gun Kelly or Demi Lovato performing on my TV screen.

Take the last three songs on the list. All come from contestants who finished first or second on the show. All were released while Season 13 was airing. Was anyone in Voice land listening?

I mean, if I’m a Voice producer and I hear those songs, I’m on the phone 5 minutes later trying to book the singer for a guest spot on the show. Then I’m pushing them out on stage like a proud parent, proclaiming, “Look — listen — to what they’ve done now.”

Alas, maybe one day. Meanwhile, enjoy the music below. For those who don’t use Spotify, I’ve included iTunes links. And if you think I’ve excluded a must-hear song, feel free to comment and provide your own link below.

And, please note, I’m presenting these in no particular order.

Austin Jenckes of The Voice Season 5Austin Jenckes (Season 5, Top 10) “Same Beer, Different Day”

Hey, hats off to Austin. He took two of the most overused themes in country music — small towns and drinking songs — and combined them into one of the catchiest songs of the year, regardless of genre. Apparently, I’m not the only one who approves. Released in August, the song has been streamed more than 900,000 times on Spotify. Austin told Voice Views he wrote the song in about two hours with buddies JP Williams and Josh London. “To me the song is a hometown/small town song that tells what me and my friends’ lives were like when we would hang around back in our college days.” Austin anticipates a busy 2018. He’ll be releasing an album and touring all over America.

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Gina Zo of The Voice Season 10Gina Zo (Season 10, battle round) — “Grouplove”

I love the sense of wild abandon in this song and this vocal from Gina, who we met as Gina Castanzo on Season 10 of The Voice. Well, sorta met. Both her blind audition and battle round match were montaged. As for this song, Gina told Voice Views she wrote it with her band and that it “started off completely different than how it turned out. It describes a night where I just made a complete fool of myself and how I wished the next few weeks had gone with that person, and instead they actually went the complete opposite.” Gina, a student James Madison University, enjoyed a busy 2017, releasing a pair of albums and four music videos. Oh, and she’s busy preparing songs for album number three.

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Chance Pena (Season 9, Top 24) — “Roll Your Eyes”

Chance was a 15-year-old loaded with potential when he auditioned for Season 9 of The Voice in 2015. This year, he started to realize that potential, releasing four singles so strong I had trouble deciding which to include here. I settled on this one because of the vocal versatility Chance shows on it. The song was written by Chance, Jon Sherwood and Jimi Bell. “The whole concept is pretty simple,” Chance told Voice Views. “We just imagined a scenario where two people are hanging out together and one says something like ‘It’s getting late, we should head home’ and the other person being playful and saying ‘you know you want to stay, don’t roll your eyes’ and then that person being like ‘yeah, you’re right, you know me so well.'” Simple perhaps. But that haunting melody and Chance’s vocal versatility make it work.

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Stephanie Rice of The Voice Season 12Stephanie Rice (Season 12, Top 11) “Let Me Go”

On the show, Stephanie was known for her touching backstory and impassioned vocals. And impassioned is a great way to describe her first post-Voice single. For those who don’t remember the backstory, Stephanie came out as gay to her parents when she was a teen and forced to attend straight counseling. When she refused a second round of counseling, she was abandoned in a community college parking lot. Stephanie, 27 when she auditioned for the show, described “Let Me Go” as “a song that captures the rawness of these scars …I feel like this song is dripping with my tears and blood.” Stephanie told Voice Views she’s been in the studio, hard at work on an album she plans to release this year.

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Karla Davis of The Voice Season 2 and Charles Esten Karla Davis (Season 2, Top 20) “Finally Fine” (with Charles Esten)

Charles Esten — you might know him better as Deacon Claybourne on the TV series “Nashville” — launched an Every Single Friday series of songs in 2017 and certainly hit the sweet spot with this duet with Karla Davis. Check out Karla’s rasp on that first verse. And don’t they sound great together? Karla also released a single on her own (“Wearing Me Out”) this year with an accompanying music video that featured her pet dog Mimi. And it wasn’t her only collaboration with Deacon … oops, Charles. They co-wrote and recorded his single “You’re Where I Belong” together too. You can hear more of Karla’s originals on her Soundcloud page.

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Audra McLaughlin of The Voice Season 6Audra McLaughlin (Season 6, Top 8) “Boomerang”

Audra said she knew she had to record “Boomerang” the second she heard it. “I’ve been in a relationship in the past where I kept kind of going back to the guy and kept going back. Everybody around me — my family, my friends — were like, ‘He’s no good for you. You deserve better.’ And I kept saying, ‘No. It’s cool.’ … We’ve all been in that situation. I hope a lot of you guys can relate and it helps you move on from that person that’s holding you back.” Hey, it yielded the most addictive single yet for Audra, who released three others as well in 2017. Unfortunately, Audra had to undergo vocal surgery in mid-November and said she’ll likely be sidelined from singing for a few months. In the meantime, she’s writing and gathering material for her next project. And she recently posted to Facebook, thanking fans for their prayers and support.

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Gigi Rich of The Voice Season 7Gigi Rich (Season 7, battle round) “Still Want You”

In the fall of 2014, she showed up on The Voice as Gianna Salvato, an 18-year-old who failed to make it past the battle round. In the spring of 2017, she resurfaced with the snazzier stage name Gigi Rich and an impressive debut EP “All in My Head” to match. My favorite track is this ballad, featuring a heart-wrenching vocal. Gigi said the composition is all her own. “It’s about breaking things off with your first love and trying to figure out life without them,” she told Voice Views. “When someone has been a part of your life for so long and in such an important way, it’s hard to not still want them around even after things ended.” For 2018, Gigi said she’s been booking shows and looking forward to new creative partnerships. And, yep, there will be new music. She said she’s currently finishing up a new EP.

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Gabriel Wolfchild of The Voice Season 8Gabriel Wolfchild and The Northern Light (Season 8) — “Shipwrecks”

Post-Voice, Gabriel Wolfchild announced “my days of singing sad songs alone are over.” He’d found collaborators in Seattle; Gabriel Wolfchild and The Northern Light was formed. The subsequent EP, “Mornings Like These,” included this great song, filled with a message of hope. “I wrote Shipwrecks while I was going through a very rough stretch with a dear past partner of mine,” Gabriel told Voice Views. “There was always a lot of love between us, but for one reason or another, we kept managing to hurt each other in the absolute worst ways. ‘Shipwrecks’ is essentially about a struggle worth persevering, breaking the pain down and going back to the start. It’s about remembering the tender love that originally brought two lovers together.” Great news for fans: The band just finished recording 11 songs in Seattle’s London Bridge Studios and plans to release their debut album in the spring.

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Kylie Rothfield of The Voice Season 11Kylie Rothfield (Season 11, Top 20) “Miss Me”

On the show, Kylie is probably best remembered for a cover of “Hound Dog” filled with soul and sass. Well, both are back in full force on her post-show debut single, one of the year’s best kiss-off songs. Kylie told Voice Views she wrote “Miss Me” with songwriter/producer Eric Zayne during her first writing session after moving to L.A. in December 2016. “I had been wanting to move my music into a more ‘pop’ direction, but still keep everything intertwined with gritty blues and soulful melodies.” “Miss Me” is the result. Since then, Kylie said she’s been working hard to establish herself as a writer/performer in L.A. She describes 2017 as a year of growth, great love and heartbreak and says more new music is on the way — “an album that contains the most honest music I’ve ever written about everything I’ve experienced this year.”
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Moses Stone of The Voice Season 2Moses Stone (Season 2, Top 24) “Gone”

Hey, and if I’m going to include a female singing a kiss-off song, it’s only fair that the guys get a turn too, right? At least that was Moses’ thinking in releasing the song. “I think it’s good to touch on subjects from a perspective people are not used to hearing — how is it from a guy’s perspective being used by a girl,” Moses told CelebMix.com. “The girls definitely let us know their perspectives on guys using them.” He gets an assist from Shwayze and Hero DeLano, who also helped write the tune. You might not remember Moses, but he was the first rap artist ever featured on The Voice. Since then, he’s created creative digital media agency, Art Sky Agency, a music production and licensing company, Art Sky Productions, and an entertainment company, Art Sky Entertainment. Moses tells Voice Views a new mixtape is coming in 2018. Oh, and this song comes with an explicit lyric warning.




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Taylor John Williams of The Voice Season 7Taylor John Williams (Season 7, Top 5) “White Summer Dress”

The emotions Taylor John experienced after moving from his home in Portland to Los Angeles provided fuel for some excellent songs — just check out his post-Voice album “El Dorado” — but my favorite remains this single, released early in the year. “This was, and has continued to be, an emotionally turbulent time for me,” he told YahooMusic at the time. “The song deals with the claustrophobic feeling that comes from trying to maintain a calm exterior in moments of internal chaos.”

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Suzanna Choffel of The Voice Season 3Suzanna Choffel (Season 3) — “Continental Drift” (with David Garza)

I remember being surprised — and disappointed — when Suzanna and that plaintive voice of hers were eliminated in Season 3. Of course, she had the misfortune of being paired with eventual winner Cassadee Pope in the knockout round, and that was before steals were part of the knockout round. In 2017, Suzanna released “Hello Goodbye,” her first new album in four years, featuring this mesmerizing opening track, with a vocal assist from David Garza. The album’s release was delayed by the birth of Suzanna’s daughter Lulu. And on her website, Suzanna says the song is among those on the album about “struggle to balance the seemingly conflicting pursuits of family life and musical adventures.”

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Ricky Manning of The Voice Season 7Ricky Manning (Season 7, Top 20) “LA is Lonely”

I’ve got a hunch that a lot of former Voice contestants can sympathize with the feelings Ricky conveys in his post-show debut single. Since it took so long to release music, Ricky told Voice Views he wanted to release something other than a love song or an upbeat pop song. He admits to feeling alone and discouraged at the time. “I had a note in my phone from a few months earlier that just said ‘LA is lonely’ and I just sat down and started singing and this song just came out. This song is 100 percent autobiographical.” Ricky said he has two other singles in the works and is hoping to release a debut EP in 2018.

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Luke Wade of The Voice Season 7Luke Wade (Season 7, Top 8) “Someone Like You”

Luke released “Only Ghosts,” his third album and his first since The Voice, back in January. It included two great singles — “Three Days” and the Matt McAndrew co-write “Passenger Side” — that had already been released. This is my favorite of the new tunes on the album, a ballad where Luke’s signature gritty and soulful vocals are front and center. Oh, and it sounds like Luke is going to be busy in 2018. He’s entering his second year as a staff writer for Angry Mob Music. He’s working with the casting department at The Voice and posting weekly tips for auditioners on his Facebook page. He’s also promising “to drop a lot of new music in 2018” and asking fans to recommend tour stops for the year ahead. Want to know what it takes to make it on The Voice. Feel free to send Luke a question to @TheVoiceCasting on Twitter.

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Stephan Marcellus of The Voice Season 13Stephan Marcellus (Season 13, knockout round) — “Renegade”

If you recall, Stephan flubbed the opening of his blind audition on The Voice and turned just one chair. But he was also the first Season 13 contestant to release a single after the show. And if all his releases are as powerful as this one … wow! “I wrote Renegade months ago as a way to reclaim my power after a relationship —- to remind myself to be unapologetic, that I am powerful and valuable,” Stephan told Voice Views. “I pray when people hear this song they feel empowered. Renegade is dedicated to your dreamers, risk takers, and anyone who may struggle with feeling like they aren’t ‘good enough.’” Stephan plans to waste no time getting more new music to fans. A followup single, “Purgatory,” is set for a January release. That, he says, will be followed by an EP called “Redemption.”

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Danielle Bradbery of The Voice Season 4Danielle Bradbery (Season 4, winner) “Laying Low”

“Sway” was a great lead single — not to mention Top 40 country hit — off Danielle’s sophomore album, “I Don’t Believe We’ve Met.” And “Worth It” is the single she performed on Season 13 of The Voice. But by far my favorite vocal from her new album is the final track, “Laying Low.” Wow, what a vocal. Danielle says the song stemmed from a girl chat with co-writer Heather Morgan on a gloomy day in Nashville. “We were just talking about life — some moments our friends ask us to hang out and go do this and that. And (how) sometimes you just want to lay low at home and have a glass of wine or whatever it is with some sweets and watch a movie and stay in your pajamas. Me time is very important, and that’s what we tried to touch on.”

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Jared Blake of The Voice Season 1Jared Blake (Season 1, Top 16) “Don’t Let Her Be Gone”

After recovering from a bad motorcycle crash, Jared Blake told Voice Views he headed into the studio and cut this track by Ray Stephenson because it fit what he was going through so well. “This song came to mind with where I was at the time pretty perfectly — my relationship had been through so much during my accident recovery.” Then, a second accident brought the message at the center of the song to the forefront again. He and his wife were hit head-on by another driver. Jared said he was lying in an emergency room for five hours, not knowing what had happened to his wife. “Last thing I knew, I saw her laying on the pavement and she was saying she couldn’t move. And the song took another element of don’t let her be gone at that point.” Both recovered. A music video bringing the story in the song to life and featuring Jared and his wife will be out soon. And a full-length album is coming too.

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Craig Wayne Boyd of The Voice Season 7Craig Wayne Boyd (Season 7, winner) “We Sweat”

Craig won The Voice in December 2104. It took nearly three years for his post-show album to land, but it was worth the wait. It includes this great track, written by Josh Helm and Walker Hayes and featuring a vocal assist from Bob Marley’s The Wailers. “To me, ‘We Sweat’ is like a modern working man’s song,” Craig says. “It incorporates this party atmosphere and that’s because that’s exactly what was going on in the studio.” Craig has had plenty of reason to celebrate lately. We met his young son Jaxon on the show. He and wife Taylor had their first child together, Dakota Lynn, on Dec. 31, 2015, her dad’s 37th birthday. Well, on Thursday, the couple welcomed Grayden Scott Boyd, three days before his dad’s 39th birthday. Congrats!

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Meghan Linsey of The Voice Season 8Meghan Linsey (Season 8, runner-up) “Say It to My Face”

Meghan released ‘Bold Like a Lion,” her first full-length album since The Voice, in November. It includes this wonderful collaboration with Alloe Blacc, a fabulous swipe at internet trolls. Meghan told Voice Views she wrote the song with producer/boyfriend Tyler Cain and Aloe. “We were scheduled to write with Aloe in L.A. and I told him I wanted to write a song about the negative haters on the Internet and he said ‘what if we write a duet?’ I was super excited to write and sing a duet with him as I am such a huge fan of what he does.” As for the song? “Sometimes I just can’t believe the freedom people feel like they have on the Internet. People say awful things that you know they would never say to your face. It was actually a pretty easy write for us.”

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Billy Gilman of The Voice Season 11Billy Gilman (Season 11, 2nd place) “Get It Got It Good”

Billy waited nearly a year to release his first post-show single, and you’re going to be hard pressed to find a more infectious post-Voice debut. Billy told Voice Views he reviewed more than 120 songs as part of the selection process. “I was looking for songs that really show the direction I want to go with my music,” Billy said. “We went into the studio and recorded three new songs and this one felt so good I wanted it to be the first one out. I love that it has a celebration of life feel to it. I think we need some of that these days.” The song was co-written by Nathan Barlowe, Bryan Shackle and Kris Allen. Yep, the same Kris Allen who won Season 8 of American Idol.

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Coming Wednesday: Top 5 Post-Voice music videos of 2017
Coming Thursday: Top 5 Post-Voice albums of 2017
Check out all the 2017 music videos
Check out all the 2017 stand-along singles
Check out all the 2017 albums and EPs
If I’ve missed anyone, please email VoiceViews@comcast.net. Or comment on the blogs.

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