Today, the third and final look back at the music released by former American Idol finalists in 2016.
Today — my selections for the Top 5 American Idol albums or EPs from the past 12 months. I’ve also posted a blog listing all the albums and EPs released by former Idol finalists in the past year. Please, if I’ve missed anyone, let me know by commenting below or by emailing me at VoiceViews@comcast.net.
Now, those Top 5 albums or EPs. You can check out two songs from each in the Spotify playlist at right.
5. Oil and Water by Lee DeWyze: Why is it so many past Idol winners release their best post-show music once they’re free of their victory-induced record deal? Lee’s “Frames” from 2013 was much better than than his first post-Idol album, 2010’s “Live It Up.” And he was back in fine singer-songwriter form on “Oil & Water,” released early this year. That’s especially true on “Stone,” “Learn to Fall” and the brilliant title track.
4. “Innocence by Jena Irene Asciutto: The long-awaited debut EP from the Season 13 runner-up shows tons of potential and makes me wish she’d hurry up and release her “Cold Fame” album. This five-track EP includes a version of “Unbreakable,” the original she introduced us to during her Idol run. But there isn’t a weak track here. The best is the title song, “Innocence,” about Jena losing hers. And please pronounce her first name as Gina.
3. “Better” by Haley Reinhart: Released after the success of her lovely cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” this sophomore album comes four years after Haley’s under-rated “Listen Up” debut. She plays it sassier and sexier this time around. And it works. The title track ws the lead single, but other standout tracks include “Check Please,” “Good or Bad,” “Love is Worth Fighting For” and “Listen.”
2. “The Definition of …” by Fantasia:Idol’s Season 3 champ promised a rock soul explosion with her fifth studio album. She also vowed to break out of any musical box she’d been forced into. Well, it’s tough to imagine an album with more range than one that includes a country ballad like “Ugly,” the soulful “Sleeping With the One I Love” and the sassy and celebratory “I Made It.” The album debuted at number six on the Billboard 200.
1. “Diamond Dreams” by Casto: This album was the pleasant surprise of 2016. After his post-Idol pop album and a foray into Christian music, Jason Castro from Season 7 resurfaced as one-third of a sibling band that also included Michael (also a former Idol contestant) and younger sister Jackie. They sound fabulous together, especially on the title track, “Automatic” and “Rock and Roll.”