Below are short reviews and a song from albums and EPs released by former American Idol contestants in 2016.

If I’ve missed anyone, please let me know by commenting below.

For 2016 singles by former American Idol finalists, head here. And for music videos, head here.


VadaWave (Megan Joy)
“Out of Body” EP

Dec. 9, 2016
Finish: 9th, Season 8

This six-track debut is far less pop-oriented than Megan’s previous two post-Idol albums, which isn’t surprising considering the other half of VadaWave is her husband Quinn Allman, former guitarist for The Used. Highlights include “Escape” and “Very Best Part.”


Why Don’t We (Daniel Seavey)
“Only the Beginning” EP

Released: Nov. 24, 2016
Idol finish: 9th, Season 14

Six tracks of youthful pop from a five-member guy group including Season 14’s Daniel Seavey plus Jack Avery, Corbyn Besson, Jonah Marais, and Zach Herron. They released this EP, two singles, two videos and a Christmas single within two months of forming in late September. Lead single “Taking You” is the standout track.


South Haven (Maddie Walker)
“Crossing Lines”

Released: Oct. 28, 2016
Finish: Top 10, Season 14

A four-gal group including Brit Willson, Ray Taaffe, former Voice contestant Nicolette Mare and Maddie serve up 11 tracks of pop-country with a twist on their debut album. Highlights include lead single “Firestarters,” the clever “Jimmy Choos,” “Burn Slow” and “One Night Stand.”


Castro (Jason Castro)
“Diamond Dreams” EP

Released: Sept. 2, 2016
Finish: 4th, Season 7

One of the pleasant surprises of 2016 as Jason joins forces with brother Michael and sister Jackie. And, wow, do they sound good together, especially on the title track, “Rock and Roll” and one of my favorite post-Idol songs of the year, “Automatic.”


Avalon Young

Released: Aug. 30, 2016
Finish: top 8, Season 15

Many fans felt Avalon left Idol too soon, but the 22-year-old R&B singer responded by being the first Season 15 contestant to drop a debut album. Highlights among the 12 tracks include “Closure” (you’ll find two versions on the album) and “Nowhere.” Avalon released two EPs pre-Idol.


Nick Fradiani
Released: Aug. 5, 2016
Finish: 1st, Season 14

Nick has a writing credit on 11 of the 12 songs, one reason the album wasn’t released until after his Idol successor was crowned. The album set new lows for first-week sales (5,000) and Billboard debut (#121) for an Idol winner. But it isn’t without highlights, including “In the Long Run” and “Beautiful Life,” his coronation song.


“The Definition Of …”

Released: July 29, 2016
Finish: 1st, Season 3

Fantasia promised a wide array of music on her latest album and delivered in fine fashion, from a rock edge on “Crazy” to throwback R&B on “Sleeping With the One I Love” to the country-tinged “Ugly,” perhaps the best track on her fifth studio album.


James Durbin
“Riot on Sunset”

Released: July 15, 2016
Finish: 4th, Season 10

After begging Idol fans to give metal a chance, James abandoned his signature sound for pop-rock on his sophomore album. But he’s rocking again on his 12-track third album, especially on “City of Nightmares” and “Scratchers and Cheap Beer,” which features a vocal assist from Season 10 colleague Casey Abrams.


Kree Harrison
‘This Old Thing”
Released: July 8, 2016
Finish; 2nd, Season 12

More than three years passed between Kree’s time on Idol and the release of this fine debut album. You won’t struggle to find songs worth downloading. They include the title track, “Dead Man’s House,” “Something in the Middle,” “The Time I’ve Wasted” and my personal favorite, “Drinking for Two.”


Joey Cook and the Partyraddlers
“Welcome to the Variety Show”

Released: July 1, 2016
Finish: 7th, Season 14

If you were paying any attention at all to Season 14, you knew to expect quirky from Joey’s post-show debut. Ukulele and partyraddler friends close by, she delivers. “Bones” was a standout lead single. “Infinite Indigo” and “Teeth” are likely to catch your fancy too.


Zealyn (Angie Miller)
“Limbic System” EP

Released: June 24, 2016
Finish: 3rd, Season 12

Angie Miller adopted a new stage name to go along with her new sound, because this isn’t the pop-rock you’d expect given her covers on Idol. It’s more chill electro-pop, with Angie sounding especially good on “Summer Day” and “Overwhelmed.”


Allison Iraheta & Halo Circus

Released: June 23, 2016
Finish: 4th, Season 8

The long-awaited debut album from Halo Circus, formed in early 2013 with Allison as lead singer and her husband Matthew Hager on bass guitar. Top tracks include “Nothing At All,” the lovely ballad “Yo Me Voy” and the poppish “Out of Love.”


Majesty Rose
“Bloom” EP

Released: June 15, 2016
Finish: 9th, Season 13

The debut EP from 24-year-old Majesty is a five-track pop effort that features a title track she wrote when she was just 17 and a song (“Like the Sun”) written by her sister. But the highlight is easily the upbeat “New People.”


Kristy Lee Cook
“All Kinds of Crazy” EP

Released: May 6, 2016
Finish: 7th, Season 7

After a series of singles for Broken Bow Records, Kristy Lee got to release this four-track EP. It marked her first multi-song release since her “Why Wait” album eight years earlier. It wasn’t worth an eight-year wait. “Everything” is the top track.


Haley Reinhart

Released: April 29, 2016
Finish: 3rd, Season 10

A impressive sophomore album from Haley, who deserved to win Season 10. “Love is Worth Fighting For” is a great ballad. She also impresses with up-tempo songs like “Check Please” and “Good or Bad.” The album also includes her brilliant cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”


Jena Irene Asciutto
“Innocence” EP

Released: April 22, 2016
Finish: 2nd, Season 13

Superb debut EP from the young woman who should have won Season 13 and reclaims her last name for this release. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a weak link among the five songs. My favorites are the title track, “You Gotta Help Me” and the new version of “Unbreakable,” the original she performed on Idol. Oh, and please pronounce it Gina!


Lee DeWyze
“Oil and Water”

Released: Feb. 12, 2016
Idol finish: 1st, Season 9

Like Bo Bice and Kris Allen before him, Lee is an example of an Idol finalists whose music got better once he was no longer under the show’s influence. This 10-song collection is a fine followup to 2013’s excellent “Frames” album. The first four tracks — including the title song and “Stone” — are a singer-songwriter delight. A second half highlight is the ballad “Give Me Something”


“It’s Not Over … The Hits So Far”

Released: Feb. 12, 2016
Idol finish: 4th, Season 5

This 13-song greatest hits collection leans heavily on Chris Daughtry’s phenomenally successful 2006 debut album, which five of the 11 “hits” coming from that CD. The album also features two new songs — “Torches” and “Go Down,” which Chris called an excellent example of what fans can expect from an upcoming fifth album.


Casey Abrams
“Tales from the Gingerbread House” EP

Released: Jan. 29, 2016
Finish: 6th, Season 10

The first major release in four years from the Season 10 fan favorite includes the fun, 5-minute lead track “Cougartown” and an always welcome collaboration (“Never Knew What Love Can Do”) with Season 10 colleague Haley Reinhart. The best track is the addictive “Caught.”


Paul McDonald
“Slow Rising” EP

Released: Jan. 19, 2016
Idol finish: 8th, Season 10

Songs about reconciling oneself with lost love dominate Paul’s first fully-produced release since his split with wife, actress and musical collaborator Nikki Reed. It’s an excellent collection of six songs, highlighted by “Bright Lights,” “Modern Hearts” and, best of all, “Renegades.” Acoustic versions of four of the songs appeared on Paul’s 2015 EP “You and I.”

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