Did you miss part one? Click here to read it!
Part two of my countdown features some of the extraordinary women from the past ten years of singing competitions.
#20: Stacy Francis (X Factor USA: Season One)
I will never forget where I was when I heard Stacy Francis sing for the first time. She was the last act to audition for Simon Cowell, L.A. Reid, Paula Abdul, and guest judge Cheryl on the season premiere in Los Angeles. Her powerful voice blew me away when she covered the Queen of Soul’s “Natural Woman.” Of all the artists that were part of the inaugural season of the short-lived American series, Stacy was the one that impressed me the most. In fact, I named her excellent cover of Prince’s “Purple Rain”-the greatest performance in Jake’s Take’s five years! While Stacy released “Purple Rain” as a single, she has also made splashes as she performed with Il Volo and on several TV shows including R&B Divas of Los Angeles and Celebrity Big Brother.
#19: Kimberly Nichole (The Voice USA: Season Eight)
The best singer, performer, and show-stopper from The Voice: Season Eight will always be in my eyes: Ms. Kimberly Nichole! While her bombastic Blind Audition only caught the attention of only Blake Shelton and Pharrell Williams, Kimberly made a big impression on the audience. Kimberly shifted into a higher gear after Xtina stole her in the Battle Rounds. Her vocal performances were some of the best in the show’s history. While she only made it to the Top Six, the Rock Ballerina has performed around the world, appeared on PBS’s ROCKTOPIA: A Rock Revolution, and shared the stage with Lionel Richie, The Roots, and Joe Walsh.
#18: Sam Bailey (The X Factor UK: Season 10)
Sam Bailey was the biggest voice that was discovered during the tenth anniversary season of The X Factor UK. The former prison officer and mother of two (currently three) children blew X Factor stalwarts Louis Walsh, Sharon Osbourne, Gary Barlow, and Nicole Scherzinger away with her take on Beyonce’s “Listen” after her first audition. Under mentor Sharon Osbourne, Sam’s performances rose to the stratosphere as she successfully tackled iconic music divas such as Barbra, Beyonce, Celine, Donna Summer, Lady Gaga, and Whitney. After claiming the crown in 2013, Sam recorded her two studio albums including duets with Michael Bolton (“Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”) and Nicole Scherzinger (“And I Am Telling You”) and toured across the United Kingdom as Mama Morton in the UK tour of Chicago.
#17: Kim Yarbrough (The Voice USA: Season Two)
I fell hard for friend to the blog and Voice: Season Two artist Kim Yarbrough’s vocals during her Blind Audition. Throughout her season, Kim set the standard for what a performance should be on the show. From her rendition of “Tell Me Something Good” to her Last Chance performance of “Spotlight,” Kim sang with all of her soul and all her being. Despite being eliminated in the Season Two Live Playoffs, Kim transitioned into the acting world and appeared in both film (Secret in Their Eyes) and television (2 Broke Girls, The Haunted Hathaways, Hollywood Heights, Jane the Virgin, and Netflix’s Lady Dynamite) productions. Also, she toured with the cast of A Night with Janis Joplin in 2013 and released the 2014 single: “Family Tree.”
#16: Haley Reinhart (American Idol: Season 10)
If I had to pick out who was the definitive master vocalist on American Idol’s tenth anniversary season, it would not be Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alania, James Durbin, or Pia Toscano. That title belongs to Haley Reinhart! Every week, Ms. Reinhart gave viewers master class performances that featured some of her season’s best vocals. Despite receiving mixed reviews from Randy Jackson and Jennifer Lopez, Haley’s extraordinary talent impressed industry heavyweights such as Beyonce, Lady Gaga, Led Zeppelin (who gave their blessing for Haley to perform their hit: “What Is and What Should Never Be”), Sheryl Crow, and Tony Bennett. After coming in third place, Haley released two studio albums: 2012’s Listen Up! and 2016’s Better. She also collaborated with Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox and currently voices Bill Murphy in the animated series: F is For Family.
#15: Amanda Brown (The Voice USA: Season Three)
Amanda Brown will go down as one of the best artists that has ever graced The Voice stage. I knew that Amanda was special after I saw her perform Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie.” The former background singer was probably the most diverse vocalist from the first three seasons of the NBC singing competition. After her shocking elimination during Top Six week, Amanda wrote recaps of The Voice for Parade Magazine, performed two duets with Michael Bolton on FOX & Friends, and performed with Adele during her extensive 2016 live tour.
#14: Frenchie Davis (The Voice USA: Season One)
Years ago, I saw friend-to-the-blog, Ms. Frenchie Davis, audition for a little show called American Idol. She blew away Randy, Paula, and Simon during her Judges’ audition and Hollywood Week. Sadly, Ms. Davis’ Idol dreams were dashed when a nude photo scandal erupted around her. While Frenchie went to Broadway and was part of the casts of Ain’t Misbehavin’, Rent, and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, many people were asking: “What happened to Frenchie?” Eight years later, The Voice production team gave her a chance at redemption when they encouraged her to audition for the inaugural season and blew her mentor Christina Aguilera away with her rendition of “I Kissed A Girl.” Week after week, Frenchie blew away the audience with renditions of dance club classics. While she was eliminated during Top Eight week, Frenchie persevered and went back to the studio where she released numerous singles including 2012’s “Ave Maria,” 2012’s “Love’s Got a Hold on Me,” and 2015’s “Stand (By Me).”
#13: Emily West (America’s Got Talent: Season Nine)
Many Reality TV aficionados might have first recognized Emily West from appearing on the third season of The Celebrity Apprentice where her mentor Cyndi Lauper and her teammates marketed her for a music makeover. However, four years after appearing on the show, her record label dropped her. Thankfully, Emily auditioned for America’s Got Talent and shared with the country: her magnificent voice. Her tone always gave me goose bumps and magic was made. While Emily came in second, she released her 2015 album: All for You, toured with her fellow AGT alumni, opened for Jay Leno, and is in the process of writing her first one-woman show. I cannot wait to see what Emily does next.
#12: Candice Glover (American Idol: Season 12)
If you first don’t succeed, try, try again! I believe Candice Glover is the living proof of that mantra. Candice auditioned for three seasons of American Idol before she advanced to the Season 12 live shows and eventually won her season. If I ever did a Top 100 countdown involving American Idol performances, I would guarantee you that Candice would have more than one place on that list. Candice’s voice comes around once-in-a-lifetime, and I believe that we have not heard the last from her.
#11: Melinda Doolittle (American Idol: Season Six)
I could not have created this countdown without the inclusion of Ms. Melinda Doolittle. She was my first American Idol crush! The former background singer auditioned during the height of the FOX singing competition and was a breath of fresh air. As a longtime American Idol fan, I had never seen a contestant left both the judges and guest mentors spellbound. Music icons Diana Ross, Tony Bennett, Jennifer Lopez, and Jon Bon Jovi praised her work, and many fans were shocked when she was eliminated right before the Season Three finale. Since her time on the Idol stage, she performed for President George W. Bush in the White House, visited Zambia with former First Lady Laura Bush and the Malaria No More Organization, and wrote the 2010 book: Beyond Me: Finding Your Way to Life’s Next Level. She released a studio album, two extended plays, co-hosted Reality Check with TVLine.com’s Michael Slezak and recently collaborated with Postmodern Jukebox.
I do not own any of the clips that are featured in this article; they belong to the following:
-American Idol: 19 Entertainment, FOX & FremantleMedia North America
-America’s Got Talent: FremantleMedia North America, NBC & Syco Entertainment
-The Voice USA: MGM Television & NBC
-X Factor UK: ITV, Syco Entertainment & Thames
-X Factor USA: FOX, FremantleMedia North America & Syco Entertainment