So we've always wondered about the sort of under the radar music that everyone loves pre-singing competition shows and post-singing shows. Through the help of youtube and past spoilers, I've re-surfaced these videos, and made my ranking of the top 10 pre Idol/X Factor and top 10 post Idol/X Factor music. Enjoy.
Obviously, this list is subjective, because there's just no statistical way of quantifying this stuff, but let's start with our top ten pre-Idol/X Factor faves here. I'd try to omit the Voice, since there are obvious plants there, an it's no fun "rediscovering" those.
10) Anoop Desai (6th, AI8)--Anoop brought cheesy fun to a lot of current hip hop songs at the type. Hilarious to see him covering Chris Brown and T-Pain. Hipster music that had absolutely no place in Idol. Awesome stuff from him as part of UNC's acapella group.
9) David Correy (Top 16, XFUS2)--This dude looked like Chris Rene but had a Bruno Mars type of voice. Marketable, right? A lot of the pre-XF youtube recorded sound was pretty chill, a vibe of Frankie J meets Bruno. He kind of set up his record label so things look professional, but that's how you get your name out there.
8) Astro (7th, XFUS1)--Astro kind of brought rap to these competitions because Idol continually refuses to do it, so it was sort of a breath of fresh air. Personality for days, and of course he was known for his rap songwriting throughout his run. That stuff you need for the rap game, so there was marketability although he was too young at the time.7) Jett Hermano (Top 40, AI12)--Again, she didn't crack the semis, but she had a full performance. It seems like when she was younger, she was choosing cooler, more relevant songs, but of course it doesn't hurt to get the songwriter/instrument stuff as you grow older. There's quite a bit of swag in her older performances, and some in her newer, but she's ranked lower because she lost some of her older school cool IMO.
6) CeCe Frey (6th, XFUS2)--It was kind of hilarious how she wanted to make herself marketable before X Factor started. Have to give her some credit for attempting to be the next Ke$ha based on some well-produced music videos before X Factor. I mean, it's hard to imagine anything like this on Idol, the blatant attempt to fit directly into today's music scene, but CeCe made a nice go at that, autotune included:
5) Jimmie Allen (Top 60, AI10)--This dude didn't even crack the semis on Idol, but for us spoiler types we saw a pretty good recorded alternative rock sound with some soul. The songwriting is decent, but the beats put it over the top. Seemed pretty relevant. There's a few choices, "Perfect Stranger", "Beautiful Day", "Stay Away". He's done some hip hop joints which were awesome too and stuff you'd never see on Idol (which is why he didn't advance far):
4) Chris Rene (3rd, XFUS1)--Chris was kind of unique for spoiler types too--again, Idol's deprived everyone of real hip hop for so many years, seeing some inspirational Common type stuff was kind of jarring. "Young Homie" was his release after XF, but obviously it was also written before the show as his audition became viral. Mike Posner/TI type stuff at work here, but too bad he wasn't marketed properly.
3) Phillip Phillips (Winner, AI11)--Man, this was very promising very early on. The thought process among us spoiler types was that Phillips was in tune with a ton of hip-hop. Come on...a guy doing Dave Matthews jams on DJ Khaled, Eminem, and Lil Wayne? From the South? Wowza. And he's also covered Usher, which he did on the show, but it would be way cooler if he fashioned himself into a fusion hip hop rocker, for whatever reason, instead of going into this snoozy alternative rock path that eventually led into some folksy light rock which was a complete deviation from whatever he did here. Really unfortunate. Although, must say, his backtalk is very hip hop-ish in attitude. Nice touch to that.
2) Jessica Sanchez (2nd, AI11)--Although Andrew Garcia was technically the first youtube contestant for Idol (in that he had a built in youtube fanbase that carried him through many horrid performances), he strummed guitar and sang in monotone. Jessica like Andrew did a ton of current songs, which were suddenly but not surprisingly thrown into the dumpster during her Idol run, but before that she was more or less a Beyonce imitator. Everyone knows her vocals and whatnot, but what was refreshing was that for spoiler types, she attempted to be very current, a stark contrast from all these old covers we'd see from past contestants. Here's a sampling of current stuff:
1) Emblem3 (4th, XFUS2)--Emblem3's just a special case here. They're not exactly planty, but they had a lot of original material before X Factor. Their vibe is pretty much a hybrid of all the surf/power pop/alternative stuff that spanned the 1990s-2000s, with your RHCPs, Third Eye Blinds, Sublimes, Yellowcards, Good Charlottes and Simple Plans all being mixed into one. And combine that with Justin Bieber with a dash of Linkin Park, and there's just a lot of very current comparisons that you'd never see anyone on Idol being compared to at all. It's like Mike Shinoda, Justin Bieber and Benji Madden all decided to team up and form a group. The bad boy image is an extra touch, since that's stuff that gets you eliminated early on Idol. But they're number one on this list because of their relevance (they look like they're from the future compared to Idol) but also because of the musicality and songwriting. Their music is slick, has nice guitar solos, a great Cali vibe, and can fill in a relevant spot today. There's a bunch to choose from, from their X Factor original Sunset Blvd to Tequila Sunrise to True Friends to Riptide, but "Curious" is one of their more hyped songs, so let's put this one here:
Now let's move on to post-Idol, post-XF stuff:
Casey Abrams (6th, AI10)--Get Out. Casey goes pop. Yay. Actually sounds like a mainstream song.
Ashthon Jones (13th, AI10)--Mayday (Lecrae feat Big KRIT and Ashthon Jones)--This is pretty much gospel diva belting with gospel rapping. Kind of cool, and quasi-current, which is why it makes the list. Ashthon actually had some dance pop type stuff out there pre-Idol, but dumbed herself down with old songs and wasn't that good at singing either, so that was the wrong venue.
Blake Lewis (2nd, AI6)--Your Touch by Blake Lewis--Everyone's been saying that Blake was a few years ahead of where music was heading by doing his dance pop too early, and not surprisingly the label didn't know how to handle him initially. Now he's got a second chance and he's attempting to piggyback off Alex Clare, more or less. A lot of dubstep and breakbeat, this guy is British-influenced. American Idol can produce a dubstep contestant? Awesome. Good effort here.
10) Chris Richardson (6th, AI6)--Far Away by Tyga feat Chris Richardson--Richardson clearly wants to bring the Robin Thicke/JT falsetto to this song, and this song actually made it to the charts and stayed for quite a while. Mad swag. Never thought Idol and Ca$h Money would go in the same sentence, much less with a white contestant, eh? This was a pretty decent success for Chris, and it's current, and Chris has long been one of the more current Idols. So he deserves a place on this list.
9) Stefano (7th, AI10)--Yes to Love by Stefano--Very tender, simple song. Simple but to the point, and good vocals with some current beats. Good hook. That's all you need. Underrated joint.
8) Adam Lambert (2nd, AI8)--Sleepwalker by Adam Lambert--Actually one of the better songs in his albums. The ballads normally are. Yeah, it's written by Ryan Tedder, so it's trite...but still, this song has its purpose. Too bad this guy flopped after several singles, because this song never saw the light of day. Still, it became a karaoke staple in The Voice in Bulgaria.
7) Marcus Canty (4th, XFUS1)--In And Out by Marcus Canty feat Wale--This was a pretty great joint with hard hitting beats and a rapper to make Canty look urban cool. Very good effort that might have made a bigger dent, but hip hop's a bit underground now. Still, this song got a few urban spins.
6) Elliott Yamin (3rd, AI5)--Fight for Love by Elliott Yamin--Yamin was a very underrated Idol contestant who on top of his very good old school R&B vocals had a real knack for writing songs that were mainstream enough. That's how he got his first hit. Unfortunately, he was a one-hit wonder, but this was another pretty good gem from Yamin, and got some play around college campuses. He's got this sort of cool vibe which also helps sell his song.
5) Haley Reinhart (3rd, AI10)--Undone by Haley Reinhart--Best song of her album never saw the light of day. I thought about putting "Oh My" because it had B.o.B. who was spawning hits in collaborations with Bruno Mars and Hayley Williams, but this is the song which highlights Haley's sort of Adele-like attempts to cut the mainstream and puts vocals/angst at the forefront.
4) Anoop Desai (6th, AI8)--All Is Fair (Crazy Love) by Anoop Desai--Really cool, well written lyrics, well directed vieo, Anoop shows his sensitive R&B and current hipster side. Too bad he came off of Idol and lost all of the hipster credibility, because he's actually one of the most current artists churned out by Idol. They just don't realize it. There is a touch of Chris Brown's vocals in here. Really good piece.
3) Kris Allen (Winner, AI8)--Before We Come Undone by Kris Allen--This was a very underrated song that never saw the light of day because Kris flopped in his second single with Train. Unfortunate, but a South African Idol winner adapted it and made it his single. Good lyrics, current for the time--for a WGWG, he really has an ear for current-tinged pop which really helps the cause. In fact, that's what I really like about Allen--he's a decent enough singer but the pop rock ear puts it over the top. Too bad his promotion wasn't that great, because the album was very good.
2) Emblem3 (4th, XFUS1)--Chloe by Emblem3--This song doesn't technically belong in this list because it remains to be seen how much traction this song will gain, but this is said to be their first single. You know, a lot of power pop, power rapping, good times feel, etc. It received a very good reception--and with 1D writer Savan Kotecha on this song, and E3's ability to sell the song as it plays into their vibe, there's quite a good chance this song can be a good radio hit. They're more friendly than 1D because their hip hop sensibilities will fit with the radio. Ton of heavy hitting backers like Good Charlotte, fun. etc.
1) Kelly Clarkson (Winner, AI1)--Beautiful Disaster by Kelly Clarkson--I was torn between this song and "You Found Me", but this song was known more. Kelly spawned a ton of hits off her first album, but there were still a few underrated gems, such as this one, that didn't really see light of day. Kelly's first album was arguably the one where she showed her raw vocals the best, and there's something innocent about her voice back then, that makes it more likable than some of her later work. And of course, as Idol's heavy hitter, she deserves the top spot here.