Lately, my playlists have been dominated by a few of my favorite female rockers and I realized that they all had one thing in common: they all lost on reality TV singing competitions. So, I went through my music library and found a few more to fill out a top 10 list. So, here it is …
Kimberly Caldwell finished in 7th place on the 2nd season of American Idol in 2003. Post-Idol, she released her debut album Without Regrets in 2010, then re-released it in 2011 with a few different songs. The album was panned by critics for Caldwell‘s bland power ballads and arena rock. However, I don’t think it’s all that bad, mostly because I love Caldwell‘s husky Kim Carnes-esque rasp. Favorite tracks include “Mess Of You”, “Heart Like Mine”, “Say Love”, “Taking Back My Life”, “Human After All”, and “Cost of Love”. Watch the video for “Mess Of You” here:
Oh, and Kimberly Caldwell was awesome in a cameo as herself in Wrong Turn 2: Dead End (2007). She was cut in half, vertically, by an inbred cannibal in the opening sequence! Watch it (here)!
9. Brooke White
Brooke White finished in 5th place on the 7th season of American Idol in 2008. She plays piano and was often compared to ’70s-era singer/songwriter Carole King. On Idol, she delivered amazing performances of The Beatles‘ “Let It Be” and Carly Simon‘s “You’re So Vain”. Her first post-Idol album High Hopes & Heartbreak (2009) was filled with really good piano-driven soft rock like “Hold Up My Heart”, “Radio Radio”, “Smile”, “Sometimes Love”, “When We Were One”, and a very nice cover of Kings of Leons‘ “Use Somebody”. Watch Brooke singing “Hold Up My Heart” live on American Idol here:
I do not understand why this woman is not, at least, as well known as soft rocker Colbie Caillat!
8. Jordis Unga
Jordis Unga, who is of Samoan descent, is a two-time reality singing competition loser. First, she finished in 5th place on Rock Star: INXS in 2005. Then, she was eliminated in the quarterfinal round on the 2nd season of The Voice in 2012. On Rock Star: INXS, Unga competed with 14 other wannabe rockers to become the new lead singer of the Australian rock band INXS. However, since INXS hasn’t mattered since frontman Michael Hutchence died in 1997, the winner of the show [J.D. Fortune] actually lost, but that cool show was about the journey for me. Anyway, post-reality fame, Jordis Unga finally released her (crowd-funded) first solo album A Letter From Home (2014). Let’s just say that I am not a big fan of that album. She makes this list based entirely on her stunning performances on both reality shows. My favorites from Rock Star included her awesome take on The Who‘s “Baba O’Riley” [which, if you are a Millennial, you might think is just the theme song to CSI:NY], John Lennon‘s “Imagine”, Bob Dylan‘s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”, and Nirvana‘s “Heart Shaped Box”. Unga‘s performance of “Baba O’Riley”, by the way, is the best version of that song by a female artist ever! My favorite Jordis Unga performances on The Voice were her stunning rendition of Paul McCartney‘s “Maybe I’m Amazed” and her equally stunning rendition of Sara Evans‘ “A Little Bit Stronger”, as well as her awesome versions of Heart‘s “Alone” and Alanis Morissette‘s “Ironic”. I never heard the song “A Little Bit Stronger” until Unga sang it but I loved it because she made it special – even though she was eliminated the next night! Watch Jordis sing the hell out of “Baba O’Riley” on Rock Star here:
And, watch Jordis Unga sing “Maybe I’m Amazed” for her blind audition on The Voice (here). Adam Levine was the only judge who didn’t hit his button! Bastard!
Allison Iraheta, who is of Salvadoran descent, finished in 4th place on the 8th season of American Idol in 2009. She was only 17 years old but sang the hell out of heartbreaking ballads like Bonnie Raitt‘s sadly beautiful “I Can’t Make You Love Me” and sappy power ballads like Aerosmith‘s “I Don’t Want To Miss a Thing”. Iraheta‘s post-Idol debut Just Like You (2009) is, for me, worth the price of admission alone for her awesome cover of Dilana‘s “Holiday” [see #4 below]. Other choice cuts include: “Scars”, “Pieces”, “Don’t Waste the Pretty” [featuring Orianthi on guitar], “Still Breathing”, “You Don’t know Me”, “Just Like You”, “No One Else”, “Trouble Is”, “Don’t Wanna Be Wrong” [co-written by Chris Daughtry], and “Beat Me Up”. I could do without songs like the first single “Friday I’ll Be Over You” and “Robot Love” but, overall, Just Like You is a good collection of addictive pop/rock! Watch Iraheta sing “I Can’t Make You Love Me” on American Idol here (because it’s an amazing ballad):
Currently, Allison Iraheta is fronting an alt-rock band called Halo Circus but, sadly, I’m not sold on their sound yet.
6. Kat Perkins
Kat Perkins finished in the top 5 of the 6th season of The Voice in 2014. Perkins, a tattooed hard rock chick, was eliminated with country singer Kristen Merlin. On The Voice, Perkins did awesome versions of the Stevie Nicks-penned Fleetwood Mac songs “Landslide” and “Gold Dust Woman”. Prior to The Voice, Perkins fronted the Halestorm-esque hard rock band Scarlet Haze, who independently released one full-length album One Bad Bitch (2011). Choice cuts include: “Blame It On You”, “Hero”, “Oxygen”, “Suffocating”, “Give Me a Reason”, “Reach Down”, and “It’s You”. Post-The Voice, Perkins released two EPs Fearless (2014) and self-titled (2015). “Fearless” and a cover of Heart’s “Barracuda” are good cuts from the first EP, while “Take This Heart and Leave” and “When It’s Raining” are good cuts from the self-titled EP. My only problem with Kat Perkins is that, sometimes, she sounds way too much like Lzzy Hale. Maybe she can’t help it, like Brendon Urie (Panic! at the Disco) can’t help that he sounds like Patrick Stump (Fall Out Boy). Anyway, watch the video for “Fearless” here:
Oh, and check out Kat Perkin‘s heartfelt tribute to Christina Grimmie, who finished in 3rd place on the same season of The Voice. Grimmie was shot and killed on June 10, 2016, while signing autographs after a concert in Orlando, FL. The song is called “Angels”. Watch and listen here:
5. Storm Large
Storm Large finished in 5th place on Rock Star: Supernova in 2006. She stands 6’0″. She’s a big girl with a big voice! On Rock Star: Supernova, the 2nd season of Rock Star, Large competed with 14 other wannabe rockers to become the lead singer of a supergroup featuring Tommy Lee (Motley Crue), Gilby Clarke (Guns N Roses) and Jason Newstead (Metallica). The supergroup failed miserably, so the winner of the show [Lukas Rossi] actually lost but, like I said, that cool show was about the journey for me. Post-Rock Star, Storm Large released the excellent EP Ladylike Side One (2007) which included choice cuts like “Ladylike” (with Rock Star co-host Dave Navarro on guitar), “Beautiful”, “Fat Chick’s Revenge”, “You & You & Me”, “Under You”, and a fitting cover of The Pixies‘ “Where Is My Mind?”. Storm Large also premiered her autobiographical cabaret show, Crazy Enough, at Portland Center State in 2008, released an album of the songs performed in the one-woman show in 2009, and published a memoir based on that the show in 2012. The album included re-recorded versions of “Under You” and “Where Is My Mind?”, as well as other good songs like “Throw Away the Key”, “Put It In”, “After All”, and her tongue-in-cheek feminist anthem “Eight Miles Wide” in which she sings, metaphorically: “My vagina is eight miles wide / Absolutely every one can come inside.” Watch the video for “Eight Miles Wide” here:
Storm Large also performs and records with Portland-based lounge act Pink Martini. Her most recent album (and band of the same name) is Le Bonheur (2014), which was released on a record label founded by Pink Martini.
Dilana, from South Africa, was the runner-up on Rock Star: Supernova in 2006. On Rock Star, Dilana‘s husky rasp put a fresh spin on Nirvana‘s “Lithium” and all the judges, including co-host Dave Navarro, agreed. Dilana‘s many tattoos, smokey eyes, facial piercings and scarlet dreads helped, too! Post-Rock Star, she released a killer cover of Queen‘s hit “Killer Queen” (2007), an awesome original non-album single “Hangover” (2009), and an excellent full-length album Inside Out (2009). That album, in fact, was one of the most underrated rock releases of 2009! Choice cuts include: “Holiday” [covered by Allison Iraheta (see #7 above)], “Falling Apart”, “Somebody Else”, “Ice”, “LOUD Silence”, “My Drug”, “Hate U”, and “Dirty Little Secret”. Three years later, Dilana released another good non-album single “Sexaholic” (2012), followed by her second post-Rock Star album Beautiful Monster (2013), which was more subtle and darker than Inside Out. Choice cuts include: “Woman I Am”, “Beautiful Monster”, “Day By Day”, and “Tears”. Prior to Rock Star, Dilana released the excellent Sheryl Crow-esque acoustic rock album Wonderfool (2000). Choice cuts include: “When You’re Around”, “Do You Now”, “The Elvis Motor Inn”, and “Breakfast in Central Park”. Later this year, Dilana will appear on a tribute album to the music of Sting in support of Rock Against Trafficking. The producers loved her rendition of “Roxanne” but she will cover “Can’t Stand Losing You” for the album. Watch the (dumb) video for the (awesome) song “Holiday” here:
Watch and listen to Dilana perform The Black Crowes‘ “She Talks To Angels” live (here).
3. Suzi Rawn
Canadian Suzi Rawn finished in 4th place on the 3rd season of Canadian Idol in 2005. Post-Idol, Rawn hooked up with Canada’s premier melodic hard rockers Harem Scarem and released her debut album Naked in 2006. Together, they delivered an awesome set of hook-heavy pop/rock that is both hard-edged and radio-friendly with Rawn‘s pristine, powerful vocals perfectly matched by de facto Harem Scarem‘s crunchy riffs and pounding backbeats! On Naked, Rawn sounded like Kelly Clarkson (circa 2004) meets Daughtry (circa 2006). Choice cuts include: “Bet U Like Me”, “Naked”, “Raw”, “Overrated”, “Don’t Leave Me” (originally recorded by Harem Scarem), “I Won’t Fall Apart”, “Broken”, “It Was You”, “Don’t Come Easy”, “Understand You” (originally recorded by Harem Scarem), and “Sorry For You”. Oh, wait – that’s every track! It’s that good! I love this album so much, in part, because Harem Scarem is one of the best damn Canadian rock bands that most Americans never heard of! They’ve released 13 albums over the past 20 years and if you add lead singer/songwriter Harry Hess‘s side projects (including his cool band Hess), well, it amounts to a very large body of great music that you never heard! Suzi Rawn released albums with her own band prior to Canadian Idol and another solo album after Naked but none are as good as Naked because the truth is that Harem Scarem is really what makes Naked such a great album! Suzi has an amazing voice, for sure, but Harem Scarem is a great band! Watch the video for “Bet U Like Me” here:
Note: The band in the video above is not Harem Scarem.
2. Suzie McNeil
Canadian Suzie McNeil finished in 4th place on Rock Star: INXS in 2005. I was a bigger fan of Jordis Unga [see #8 above], who competed on the same season of Rock Star, but McNeil ended up delivering some awesome post-Rock Star releases. Her 2007 debut Broken & Beautiful is a pop/rock gem similar to Suzi Rawn‘s Naked [see #3 above]. Choice cuts include: “Believe” [used as a promo for NBC’s The Biggest Loser as well as the Canadian theme for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver], “So In Love” (co-written with P!NK), “Skin”, “Poison”, “Broken & Beautiful”, “Where Were You?”, “Lonely (Are You Coming Home?)”, “The One”, and “Hung Up”. McNeil’s 2009 follow-up Rock-N-Roller offered more of the same. Choice cuts include: “I Wanna Know”, “Don’t Tell Me Goodbye”, “Let’s Go”, “What You’re Getting Into”, “For You”, a cover of Saving Jane‘s “Supergirl”, and a piano-only version of “Believe”. In 2010, McNeil released an excellent live acoustic album that included four awesome new bonus studio tracks: “I Will”, “Be Here Now”, “When You Get Home”, and “The Broken”. Then, in 2012, McNeil switched it up and veered into pure pop territory with her third album Dear Love. Surprisingly, Dear Love is an absolutely amazing album! It’s one of the best straight-up pop albums I’ve ever heard! Choice cuts include: “Dear Love”, “Drama Queen”, “Tough Love”, “Heartbeat”, “Merry Go Round”, “Love Can’t Save Us Now”, “In Luv Tonight”, “One Foot In Front Of The Other”, “Blessing In Disguise”, and “Merry Go Round (Acoustic)”. In “Tough Love”, McNeil sings this great (naughty) line: “I figure I should tell you that tonight this rum & Coke isn’t the only thing that’s going down.” In 2015, McNeil switched it up again – into country rock! She formed the supergroup Loving Mary with songwriter and frequent collaborator Marti Frederiksen, country singer Rebecca Lynn Howard, and others. They have been touring as Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler’s solo band and have released a live EP (2015) with a full-length album Little Bit of Love to follow on October 28th. McNeil is also working on her 4th solo album. Oh, and she released a Christmas album a few years ago, too, so she is definitely the most prolific artist on this list! Watch the (awesome) video for the (awesome) song “Drama Queen” here:
1. Juliet Simms
Juliet Simms was the runner-up on the 2nd season of The Voice in 2012. On The Voice, Simms‘ Janis Joplin-esque pipes wowed the judges on songs like Aerosmith‘s “Cryin'” [while wearing giant black angel wings!] and Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s “Freebird”. However, prior to The Voice, Simms fronted an underrated rock band called Automatic Loveletter, who struggled with major labels but were able to release an EP and two albums. Choice cuts on the EP Recover (2007) include “August 28th 3:30 A.M.” [one of the best songs Simms ever wrote!] and “Make-Up Smeared Eyes (Acoustic)”. Her band’s full-length debut Truth or Dare (2010) is amazing from beginning to end! I can’t believe it wasn’t a huge success! Choice cuts include: “Hush” [re-recorded from the EP], “Story Of My Life”, “The Day That Saved Us”, “To Die For”, “Back To Life”, “Eyes On You”, “Let It Ride”, “My Goodbye” [a re-write of the song “Black Ink Revenge”], “Fade Away”, “Heart Song”, “Don’t Let Me Down”, and “Butterflies”. Yeah – all of ’em! Automatic Loveletter‘s follow-up (and final) album The Kids Will Take Their Monsters On is entirely acoustic. Choice cuts include: “Save Me”, “Black Ink Revenge”, “Carry the Fire”, “Click Your Heels (3 Times And Repeat, There’s No Place Like Home)”, and “The Curtain Close”. I actually discovered Automatic Loveletter in Summer 2011 but didn’t start to appreciate them until Spring 2012, and I didn’t even realize that Simms, who was on The Voice at that time, was the lead singer until I decided to look her up after watching her on the show! Post-The Voice, Simms independently released two EPs and married her long-time boyfriend Andy Biersack [aka Andy Black] of Black Veil Brides. My daughter loves Andy Black But I can’t seem to get her to appreciate Juliet Simms! Anyway, choice cuts from the first EP All Or Nothing (2015) include: “Not Broken Yet” (feat. Andy Biersack), “End Of the World”, “All Or Nothing”, “Mystified”, and “Before It Rains”. Choice cuts on the recently released second EP From the Grave include: “Tidal Wave”, “My Last Whiskey Tears”, and “Phoenix”. The new EP is still ripening with me. Watch the video for “End Of the World” here:
Watch the video for the Recover EP version of “Hush” (here).