10 famous singers who were rejected by 'American Idol'

Rob Kim/Getty ImagesTori Kelly auditioned for ‘American Idol’ when she was a teen.

In the music industry, the tough road to success typically includes a bit of rejection – and sometimes that rejection comes from singing competition shows. Although some famous singers, like Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson, found success on “American Idol,” other talented artists didn’t quite make the cut.

Here are 10 famous musicians who were rejected by “American Idol,” but still went on to achieve musical success.


Colbie Caillat auditioned for “Idol” twice.

Emma McIntyre/Getty ImagesShe auditioned once with a song that later became one of her hits.

The singer tried out for the reality singing competition series twice, even once using her now-hit song, “Bubbly,” to audition.

She failed to make it on the show both times but she later returned as a mentor on the ABC reboot in 2018.

“[I] wasn’t ready at all. I had such stage fright, and I realised I had a lot of work to do with myself,” she told contestants of her experience in the episode.

Although “Idol” didn’t work out for her, Colbie Caillat has done just fine on her own. She’s a two-time Grammy winner who has sold over six million albums worldwide.


Hillary Scott never made it past the show’s preliminary rounds.

Tommaso Boddi/Getty ImagesShe later formed Lady Antebellum.

The country star opened up about her failed “Idol” auditions to Entertainment Weekly, saying, “I actually tried out for ‘American Idol’ twice and didn’t get past the first round, if that gives anyone hope.”

She later formed Lady Antebellum with bandmates Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood. Since its 2006 debut, the group has won five Grammys out of 10 nominations.


Bebe Rexha tried out for the show when she was 18.

Tommaso Boddi/Getty ImagesShe later was a mentor on the show.

Like Caillat, Bebe Rexha returned to mentor young “Idol” hopeful several years after failing to make it on the show herself. “Ten years ago my mother and I waited 10 hours on line to audition for ‘American Idol,'” she wrote in a tweet in March 2018. “I didn’t make it through. This year I’m mentoring!”

The singer went on to find her own success. Her 2017 single featuring Florida Georgia Line, “Meant to Be,” sold millions of copies and went four times platinum. In June, Rexha also released her debut album, “Expectations,” which has since been certified gold.


Maren Morris was rejected from both “American Idol” and “The Voice.”

Tommaso Boddi/Getty ImagesShe’s since earned a Grammy nomination.

Before making her breakthrough, Morris says she failed to make it on both of the reality shows. “I think about all of the freaking talent shows I’ve tried out for in my life and I’m so glad I didn’t make any of them,” she told Rolling Stone. “It’s full circle because I was rejected from ‘The Voice.’ I was rejected from ‘American Idol’ – and I’m happier for it now.”

Maren Morris has since won a Grammy and been nominated five other times. She also found crossover success opening for Niall Horan on tour and collaborating with Zedd on their hit track, “The Middle.”


Amber Riley didn’t get on “Idol,” but she did make it on another Fox hit.

Jesse Grant/Getty ImagesShe later starred on ‘Glee.’

During a 2009 appearance on “The Wendy Williams Show,” Amber Riley revealed that she auditioned for “Idol” at 17 years old. She said never made it in front of the judges.

“I got to the producers,” she said of her audition experience. “I didn’t get to meet anybody.”

But it all worked out in the end. As Riley pointed out, she still ended up on the Fox network when she was cast on “Glee.”

The star has done more than just share her musical talents- she also won season 17 of “Dancing with the Stars.”

Read More: 10 surprising things you probably didn’t know about ‘American Idol’


Kane Brown said he was called too similar to another “Idol” winner.

Getty/Jason KempinHe’s since released two albums.

Having seen how well “Idol” worked out for longtime friend Lauren Alaina, country singer Kane Brown decided to take his own shot at the show. But his audition failed to land him a spot. Brown told Billboard, he recalled being told the show “didn’t need another Scotty McCreery.”

He later tried out for and made it onto “The X Factor,” but quit after producers attempted to put him into a boyband.

After gaining attention from his YouTube covers, he signed with RCA Nashville in 2016 and has since released two albums.


Tori Kelly auditioned at 16 years old, but never made it to the top 24.

Christopher Polk/Getty ImagesHer manager is now Scooter Braun.

Tori Kelly tried out for “Idol” during season nine and made it through only to get cut before the top 24 round. But she didn’t let that deter her from the music industry altogether.

The singer continued to write songs and release music on her own, eventually catching the eye of famed manager Scooter Braun, who also represents Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande.

She signed with Capitol Records a few years after appearing on “American Idol” and she has since released two studio albums. She also lent her voice to the 2016 animated flick, “Sing.”


Naya Rivera used the same audition song for “Idol” and “Glee.”

Frederick M. Brown/Getty ImagesShe sang ‘Emotion’ by the Bee Gees.

The “Glee” star said she auditioned for the show in San Francisco but told “The Talk” that she was cut in the first round.

Interestingly, the same song she sang at her “Idol” audition – “Emotion” by the Bee Gees – later helped her land her breakthrough role on “Glee.”

She later earned a Grammy nomination for a vocal performance on “Glee.”


Mickey Guyton got cut before the live shows.

Jason Merritt/GettyShe’s since released two EPs.

The country singer tried out for “Idol” in 2006 at the urging of an ex-boyfriend. She didn’t make it very far, telling the San Diego Union-Tribune, “It wasn’t the best experience for me.”

She later moved to Nashville and joined the songwriting community, penning her own debut single “Better Than You Left Me.”

Since signing with Capitol Nashville in 2011, she has released two EPs and earned a 2016 Academy of Country Music nomination for New Female Vocalist of the Year.


Alex Kinsey went on to win a different competition show with his former girlfriend after not making it on “Idol.”

Valerie Macon/GettyThe pair later formed Alex & Sierra.

Alex Kinsey said he auditioned for season 12 of “American Idol.” He was voted through the first round but was eliminated from the show during Hollywood Week.

“Honestly, [I] didn’t get enough experience to even take much away from it,” Kinsey told the Chicago Tribune.

But that was far from the end for him. Less than a year later, Kinsey and his then-girlfriend, Sierra Deaton competed as a duo on season three of “The X-Factor” and won.

They went on to release a studio album and an EP together before announcing their split in 2017. During a Reddit AMA, the pair also revealed they were dropped from their record label.

Currently, Deaton and Kinsey are pursuing solo careers.

Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

NOW WATCH: Briefing videos

Business Insider Emails & Alerts

Site highlights each day to your inbox.

Follow Business Insider Australia on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.