For decades, American Idol has been a platform where aspiring vocalists chase their dreams of stardom in the music industry. While many contestants aim for mainstream success, many talented musicians have emerged from the show as well-known Christian artists. Some artists continue to thrive in their careers, while others have faded into obscurity. Let’s look at the journeys of these artists, both the well-known and the forgotten.
Born and raised in Louisiana, contemporary crossover pop artist Lauren Daigle embarked on her American Idol journey not once but twice. Her first attempt in 2010 ended before reaching the final 24 contestants, and her second try in 2012 saw her make it to the Hollywood round but ultimately being eliminated during the Las Vegas round. Despite these setbacks, Daigle’s talent caught the attention of record label Centricity Music, and she signed with them in 2013. Her path to success was set in motion.
In 2015, Daigle released her debut album, “How Can It Be,” which skyrocketed to the Billboard Christian Albums Chart. Daigle’s momentum continued with her sophomore album, “Look Up Child,” released in 2018.
In 2023, Daigle unveiled her self-titled album, a labor of love. This soulful collection comprises twenty uplifting songs to be released in two parts. The first ten songs arrived on May 12; fans can expect the remaining ten later this year. Daigle describes this album as her most precious project yet, pushing her songwriting skills to new heights and showcasing the various dimensions of her artistry.
Country-Christian artist Megan Danielle achieved a remarkable feat by securing second place on this year’s American Idol. Her captivating audition of Lauren Daigle’s heartfelt ballad “You Say” left a lasting impression. Megan’s admiration for Daigle reached new heights when the talented artist made a surprise appearance during Megan’s audition. The synergy between Megan and Lauren came full circle during the American Idol finale as they delivered a breathtaking performance of Daigle’s latest release, “Thank God I Do.” With such promising talent, Megan’s future in the music industry is bound to be filled with more captivating moments.
Colton Dixon, a pop artist with a rock flair, first tried his luck on American Idol alongside his sister, Schyler, during season 10. Although they didn’t make it far, Dixon returned for season 11 as a solo contestant and finished seventh place. While his journey on American Idol ended there, it was just the beginning of his venture into Christian rock.
Dixon’s debut album, A Messenger, embraced his signature rock sound and resonated with fans. However, his subsequent albums, such as 2014’s Anchor and 2017’s Identity, showcased a fusion of top 40 pop influences with contemporary Christian elements. This musical exploration allowed Dixon to connect with a broader audience while staying true to his Christian roots.
Recently, he dropped his seven-song EP, CANVAS. The EP’s highly expected single, “My Light,” significantly impacts radio. Following the success of his chart-topping single “Build A Boat,” which spent an impressive ten weeks at No. 1 on Mediabase Christian AC charts in 2022, Dixon continues to expand his musical horizons.
The immense personal loss marked contemporary artist Danny Gokey‘s American Idol journey in season 8. Just four weeks after his wife’s tragic passing, Gokey took the stage and captivated the judges and viewers alike. Despite the emotional turmoil, he secured a third-place finish and caught the attention of record label RCA Records, signing as a country artist. However, Gokey later shifted gears and signed with BMG to pursue a career in contemporary Christian music, where his true passion lay.
With BMG, Gokey released three studio albums, adding to his previous discography. His dedication and talent earned him multiple Dove Awards nominations, and his album Christmas Is Here won the coveted Dove Award for Christmas Album of the Year in 2016.
In 2017, Gokey released his fifth full-length studio album, Rise. The year 2019 brought the release of his latest album, “Haven’t Seen It Yet,” which featured the hit single of the same name, along with uplifting tracks like “Love God Love People” and “New Day.”
Gokey released his eighth album, Jesus People, in August 2022, showcasing his willingness to explore various genres. This album pushed boundaries as Gokey experimented with Latin pop, classical music, and dance-pop, adding a fresh twist to his repertoire. “Jesus People” climbed to the top of the Billboard Top Christian Albums chart and secured a spot on the Billboard 200 chart, proving his enduring appeal across different genres and audiences.
Contemporary artist Tasha Layton‘s path to music stardom took an unexpected turn when she auditioned for American Idol. While she didn’t win the competition, her remarkable talent propelled her forward, leaving a lasting impression. Fortuitously, Layton received a call to audition for pop artist Katy Perry’s upcoming tour. She seized the opportunity and spent the next four years touring with Katy, traveling to over 40 countries, and sharing her gift with audiences worldwide. During this time, Layton’s talent continued to shine, leading her to sing for live shows in Disneyland, record for Cirque du Soleil productions, and contribute songs used on Nickelodeon.
Yet, a transformative mission trip to Kenya and South Africa sparked a profound shift in Layton’s perspective. Witnessing the vast disparities between the materialistic Hollywood culture and the communities in Africa filled with need, she felt a deep calling to make a difference. Recognizing that God had further plans for her, Layton transitioned from the spotlight alongside Katy Perry to a more purpose-driven life in South Carolina and, eventually, Nashville.
Layton met and married Keith Everette Smith, a GRAMMY and GMA Dove Award-winning musician, and producer in Nashville. Together, they embarked on a creative journey, pouring their talents into Layton’s debut EP and creating musical magic in the studio.
Beyond her music, Layton recently announced her debut book, Look What You’ve Done: The Lies We Believe and the Truth That Sets Us Free, set to release through K-LOVE Books.
Mexican American Christian recording artist MŌRIAH dropped her EP, MORIAH, in December 2021. A strong advocate for expanding women’s roles and creativity in the music industry, MŌRIAH took on multiple roles for this project, serving as the sole writer, producer, and even choreographer for the accompanying visual album, which was recorded live at Graystone Quarry in Nashville, Tennessee. She intentionally hired women from various cultural backgrounds to promote inclusivity and diversity further to work alongside her on this ground-breaking endeavor.
The EP delves into themes of friendship, faith, personal insecurities, and self-worth. Drawing from her own experiences, including a heart-wrenching betrayal in late 2019, MŌRIAH retreated to the solitude of the woods to seek solace in God’s presence and create music that would resonate with listeners on a deep level.
Reflecting on her emotional journey, MŌRIAH shares, “A close friend deeply hurt me, and what started as sadness turned into rage. Like many people, my thoughts led me to a dark place during quarantine. In my anger, I prayed for justice. In my heartache, I prayed for strength. I believed that finding answers would bring me healing, but the reality was different. The only thing that brought me peace was knowing God knows, sees, and loves me, even in my bitterness and unresolved frustrations. I clung to that promise until forgiveness found me.”
One of the most promising emerging artists on this list is Haven Madison. As the daughter of Building 429 frontman Jason Roy, Madison made her musical debut with the independent release of her first single, “Already Gone,” in 2020. That same year, she joined her father and Building 429, lending her vocals and co-writing on their single “Different,” showcasing her undeniable talent. Madison released several beautiful pop-acoustic singles, building anticipation for her debut project, All the Things I Didn’t Say.
In February 2023, Haven auditioned for the 21st season of American Idol. Accompanied by her father on guitar, she performed her original song, “15,” which earned her the coveted golden ticket and a rapidly growing fan base. Her journey on the show led her to become one of the final eight contestants, solidifying her status as a rising star with immense potential. With her powerful voice and compelling songwriting skills, Haven Madison is poised to affect the music industry significantly.
In 2022, Christian singer-songwriter Emily Faith auditioned for the 20th season of American Idol. She was eliminated in the earlier rounds but left her mark in the Christian music industry. Besides her American Idol journey, Emily showcased her musical talents during the NewReleaseToday.com’s We Love Christian Music Awards, where she performed her original song, “All You Wanted Was Me.”
With her undeniable talent and soulful voice, Tori has experienced immense success in the music industry since her appearance in season 9 of American Idol. Despite not reaching the top 24, Kelly has become a highly accomplished artist, known for her pop songs that often incorporate elements of her Christian faith. She has achieved mainstream popularity and has collaborated with various Christian artists, including Lecrae, for King and Country, Amy Grant, and Cory Asbury.
In recent years, Kelly has released notable projects that have further solidified her place in the music scene. Her 2019 album, Inspired by True Events, showcased her versatility as an artist and received critical acclaim. Following that, she released the EP, Solitude in 2020, which featured original songs she wrote during the quarantine period of the COVID-19 pandemic. The EP included the singles “Time Flies” (a cover of Drake’s song) and “Unbothered.”
In 2021, she recorded a cover of “Waving Through a Window” for the soundtrack album of the film adaptation of Dear Evan Hansen. She also published her first book, The Curly Girl Blues, in November 2021 and reprised her role as Meena in the animated film Sing 2. Most recently, in March 2023, Tori signed with Epic Records and released her new single, “missin’ u,” with an album to follow.
Another standout Christian artist who gained recognition through American Idol is Hollyn. Hollyn participated in season 12 of the show and impressed viewers with her dance and worship-style music. Though she didn’t win the competition, Hollyn has significantly impacted the Christian music industry.
In 2017, Hollyn released her only full-length studio album, One-Way Conversations, which showcased her unique sound and musical style. The album garnered positive reviews and solidified Hollyn as a rising star in the genre. Following the album’s release, she continued to captivate audiences with her EP, Bye, Sad Girl, in 2019 and the single “To the Moon” in 2020.
In November 2021, Hollyn released her first independent album, Holy Rebellion. This highly anticipated project showcased her growth as an artist and featured a diverse range of musical influences. The album received critical acclaim and earned a Pop Album of the Year nomination at the We Love Christian Music Awards.
Phil and McKayla Stacey
Phil Stacey, a contestant in the sixth season of American Idol, also found his place in the Christian music industry. Stacey’s audition became memorable when he received news of his daughter McKayla’s birth just before auditioning. This heartwarming moment resonated with viewers, and Stacey gained a loyal fan base throughout the competition.
In a beautiful twist of fate, McKayla followed in her father’s footsteps and auditioned for the 21st season of American Idol in 2023. Although she didn’t make it past the audition round, McKayla showcased her confidence and potential as a singer. Her connection to her father’s journey on American Idol demonstrated the show’s impact on their family’s life.
Paul Phillips is a Canadian journalist with 20 years of experience writing and editing digital and print content. Bradden Ford is a Christian music junkie charged with maintaining NewReleaseToday’s new release database of artists and releases. Portions of this article were written with the help of chat.openai.com.