11 Famous Singers Who Were Rejected By 'American Idol'

They didn't let "no" get them down.

Being told "no" doesn't have to mean your journey has to come to an end — and these 11 American Idol "rejects" know that probably better than anyone else.


Throughout the past 16 seasons of the iconic talent search TV series, more people saw dreams dashed than we care to count while just a handful found massive success. Some weren't deemed good enough by the judges (or producers) and never even made it to America's vote. That's what happened to these 11 individuals who, later, ended up reaching new heights of fame by making it to the top of the charts or onto the Grammy stage. And the best part? They did it on their own.

From beloved singer-songwriters such as Colbie Caillat to country icons like Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott, these 11 people were rejected by American Idol but thrived anyway.

Colbie Caillat

On this season of Idol, Colbie Caillat opened up about having previously auditioned for the show in its run on Fox — even bringing her hit song "Bubbly" to the judges and still getting the axe. While mentoring some of the recent hopefuls, Caillat revealed that she tried out twice but admitted that she "wasn't ready at all." The 32-year-old didn't let that stop her and now has two Grammy wins.

Mickey Guyton

One of country music's most promising up-and-coming stars, Mickey Guyton was actually turned away from Idol back in its eighth season. She makes it pretty far before getting "it's a no" from the judges during the Green Mile, aka right before the live shows. Now, the 34-year-old — who admits to totally stanning Dolly Parton — is paving her own way in the industry.

Tori Kelly

Tori Kelly is one of today's greatest vocalists, which makes it even more of a crime that she was cut during the ninth season before the Top 24 round. Now, her career boasts a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 2016 and a feature in that year's animated feature film Sing. The 25-year-old is clearly doing just fine without Idol.

Mary Lambert

You may best know Mary Lambert from her feature on "Same Love," the marriage equality anthem from Macklemore & Ryan Lewis that blew up in 2012 — but she actually tried out for Idol back in the day. The 29-year-old is now a two-time Grammy nominee and has made waves with her solo song "She Keeps Me Warm."

Chrissy Metz

Before making it big on This Is Us, Chrissy Metz actually auditioned for Idol circa 2007. The 37-year-old Emmy- and Golden Globe-nominated star revealed this little-known fact in her 2018 book, This Is Me: Loving the Person You Are Today, and told Entertainment Tonight that she pushed back about them potentially wanting her for reasons other than how well she can sing. Fun fact: Metz also revealed that she sang "Heavy Heavy" from Dreamgirls as her audition song.

Maren Morris

Not only did Maren Morris try out for Idol, she tried The Voice as well. Her thoughts about not making it on either? She is "happier for [the rejection] now," the 28-year-old told Rolling Stone Country. Morris, who won a Grammy for her breakthrough song "My Church," is one of country music's brightest stars.

Bebe Rexha

Like Caillat, 28-year-old Bebe Rexha mentored Idol hopefuls this past season and opened up about her own failed audition. She offered up some encouraging words for "all you watching out there" by saying that, with her not making it and the fact that she went on to have a successful career, "you just never know!" Truer words have never been spoken.

Amber Riley

The first of our two Glee stars to make this list, Amber Riley — who played diva Mercedes Jones on the dramedy — tried out for Idol at the age of 17. The shocking part? She didn't even make it past producers, which is amazing when you realize the fact that playing Effie White of "And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going" fame in London's West End production of Dreamgirls won her an Olivier Award. "You know what?" the 32-year-old Dancing With the Stars champ told Access Hollywood during her Glee days. "I still work on Fox and I get paid."

Alan Ritchson

Before playing Aquaman on Smallville — as well as appearing in the Hunger Games and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchises — Alan Ritchson tried out for Idol. It happened way back during the third season when he made America, and judge Paula Abdul, swoon thanks to a striptease. Ritchson, who is now 33, made it to the Hollywood round before getting cut and eventually ending up in Hollywood anyway.

Naya Rivera

The other Glee star who didn't make it on Idol — and by that we mean not even having the audition air on TV — but still ended up winning America with their vocals is Naya Rivera, who played the feisty Santana Lopez on the Ryan Murphy series. The 31-year-old once told The Talk that she sang her Idol audition song — "Emotion" by The Bee Gees — to snag the role on Glee. When one door closes, burst through another one singing your favorite song. That's the phrase, right?

Hillary Scott

You know her as the lady in Lady Antebellum, but did you know Hillary Scott once tried out for Idol not once but twice? It's true, and she never made it past the preliminary rounds. It's OK, though, because Scott went on to form Lady Antebellum with Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood. As a group, they have won nine Grammys. If that's not inspiration, we don't know what is.

Cover images: Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock.com 


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