American Idol has produced superstars like Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina, and Fantasia Barrino, but some of the show’s biggest success stories never made it past early auditions. In fact, being rejected by American Idol may have even worked out for the best.
Here are 10 artists who were rejected by American Idol.
Maren Morris got the last laugh after being rejected from season seven of American Idol. She posted a photo of her audition ticket from 2007 on Instagram, captioning it “I didn’t make it past the first round cattle call… I wasn’t really into sports growing up, but this feels like the equivalent of your mom saving your 10th place trophy.” These days, people sing her songs during their auditions.
Chris Lane and his twin brother, Cory Lane, were also rejected during auditions for season seven of Idol. They performed an original rap song that did not earn them a “yes” from the judges. These days, Chris Lane is enjoying success as a solo country artist with Cory Lane playing drums in his touring band.
Mickey Guyton made it through several rounds of auditions, but was cut before the live rounds of season eight of Idol. She went on to sign a record deal with Colombia, earn a nomination for New Female Vocalist of the Year at the 2016 ACM Awards, and sing the National Anthem at Super Bowl LVI.
Jimmie Allen was sent home before the live shows during season ten of Idol, but not before becoming friends with Scotty McCreery who went on to win the season. The pair eventually toured together and Allen has since topped the country music charts both as a solo artist and with Brad Paisley on their duet “Freedom Was a Highway.”
He also served as a guest mentor on season 20 of Idol.
After seeing the success his friend Lauren Alaina had on Idol, Kane Brown decided to try out the reality show for himself. They rejected him, saying “they didn’t need another Scotty McCreery,” he told Billboard.
He secured a spot on The X Factor, but quit when they wanted him to join a band. These days, he’s headlining – and selling out – arenas around the country.
Bebe Rexha waited in line with her mom for 10 hours, only to have Idol turn her down. In a twist of fate, Rexha returned to Idol as a mentor in season 20. She took to Twitter when her role on the show was announced to share a photo of herself holding an Idol sign.
“10 years ago my mother and I waited 10 hours online to audition for American Idol,” she wrote. “I didn’t make it through. This year I’m mentoring!”
Idol passed on Hillary Scott of Lady A not once, but twice. “I never got to see [the judges],” she told Entertainment Tonight. “I literally performed for the production assistants and the interns, and I just didn’t make it.”
She went on to join Dave Haywood and Charles Kelley in forming the GRAMMY-winning Lady A.
Colbie Caillat was rejected by Idol twice as well. She performed her original song “Bubbly” for her second audition, but producers sent her on her way, a decision she’s happy about now. “I was shy,” she told USA Today. “I was nervous [and] I didn’t look the greatest [and] I wasn’t ready for it yet.”
“Bubbly” would go on to top the charts in several countries and be certified platinum.
Simon Cowell called Tori Kelly’s voice “almost annoying” when she auditioned for Idol in 2010. While the rest of the judges gave her the “yes” needed to advance to Hollywood, she was cut before the Top 24.
She would ultimately go on to win a GRAMMY and return to the Idol stage in season 19 as part of ‘All-Star Duets’ night.
Chrissy Metz was rejected by an Idol audition screener during season five auditions in San Diego after spending hours in the sun. She let him know her thoughts on the matter when told she wasn’t what they were looking for. “I said, ‘I kind of disagree with you,’” she told Yahoo! That moxy got her another audition before she was ultimately sent home. Years later, she would show off her vocals as Kate Pearson on NBC’s This Is Us.
American Idol airs Sundays at 8/7c on ABC.