Talent Recap

5 Talent Show Contestants That Lost The Show But Won At Life


Reading Time: 7 minutes

With all the talent competitions out there, we’ve seen an endless number of highly talented acts. But not everybody can win and sometimes judges (or fans) are left with some tough decisions. Maybe it’s an off week or a bad song choice. Maybe they just don’t stack up to the competition. Whatever the reason, many talented acts have met an early fate despite having win worthy talent. Here’s a recap of 5 acts we loved and didn’t win, but still struck it big. 

Talent Show Contestants That Lost The Show But Did They Really?

Here’s a quick refresher of five fan favorites from talent competitions that didn’t make the cut but still managed to take a cut.

Melanie Martinez From ‘The Voice’

Melanie Martinez’s audition on The Voice season 3

Having never even watched the show before, Melanie Martinez boldly auditioned for season 3 of The Voice. Her blind audition of Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” got CeeLo, Adam, and Blake to turn their chairs. She chose Adam Lavine to be her coach. Martinez was popular amongst fans, but despite that finished in the top 6 after not earning enough public votes. 

Not long after, she released her debut single, “Dollhouse.” Thanks to a fan-funded Indiegogo, the song got a music video to follow it up. The success of the single landed her a deal with Atlantic Records in 2014. The first single off the debut album, Cry Baby, was “Pity Party” and was released June ’15. The album debuted at #6 on the Billboard 200. Not everything was smooth sailing for Martinez as she was accused of rape by a former friend, bringing her some bad press.


Her artistry and name continue to grow despite that negative publicity. Along with collab lipsticks, she released a fragrance named from the debut album. She even got into film and produced one that told the story of each song from her second album. K-12 was the title of both the film and the second album, released in 2019. With plans to create sequels to the “visual album” we can expect more of Melanie Martinez.

Lindsey Stirling From ‘America’s Got Talent’

Lindsey Stirling may have taken on too much in the AGT season 5 quarter-finals

America’s Got Talent season 5 found us Lindsey Stirling. She was a hip-hop violinist and dancer and her audition had judges stunned. Her modern twist on the classical instrument was a hit with the fans too. It carried her to the quarter-finals, where she tried to step it up for the judges but missed the mark. Piers Morgan said about her final performance, “it sounded to me like a bunch of rats being strangled.” 

Losing the competition and receiving that harsh criticism wasn’t a low point at all. She began to find growing fame on YouTube. After being approached by cinematographer Devin Graham, she released a video for her song “Spontaneous Me.” The video boosted her popularity and thus she began to make new music videos for her channel. Building up a following with 12 million subscribers and over 3 billion views, she was bound to catch somebody’s attention.


Stirling released her debut album in 2012 and has seen her career unfold. She’s gotten to work with some big names in music and YouTube. Names like John Legend, Pentatonix, and Kurt Hugo Schneider are a few of those who have worked with the talented violinist. In 2013 Stirling signed with Lady GaGa’s manager, Troy Carter, and was soon embarked on a world tour. Over the years her international YouTube/music fame has earned her 19 different award nominations, 10 of them she’s won. She now has 3 albums to date and her YouTube following continues to grow. She’s grown her name well beyond her humble beginnings. When she was invited to compete on America’s Got Talent: The Champions, she declined. In an interview, she spoke on the subject saying “…I would never come back to compete. Like, I’m sorry I do really well on my own now.”

One Direction From ‘The X Factor UK’

One Direction’s first group performance that started it all

One that probably needs little introduction, One Direction was a product The X Factor UK, despite having not won the competition. The boys (Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry, and Louis) all originally auditioned solo for the 7th season but failed to make the cut. The judges saw potential though and decided to group them up. The fans agreed with the move as the boys grew popular in the UK. They ended finishing in 3rd despite their fanfare. 

It was not much of a loss for them. Their cover of “Forever Young,” which was pre-recorded and only intended to be heard if they had won, got leaked. The leaked song was a hit and shortly after they were signed by Simon Cowell to Syco Music. They have seen great success as a group with millions of copies of their records and singles sold internationally. A long list of nominations and awards, which includes winning AMA Artist of the Year two times adds to their achievements. But as we all know, they eventually went five directions.


After a successful 5 years, the boys decided it was time to focus on solo careers. Zayn Malik left first in March of 2015 and the news didn’t sit well for the bandmates or the fans. They gave it a try as a 4 member group, but months after Zayn’s leaving, the group announced they would follow similar paths. It’s been more than 5 years since they split and fans remain hopeful of a future reunion.

Fifth Harmony From ‘The X Factor’

Fifth Harmony told us “Anything Could Happen” in the semi-finals of The X Factor

A similar storyline unfolded in season 2 of The X Factor when we watched the 5-piece girl group, Fifth Harmony, find their start. Just like One Direction, Fifth Harmony came together after the five members (Ally, Camila, Normani, Dinah, and Lauren) failed to advance through their solo categories. They qualified for the group category and quickly grew popular among fans, only to finish 3rd. Even though they didn’t win, Fifth Harmony was signed to a label in a joint deal with judges Simon Cowell and LA Reid.

They debuted their first EP, Better Together, in 2013 and sold 28k in the first week. Leaving us with a taste for more, it was a long wait before a full-length album was released. In 2015 they finally released Reflection, their debut album and it was a smashing success. They launched an extensive national tour to promote the album and it paid off. The album’s three singles each earned platinum certifications selling at least 1 million streams and downloads. Their triple platinum status is also celebrated with a list of awards won from various international awards shows. Eventually, they too met the same fate as One Direction.


In 2016 the group lost Camila Cabello to a difference of opinion. She ultimately left after the group didn’t see eye to eye with her wanting to remain in the group while exploring a solo career. The group closed out 2016 with their final performance on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. Fifth Harmony carried on as a four-piece group, releasing another studio album and going on a couple of international tours. It was in 2018 the remaining members announced the groups’ hiatus while they pursue solo projects.

Jennifer Hudson From ‘American Idol’

Jennifer Hudson confidently auditioning for the American Idol judges

One of the earlier seasons of American Idol found Jennifer Hudson. A season 3 contestant whose name grew bigger than even the show. She was an incredible singer and the fans were raving. It wasn’t enough to carry her to the final though and she finished in 7th for her season. The show was only a catalyst for the fame she came to know. Following Idol, she continued to pursue music while also getting into acting and she’s now one of the big success stories to come from American Idol.


She cemented herself in both film and music winning awards for both categories. Hudson is an Academy Award winner for her film debut made in the 2006 musical, Dreamgirls. With the release of her self-titled album in 2008, she found greater success. The album soared to #2 on the Billboard 200 and sold over 1 million copies globally. It received 4 Grammy nominations that year and won for Best R&B Album. As she was reaching a height in her career, tragedy struck.

A tragic story unfolded not long after the album’s release. Hudson’s mother, brother, and nephew were all shot and killed by her sister’s estranged husband. Following the tragic events, Hudson took a hiatus from the public eye returning only a few months later to perform at Super Bowl XLIII. She went on to perform at the Grammy’s and on television shows like Oprah and American Idol upon her return. Coming full circle, Hudson even served as a coach on The X Factor UK for a short time. 

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