DFW Music News

The Biggest Local Music Stars Reality TV Ever Produced

Singer Maelyn Jarmon, left, celebrates her win on the 16th season of NBC's The Voice with, middle, host Carson Daly and, right, her singing coach John Legend.
Singer Maelyn Jarmon, left, celebrates her win on the 16th season of NBC's The Voice with, middle, host Carson Daly and, right, her singing coach John Legend. Trae Patton/NBC
Reality television may seem a particularly contradicting term when it comes to certain shows — some are certainly more scripted than spontaneous — but, there's a component of "reality" in singing competition shows that even the most cunning producer couldn't fabricate through a script.

For starters, shows like American Idol and The Voice feature people with genuine talent, who can actually do something besides push people's buttons and post about their lives on Instagram. These mainstay competitions can destroy careers and reputations just as easily as any seedy show, but have also launched hundreds of careers for artists who might have never gotten the chance to show the world what they are capable of doing. Here are the singers from North Texas who found their way to stardom via the airwaves.

Maelyn Jarmon
The reigning champion of modern reality singing competition shows, The Voice, produced its first local winner in the 16th season when Frisco singer Maelyn Jarmon took the show's top prize last year. Jarmon scored a spot thanks to judge John Legend during his first season on the show, after all four of the show's other judges — Blake Shelton, Adam Levine and Kelly Clarkson — hit the buzzer during her blind audition rendition of Sting's "Field of Gold." Jarmon beat out Louisiana singer Gyth Rigdon, earning her (and her coach Legend) the win, which led to a memorable and heartfelt duo performance of the pair singing Nat King Cole's "Unforgettable" — which became a top charting single.

Kelly Clarkson 
click to enlarge Do we need another Christmas song? If it's by Kelly Clarkson, sure. - TIBRINA HOBSON/GETTY
Do we need another Christmas song? If it's by Kelly Clarkson, sure.
Tibrina Hobson/Getty

One of the judges who helped Jarmon achieve her early shot at musical fame is a veteran, and OG winner, of reality TV music shows. The Burleson native won the very first season of the Fox mega-hit American Idol in 2002 while she was in the middle of recording her first string of albums, catapulting her to a level of fame no PR team could produce without brainwashing the entire music community. The win earned her the usual level of scorn awarded to future legends in music but it also gave Clarkson a recording contract with RCA Records and a national tour.

Clarkson went on to release eight albums and had five singles peak in the top 10 spots of the Billboard charts — including A Moment Like This, which reached No. 1 in 2002. She went through some rocky times with her management but she emerged to make a memorable performance on American Idol's final season and starring appearances on shows like The Voice and her own daytime talk show.

click to enlarge COURTESY PENTATONIX
courtesy Pentatonix
This a cappella group, whose relationship goes back to their days at Martin High School in Arlington, have careers that lasted longer than the short-lived show that gave its members their musical careers. The quintent — consisting of Scott Hoying, Kevin Olusola, Mitch Grassi, Kirstin Maldonado and Matt Sallee — formed while they were still schoolmates in 2011 to compete (and win) the third season of NBC's a cappella reality singing showcase The Sing-Off. Instead of sticking with the contract they won, they turned to the growing media sensation known as YouTube to continue pursuing their careers by debuting their own musical releases. The move paid off, earning them 18 million subscribers and more than 4 billion reviews. Their viral success led to a much more lucrative contract with RCA Records, one that helped them release 10 albums — including two that made it No. 1 on the Billboard charts. They also made three holiday specials for NBC and a memorable appearance in the movie Pitch Perfect 2.

Todrick Hall
click to enlarge CINDY ORD/GETTY
Cindy Ord/Getty
Surpassing Kelly Clarkson's level of fame may be a near impossible feat for any subsequent American Idol contestant, but this Arlington native definitely comes the closest. Hall also made a name by simply being himself in his videos and his music (and because we all know it would really piss off TV's biggest reigning bastard Simon Cowell). A native of Plainview who moved to Dallas as a kid, Hall scored roles on Broadway in musicals The Color Purple and Memphis before scoring his first 15 minutes of fame during American Idol's ninth season.
The rapper and singer made it all the way to the semi-finals mostly using his own unique blend of witty and colorful tunes — now his trademark. Cowell cruelly predicted on the show that Hall "wouldn't amount to anything beyond a Broadway actor" but Hall has since proved him wrong with YouTube videos that launched him to super stardom, attracted the interest of heavy hitters Beyoncé and Taylor Swift and led to the release of three critically acclaimed albums and tours.

Miranda Lambert
Tyler Conrad/Live Nation
This future music legend first caught country music's eye on the USA Network reality show Nashville Star in 2003, where she finished third on the show but far surpassed her second and first place winners' success in the long run. Lambert performed her first live show in Arlington in the Johnnie High Country Music Revue at 16, which led to a recording session and her first self-titled album before she appeared on the show. Her memorable performances served as auditions for future recording contracts with Epic Records, who releasing her next album Kerosene on the top of the Billboard country music charts the same year. The five albums that followed also reached number one on Billboard's country music sales chart earning platinum status and accolades including two Grammys, six American Country Awards and more.

Katrina Cain
click to enlarge Los Angeles-by-way-of-Denton singer Katrina Cain dazzled the judges on The Voice. - ED STEELE
Los Angeles-by-way-of-Denton singer Katrina Cain dazzled the judges on The Voice.
Ed Steele
The self described "melancholy pop" star from Denton became a familiar face to music fans outside of North Texas during the 15th season on The Voice with her rendition of Fleetwood Mac's "Rhiannon." Levine remarked she would have gotten a full four-chair turn during her initial audition if two of them had not already picked their singers. Even though she didn't win the season, Cain's turned more heads than judges' chairs since then. She's become a music critic and fan favorite with her distinct musical style — haunting words delicately draped over electronic melodies — which earned her a featured performance at the South By Southwest Festival in Austin

Danielle Bradbery
This singer from Cypress, who first popped up on everyone's radar as the winner of the fourth season of The Voice, was the youngest winner in the history of the series. The soulful country star went on to tour with Kane Brown, Blake Shelton and Brad Paisley and release two critically acclaimed albums produced by Big Machine Records — all before she turned 24. As if that weren't enough of an accomplishment for a budding star, she also got to perform at the Grand Ole Opry with Paisley and sing the national anthem during the opening ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Luke Wade

The Fort Worth native, who made his name on stages around Dallas-Forth Worth, also found his fame on The Voice in 2014. He was known in local circles for his guitar and vocal performances with his band No Civilians, but is best remembered as a four-chair turner on the show's premiere season episode with his rendition of Otis Redding's "That's How Strong My Love Is," and as a student of pop star and hat aficionado Pharrell Williams. Wade still calls Texas his home but he's made some memorable live performances with the likes of Patti LaBelle and Casey Abrams, and released three studio albums.

Dalton Rapattoni

Mike Brooks
Clarkson wasn't the only hometown hero to one last chance to perform on Fox's final season of American Idol.
This musical native finished third on the reality singing show that produced his first hit single "Strike a Match" in 2015. Dalton Rapattoni's released a total of six singles before and after his appearance on the show. Even though he's started carving out his own national music career, he hasn't forgotten his roots and chose to stay in to record music with Blue October's Matt Noveskey.

Kacey Musgraves
click to enlarge MIKE BROOKS
Mike Brooks
This former star of USA's Nashville Star may have finished seventh on the reality show that helped launched her stardom, but she's become one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved music makers in modern country. Musgraves signed a contract with Mercury Nashville in 2012 following her time on TV, and released her breakout album Same Trailer Different Park the following year, earning her Grammys for Best Country Album and Best Country Song for the single "Merry Go Round." Musgraves went on to win four more Grammys in 2018 for her album Golden Hour, including Best Country and Best Album of the Year. Three of her four albums debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Country charts and even the top four on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. She's also released five gold- and three platinum-selling singles.
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.