It’s probably best not to get too attached to the winner of The Voice every season. There’s a good chance you won’t hear much from them after they’re done doing their media victory lap. As has been well-documented, most of the winners of the hit NBC singing competition have struggled to make an impact in the music industry, for one reason or another (the exceptions: Jordan Smith, Cassadee Pope, and Danielle Bradbery). If you want to locate a past Voice champion, you’ll have a better chance of finding them on a crowdfunding website than the radio. Here’s a look at those Voice winners who failed to make it big.
Javier Colon was the first to struggle
Javier Colon had his sights set on stardom when he won the inaugural season of The Voice in 2011. Can you blame him? Back then there was no reason to think The Voice couldn’t do for its winner what American Idol had done for its champions. Oh how wrong we were. Colon’s debut album with Universal’s Republic Records, "Come Through For You," spent one week on the Billboard 200 at No. 134, and so began the trend of unsuccessful post-Voice careers.
"I went in with high hopes, as I believe everyone did," Colon said in a statement on his website (via Buddy TV) in 2012. "But when you pour your heart and soul into a new album that you think is really great, and your label who is supposed to support, market and promote your music does neither, it’s really hard not to be upset."
Colon parted ways with Republic the year after winning The Voice and was on his own until he signed with independent label Concord Music Group in 2014. He released his follow-up album, Gravity, in 2016 and continues to tour intimate venues and get booked for various gigs. While he isn’t a household name, Colon does have some cachet. How many people can say they were the first Voice winner?
You can pre-order Jermaine Paul’s album, but it won’t drop any time soon
You can order Jermaine Paul’s album, Make Love Save the World — just don’t expect to ever get your hands on the CD. The album from the Alicia Keys backup singer-turned-Voice winner was scheduled to come out in 2015 but never was released. So much for that duet that his coach Blake Shelton agreed to, according to Billboard, or that reunion duet with Keys that Paul mentioned to MTV News. The R&B vocalist has only released a pair of cameo-less original songs in the years following The Voice, but on the surface he seems content. Paul’s Facebook page is a mix of gig news and proud posts about his family.
In an interesting turn of events, it was fellow Voice season 2 alum RaeLynn who ended up working with Shelton. For those who don’t remember, Shelton eliminated the country singer in the quarterfinals. RaeLynn made an appearance on Shelton’s single "Boys ‘Round Here" in 2013 and opened for him on his Doing it to Country Songs tour in 2017 before releasing her album Wildhorse, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart. This is why picking the right coach matters.
Tessanne Chin had a tough time from the start
The way Tessanne Chin put it, she never really stood a chance. The Jamaican singer has implied that her 2014 major label debut with Republic, Count on My Love, was almost destined to fail when it was released seven months after she won The Voice. Chin told Popdust that winning The Voice made it difficult for her to get taken seriously as an artist because people only saw her as "the girl who won a competition show."
She added that "we couldn’t take our time" with the album and that it was challenging because "you come off a reality show and vocal competition where you sing other people’s songs and then you have to figure out what kind of artist you are in the space of three months…" When asked by the Hollywood Reporter about the lack of promotion around the album, Chin said "Unfortunately, we couldn’t help that it was a quiet release."
Not surprisingly, Chin and Republic have since parted ways. She went on to release two singles ("Fire" and "Love Suicide") and talked about an album that has yet to come to fruition. You can still catch her performing at reggae festivals, just like she did before The Voice. But the show was hardly a waste of time for Chin. She told Popdust that she’s thankful for the opportunities The Voice provided her with. Don’t forget that she got to perform at the White House back in 2014.
Josh Kaufman hit Broadway, but his music still suffered
Rather than carry a grudge against the big bad record company for not going through with his album, Josh Kaufman, who became the oldest champion in Voice history when he won at 38, opted to look at things from Republic’s perspective.
He told Fansided that "record labels feel, justly, that they don’t have as much room for error anymore. They really are looking for sure things, and so it’s hard to get a big record label to put a lot of time and effort and money behind you if you haven’t 100 percent proven you’re going to sell a bunch of records." And in an interview with Nuvo, the soulful singer said "I think after several years of releasing stuff from winners of The Voice, I think they just got really wary."
Kaufman was the rare Voice champ who wasn’t chomping at the bit to release an album. Once he was done with the show’s tour obligations, Kaufman skipped the studio and headed straight to Broadway to star in Pippin in 2014. He got to work on his 2016 self-titled EP when it became apparent Republic wasn’t going to get behind him, and he later launched a Patreon page where fans pay artists directly for items such as music and videos. Hey, it’s rough out there. Every little bit helps.
For $8,000, Craig Wayne Boyd would’ve played your wedding
Craig Wayne Boyd likes to say that he ended the relationship with Republic’s Dot Records following The Voice and not other way around. After a fan shared his disappointment about Boyd splitting with Dot just five months after winning the singing competition, Boyd tweeted "it’s called I ASK off of the label…."
He then told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that he needed a great lawyer to get him out of the record deal. Either way, the folks at Dot probably weren’t too distraught. Boyd said in the Review-Journal interview that he showed up to the label and "they said ‘You’re who and you’re what?’"
Those who did follow Boyd closely know he upset favorite Matt McAndrew on The Voice in 2014 and finished the season singing "My Baby’s Got a Smile on her Face," which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart the following week. Boyd self-released his next song "I’m Still Here" in 2015 after asking out of his Dot contract (happy, Craig Wayne?) and then tried to crowdfund his album on PledgeMusic the following year. For $500, you could visit Boyd in the recording studio. And for $8,000, you could have him perform at your wedding.
Sawyer Fredericks has youth on his side, but not much else
Sawyer Fredericks shares the honor of being the youngest contestant to win The Voice along with Danielle Bradbery. They were both 16 when they received the confetti treatment and the $100,000 grand prize during their respective seasons — Fredericks doing so under the tutelage of Pharrell Williams. Kind of puts your teen years to shame, doesn’t it?
The farm boy with the long locks released his album A Good Storm in 2016, which spent one week on the Billboard 200 at No. 48. But it did peak at No. 2 on the Americana/Folk Albums chart, so there’s that.
Fredericks announced on Twitter the following year that he and Republic mutually agreed to part ways and that his mom would be his new manager. In an interview with the Huffington Post, he shed some light on where he felt things went wrong, claiming he asked for complete control over songwriting responsibilities to no avail: "I think it definitely changed my intent for a lot of songs."
Fredericks, under the direction of his momager, has another album in the works, Hide Your Ghost, that he plans on releasing with help from Pledgemusic.
Even being Curly Sue hasn’t helped Alisan Porter
There’s no denying Alisan Porter has talent. And her backstory is so out of the norm that she made headlines simply for auditioning for The Voice. But that apparently wasn’t enough for Republic to get fully behind the season 10 winner and star of the 1991 John Hughes film Curly Sue.
Porter tweeted in 2017 "Not everything worked out perfectly with my ‘record deal’ so I went back to the drawing board." She told People creative differences were to blame and that Republic "just wasn’t the right fit for me. I have a really clear vision of who I am, and it might not be the most cookie-cutter commercial radio [vision] … I would much rather be true to myself than to do something that didn’t feel right for me." Just to really drive home the point, her personal website states that "she turned down a major label contract."
Porter released her EP, I Come in Pieces, with Moon Child Music in 2017 and returned to The Voice to perform her song "Deep Water." But it was her second appearance on The Voice that year to preview The Voice: Neon Dreams live show in Las Vegas, of which she’s a part, that really got her fired up. "Nothing in my life has turned out the way I may have expected it to," Porter posted on Instagram following the latter performance. "But I wouldn’t change a single thing…"
Blake Shelton’s trying to help Sundance Head
Voice judge Blake Shelton is so tired of seeing winners fade away after the show that he challenged Universal to reverse the trend and make Sundance Head a star. "This guy deserves to be a star and there’s no excuses any more," said Shelton (via Yahoo), who coached Head to his Voice victory in 2016. "We need to make the record and put the work behind it that he deserves to have the success that he deserves. And that has to start with Universal Records getting involved and getting behind him."
Apparently that challenge wasn’t accepted, because Head has no album as of this writing. The country crooner with the ZZ Top beard has only released one new song, "Everything to Lose," and an updated version of his 2010 song "How I Want to Be." But he keeps an active tour schedule, including 12 dates as an opener on Shelton’s Doing It to Country Songs tour in 2017. Yes, the same tour that featured season two contestant RaeLynn. You can’t say Shelton isn’t trying.
Chris Blue’s album blues
Chris Blue had a plan to avoid the same fate as many of his Voice predecessors. The pop and R&B singer told ET the key was "to not stay planted too long" and "attack" his goals just like he attacked the singing competition. But as boxing legend Mike Tyson once said, everybody has a plan until they get hit.
Blue went into the studio and presumably got hit with a reality check, because he changed his tune on the subject a few months later. "I [initially] was like ‘You’ve got to strike while the iron is hot,’ but for me what’s most important is just being transparent — just giving my heart," Blue told ET in a follow-up interview, without going into details. "My prayer is that people will continue to love me whether they wait for a month or three months."
Technically, the wait turned out to be around seven months. By the time Blue released his first original single, "Blue Blood Blues," The Voice was already moving on to a new champion, Chloe Kohanski. Alicia Keys, who coached Blue on The Voice before becoming his manager, tried to reignite interest in her artist when she told her Instagram followers that "Blue Blood Blues" sounded like if Prince, Miguel, Otis Redding and Kanye West had a baby. And The Voice gave Blue a platform to promote the song when they invited him to perform it on the season 13 finale. The Knoxville, Tennessee native took them up on the offer with an elaborate saloon-themed set. But none of that made much of a difference as "Blue Blood Blues" failed to catch on, spending only two days on the iTunes US songs chart at No. 85 (via iTunesCharts.net). Blue might want to consider a different plan of attack.