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30 Greatest Musicians to Come From Singing Competitions

Whether they won or not, One Direction, Carrie Underwood, Christina Aguilera and many more acts have proven reality shows can be the perfect intro to a global fanbase

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One Direction From 'The X Factor U.K.'

The group leading the latest charge of boy band mania was actually created by the celebrity panel on the UK's The X FactorSimon Cowell and former Pussycat Doll member Nicole Scherzinger, who was acting as a guest judge, decided that Harry, Niall, Louis, Liam and Zayn weren't quite strong enough as soloists and pushed them together in...wait for it...One Direction. (You can let out a big "Ohhhh! I get it!") 

Since finishing third in the 2010 season of the singing competition, the band has broken records (including being the first band to having their first three albums debut at No. 1) and headlined massive global tours. No doubt their upcoming album FOUR will further solidify their legacy.—Jeff Benjamin

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Jennifer Hudson From 'American Idol'

Ah, Jennifer Hudson: The reality show contestant who went on to be an Oscar winner. When the seventh-place finisher from American Idol Season 3 snagged the Academy award for Best Supporting Actress, it further solidified that reality shows could produce superstars who could extend their reach past music.—Jeff Benjamin

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Miranda Lambert From 'Nashville Star'

One of country music's reigning queens, Miranda Lambert first hit the spotlight as the third-place finalist on USA Network's Nashville Star. With her hold-nothing-back attitude, the singer has scored four consecutive platinum albums while her latest, 2014's Platinum, was her first to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and has already gone gold in less than six months. Lambert currently holds a record at the Academy of Country Music Awards, with five straight wins as Female Vocalist of the Year.

Her husband, The Voice coach Blake Shelton, applauds her reality show start. "To me, Miranda is the most important country artist to come out in the last 20 years," he told Billboard. "She came from one of these [music competition] shows. That's how she got her record deal. So anybody who calls out people for being on these shows can kiss [the collective] ass of some of the most important artists that we've seen in all of music."—Jeff Benjamin

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Kelly Clarkson From 'American Idol'

It's hard to remember that Texas sweetheart Kelly Clarkson was introduced to us through American Idol, with the singer totally transcending her "reality show contestant" tag that was a bit looked down upon in 2002. But after winning the premiere season, the big-voiced star has dropped six humongous studio albums, picked up three GRAMMYs and is one of the show and reality TV's biggest successes.—Jeff Benjamin

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Susan Boyle From 'Britain's Got Talent'

Sure, everyone thought Susan Boyle was a joke when the 48-year-old wobbled onto Britain's Got Talent in 2009. But what happened after became one of the most magical moments of the YouTube-era, as millions became instantly enamored with the lovable Scottish singer who could belt out Broadway tunes like the true diva greats. Following her second place finish on the show, her debut album I Dream a Dream topped the Billboard 200 chart for six weeks, and her follow-up, The Gift, also hit No. 1 less than a year later. She's sold more than 19 million albums worldwide and proven to millions of people that you really can't judge a book by its cover.—Jeff Benjamin

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Carrie Underwood From 'American Idol'

During Carrie Underwood's run on the fourth season of American IdolSimon Cowell predicted that not only would she win the competition, but that she would go on to sell more than any other contestant. He was right, and the Oklahoma native has moved nearly 15 million records to date. Carrie has also picked up six GRAMMYs, holds the record for most No. 1 hits on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart and Forbes recently declared her the biggest earner from Idol of all time.—Jeff Benjamin

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Pentatonix From 'The Sing-Off'

Along with Pitch Perfect, NBC's The Sing-Off is credited for bringing a cappella to the masses and making it (gasp!) cool. Season 3's champion Pentatonix is undoubtedly America's favorite vocal group, and they've proven a cappella can compete at the top of the charts. The quintet's last EP PTX, Vol. III hit No. 5 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, and their holiday single "Little Drummer Boy" hit No. 13 on the Hot 100 singles chart. 

Yeah, these guys are doing just as good (if not better) than some pop stars nowadays.—Jeff Benjamin

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Leona Lewis From 'The X Factor U.K.'

Leona Lewis won Season 3 of the UK version of The X Factor and went on to have one of the most global careers of any of the British show's contestants. Her official debut single "Bleeding Love" was a worldwide smash, as were subsequent singles like "Better in Time" and "Happy." Her career has since slowed down a little bit, but her incredible set of pipes (watch above) along with a proven openness to new music and artists (she reinterpreted Avicii's "Penguin" for her 2009 single "Collilde" ahead of the EDM boom and gave Childish Gambino one of his first major features on "Trouble") shows there's much more to her than catchy pop songs.—Jeff Benjamin

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Dawn Richard From 'Making the Band'

Dawn Richard has lived multiple musical lives, but it all started with her appearance on MTV's Making The Band 3. That show led her to being one of the final five selected for girl group Danity Kane. When creator Diddy disbanded the collective, he only kept the soulful singer signed to his Bad Boy Records. He then enlisted her to sing in his excellent side project Diddy-Dirty Money. Since that group disbanded, Dawn is now pushing full force ahead on her independent solo projects that include two studio albums, two EPs and a mixtape that showcase her forward-thinking grasp on R&B. Her latest full-length RED*emp*tion is due later this year.—Jeff Benjamin

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Adam Lambert From 'American Idol'

Somehow, Adam Lambert didn't win the eighth season of American Idol. But nevertheless, the singer has proven that he's truly winning with one of the most impressive track records post-show. Lambert has acted as the Queen frontman, scored a recurring role in Glee and dropped two well-received albums. Sophomore release Trespassing went to No. 1 on the Billboard 200, making him the first openly gay artist to top the charts, in what was a major moment in LGBTQ history. Perhaps most importantly, Lambert has made sure to use his voice for good: He's inspired his Glamperts to donate more than one million dollars to charities to date, and he's been one of the first artists to confidently bring a gay perspective to mainstream culture.—Jeff Benjamin

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Busker Busker From 'Superstar K3'

Made up of Koreans Kim Hyungtae and Jang Beomjun as well as American-bred Brad Moore, Busker Busker was the runner-up on 2011 singing competition show Superstar K3 and wound up creating a modern-day K-pop classic. After snagging second place, the group took an indie route in lieu of signing with a major label, kicking off their debut album with the feel-good, light-rock track "Cherry Blossom Ending" (above). The song has become a representative song of spring in Korea and regularly climbs back up the charts in the springtime a la "Thriller" in America during Halloween. 

The group has had sweeping success with their subsequent releases making them one of Korea's biggest indie acts ever.—Jeff Benjamin

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Chris Mann From 'The Voice'

The classically trained pop singer competed on Christina Aguilera's team on the second season of The Voice, helping him make it to the final round where he duetted with his coach. In case you needed further proof of his talents past belting it out with Xtina, Mann has since released his debut album Roads after signing a deal with the same exec who gave Christina her record deal, Ron Fair. The singer also held his own PBS special for the 2013 holiday season.—Jeff Benjamin

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Girls Aloud From 'Popstars: The Rivals'

While they never broke out past Europe, Girls Aloud is a revered act in the UK. Created on the 2002 British reality competition Popstars: The Rivals, Cheryl Cole, Nadine Coyle, Nicola Roberts, Kimberly Walsh and Sarah Harding were voted by the public to be part of the girl group that would go on to land 20 consecutive Top 10 hits in England. But their greatness goes past catchy singles. Girls Aloud has stood out for their forward-thinking, at times rather unusual, pop sensibilities (NME said 2005 single "Biology" "threw out the rulebook" and was one of the most groundbreaking pop songs ever), undoubtedly helping England once again become a hub of high-quality, global hits.—Jeff Benjamin

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Daughtry From 'American Idol'

Reality shows don't just produce pop stars. Case in point: Chris Daughtry. The fourth-place finisher in American Idol Season 5 created his band Daughtry after filming completed, and the outfit went on to be the biggest-selling act from the show after Carrie and Kelly. His wide range was showcased on hit singles like "It's Not Over," "Home" and "No Surprise," helping the band score four Top 10 albums and two No. 1s.—Jeff Benjamin

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Jackie Evancho From 'America's Got Talent'

With the voice of an operatic angel much older than her then 10-years, Jackie Evancho stunned the fifth season of America's Got Talent and landed in second place. She's since become a classical-crossover prodigy with her O Holy Night EP making her 2010's top-selling debut artist. She's since landed three more Top 10 albums—all the more impressive when you remember she's still only 14 years old.—Jeff Benjamin

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Fifth Harmony From 'The X Factor' (U.S.)

Fifth Harmony have become one of the biggest girl groups of the moment, but before the ladies were strutting their stuff to hits like "Work From Home," they were teenagers who had a dream of making it big. The troupe members got their starts on the second season of The X Factor USA in 2012, where they all auditioned as soloists. 

They became Fifth Harmony in the middle of the competition, and you have judges Simon Cowell and Demi Lovato to thank for that! Despite finishing in third place, the group went on to release their debut album Reflection last year—which debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and includes fan favorites like "Bo$$," "Sledgehammer" and "Worth It." The ladies are now gearing up to release their sophomore LP 7/27 on May 20.—Bianca Gracie

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Fantasia From 'American Idol'

This powerhouse gave everyone chills with her incredibly soulful voice, from the moment of her American Idol audition in 2004 until now. Fantasia Barrino won the third season of the show and has since blossomed into one of the strongest singers of our time.

She has four albums under her belt (including 2004's Free Yourself that is certified platinum in the U.S.) and is revered in the R&B and gospel world for her commanding and emotive presence when she hits the stage. She also made a name for herself in Broadway, performing in musicals like The Color Purple and After Midnight. Back in January, Fantasia released the fluttery "No Time For It" single—the first taste from her upcoming fifth album.—Bianca Gracie

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Jordin Sparks From 'American Idol'

Before she was asking you to "Double Tap" her Instagram pics, Jordin Sparks was the wholesome 17-year-old singer who became the youngest winner of American Idol. The Arizona-born artist auditioned for the show in 2006 and went on to release three albums (her self-titled debut is certified platinum in the U.S.).

She gave us Top 10 jams like "Tattoo," the Chris Brown-assisted "No Air" and "Battlefield" and dropped her first mixtape—the awesomely-titled #ByeFelicia—in November 2014. Sparks also dabbled in acting, where she scored roles in 2012's Sparkle with Whitney Houston and 2014's Left Behind alongside Nicolas Cage.—Bianca Gracie

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Katharine McPhee From 'American Idol'

Katharine McPhee was the runner-up to Taylor Hicks on American Idol's fifth season in 2006. Even though she didn't win, the singer has remained in the media spotlight for a decade by releasing three studio albums and one Christmas record (her latest LP was last September’s Hysteria). She also has a successful acting career that kicked off with 2008’s The House Bunny. Since then, McPhee has acted in shows like 2012’s Smash on NBC and CBS drama series Scorpion that got picked up for a third season last month.—Bianca Gracie

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Kellie Pickler From 'American Idol'

This country sweetheart captured America with her charming personality during the fifth season of American Idol. Kellie Pickler came in sixth place, but as seen with a lot of singers on this list, that didn't stop her from making a name for herself in the industry. After her time on AI, Pickler recorded four albums, became a TV personality with CMT reality show I Love Kellie Pickler, took the Dancing With the Stars crown in 2013 and toured alongside country mainstays like Rascal Flatts and Braid Paisley.—Bianca Gracie

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Little Mix From 'The X Factor U.K.'

Little Mix have continued the British girl group wave ever since they became the first (and so far only) group to win The X Factor (they took the crown during the eighth series in 2011). After signing with Simon Cowell's Syco record label, the sassy musical foursome dropped three albums that all went Platinum in the U.K. and landed in the Top 15 or higher on the Billboard 200. Their latest LP Get Weird (released in November 2015) features songs like "Black Magic" and "Love Me Like You" that showcase their pitch-perfect harmonies.—Bianca Gracie

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Cher Lloyd From 'The X Factor U.K.'

Cher Lloyd wowed everyone with her singing and rapping skills during the seventh series of The X Factor in 2010, where she performed Keri Hilson's version of Soulja Boy's "Turn My Swag On." She dropped two albums (2011's Sticks + Stones and 2014's Sorry I'm Late) and collaborated with the likes of Demi Lovato, T.I., Mike Posner and Becky G. Not bad for coming in fourth place, huh?—Bianca Gracie

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Nicole Scherzinger From 'Popstars'

Before she claimed her pop fame with The Pussycat DollsNicole Scherzinger was a contestant on the now-defunct but truly missed show Popstars, which aired on the WB (before it was changed to the CW). She, along four other girls, won the singing competition in 2001 and formed Eden's Crush. After the group disbanded, Nicole went on to be the frontwoman of PCD. The group only put out two albums (which included a handful of charting hits) before breaking up in 2009.

Nicole continued her solo career post-PCD with two LPs and used her singing competition background to become the judge on two seasons of NBC's The Sing-Off, one season of The X Factor USA and two years on The X Factor U.K. But that's not all! She also won the 10th season of Dancing with the Stars and was cast in the West End version of Cats.—Bianca Gracie

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Alanis Morissette From 'Star Search'

Fun fact: before Alanis Morissette became one of music's biggest alternative rock singers, she was just a mere loser on Star Search. The Toronto native got her start on the the show in 1990 when she was just 16 years old. Her fluffy '80s-inspired hair and song choice, which is the complete opposite of her angsty rocker persona, will give you a chuckle! Despite losing on Star Search, Alanis went on to release eight albums, including the best-selling Jagged Little Pill, which won the album of the year GRAMMY.—Bianca Gracie

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Britney Spears From 'Star Search'

Prior to becoming the Princess of Pop, Britney Spears was an 11-year-old contestant on Star Search. She may get flack now for lip-synching, but back then the adorable youngster belted out The Judd's "Love Can Build a Bridge." As with many major artists of today who participated in the show, Brit Brit lost—seriously, what were those judges thinking? But the singer did pretty well for herself by selling over 100 million albums worldwide and becoming one of the best-selling artists of all time.—Bianca Gracie

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Justin Timberlake From 'Star Search'

Justin Timberlake is a man who wears many hats—from being a new dad to being a modern-day blue-eyed soul singer. But in 1992, the artist was a country-loving contestant on Star Search. While his performance was adorably dorky, JT ended up losing to someone named Anna Nardon. But he didn't need the winning title to become a mega star! Justin's first wave of pop stardom was with *NSYNC, before he became a solo artist.—Bianca Gracie

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Aaliyah From 'Star Search'

Aaliyah charmed everyone with her 1989 audition on Star Search, where she performed Ella Fitzgerald's "My Funny Valentine." She lost to Katrina Abrams, but scored a record deal with Jive and Blackground Records two years later. She soon linked up with Timbaland and Missy Elliott, who helped boost Aaliyah's career. The singer went on to release three albums (all of which went platinum), and also acted in films like Romeo Must Die and Queen of the Damned. Sadly, her life was cut short before she was fully able to blossom as a mainstream artist. In 2001, she and eight others were killed in a plane crash in the Bahamas.—Bianca Gracie

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Beyoncé From 'Star Search'

Before she was known as Queen Bey, Beyoncé and her fellow Girls Tyme members auditioned on Star Search in 1993. The performance became famous thanks to the singer using a sample of Ed McMahon's introduction on her 2014 hit, "***Flawless." Despite losing to Skeleton Crew, she ended up becoming one of the most successful artists of our generation. She is currently gearing up for the Formation World Tour, which kicks off on April 27.—Bianca Gracie

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Usher From 'Star Search'

Usher tried out for Star Search when he was 13 years old, and his performance was so great that it ended up with him meeting LaFace Record's L.A. Reid. Since then, the artist has released seven studio albums with 2004's Confessions making history by becoming certified Diamond. While being an R&B mainstay, Usher has also dominated the pop world and is an influence to many singers of today—including Chris Brown and Justin Bieber.—Bianca Gracie

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Christina Aguilera From 'Star Search'

Christina Aguilera has always been a vocal powerhouse, as proven with her 1990 audition on Star Search where she mastered Etta James' "Sunday Kind of Love" at just eight years old. She may not have won, but Xtina earned her "Voice of a Generation" title by releasing seven albums, selling over 50 million records and utilizing her craft as a judge on The Voice.—Bianca Gracie

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BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS - DECEMBER 01:  Singer Rihanna and Prince Harry speak on stage at the 'Man Aware' event held by the Barb

Dec. 1: Rih & The Prince in Barbados

In Barbados Rihanna and Prince Harry raise HIV/AIDS awareness in hopes to fight HIV and AIDS stigma. Getting tested in front of cameras, the singer and the prince show us the importance and ease of the process. "It's so easy to get tested & know your status!” Rih tweeted afterwards. Today also marks the 50th Anniversary of Independence in Barbados.

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