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by Linda Ryan

January 15, 2013

Country's Reality-TV Stars

by Linda Ryan  |  January 15, 2013

Why do we love TV singing contests like American Idol and The Voice? Even when we hate them, we still love to hate them. (Oh, you were just watching to make fun of them. Sure. Right.) And country fans in particular have a lot to love (or love to hate) these days.

For starters, Nashville heartthrob Keith Urban is about to make his judging debut, on season 13 of Idol. Plus RaeLynn, a standout on the The Voice's recently concluded second season, has a new sassy single, "Boyfriend," released right around the time The X Factor crowned a country champ in Tate Stevens. This trifecta of reality-made, country-fried goodness got us thinking, and so below you'll find a non-exhaustive list of prominent country artists who got their start on a reality show, and a short summation of their success (or not) since. Let the fun begin!

Carrie Underwood. American Idol + country = Carrie Underwood. 'Nuff said.

Miranda Lambert. Success is the best revenge -- and revenge for a third place finish on Nashville Star is all hers!

RaeLynn. The Voice's country young'n is all growed up and singing about stealing other girls' boyfriends in a girly voice that really, really twangs.

Tate Stevens. Fifty thousand Elvis fans can't be wrong, and Stevens won over the whole country before his X Factor mentor, L.A. Reid, believed in his seasoned twang.

Sawyer Brown. Despite the members' New Wave/yacht rock outfits early in their careers, Star Search winners Sawyer Brown had a string of hits in the '80s and '90s. Does anyone remember Star Search?

Chris Young. With five No. 1 singles to date, Chris Young has proven over and over that Nashville Star's Season 4 winner ain't no fluke.

Scotty McCreery. Ha! Bet those people who wouldn't let Scotty sing with them in the "groups" phase of the Idol auditions in L.A. are kicking themselves now. Karma is a bitch.

Kacey Musgraves. Her time on Nashville Star Season 5 was short, but this wickedly smart songwriter's new single, "Merry Go 'Round," makes us think she'll have a longer career.

Kellie Pickler. Known as American Idol's ditsiest contestant, Pickler pleasantly surprised us with last year's 100 Proof, a raucous and decidedly un-ditsy slice of old-school twang.

Josh Gracin. Gracin was the first American Idol contestant to parlay his popularity on the show into a country music career. First. Ever.

Bucky Covington. Who needs to win Idol, anyway? Covington's dusty twang has garnered him two label deals and a legion of rabid followers.

Joey + Rory. Well, they didn't win CMT's Can You Duet, but this husband-and-wife duo sure won our hearts.

Casey James. Another Idol non-winner winner. James' bluesy, swampy take on country pop gives him a strong identity and a genuine shot at a long career.

Buddy Jewell. The first-ever winner of Nashville Star definitely impressed with the gorgeous song "Help Pour Out the Rain (Lacey's Song)," but I dunno -- I guess the sales figures didn't impress the men in suits.

Lauren Alaina. A fan favorite from the beginning, it was no surprise Alaina became an American Idol Season 10 finalist. This Georgia peach can rock it out, get soulful on your ass and (obviously) twang like nobody's business.

Caitlin & Will. The winners of CMT's Can You Duet were plucked out of their respective duos and put together as part of the show. No wonder they put out one EP for Sony and were dropped. No wonder Can You Duet went bye-bye.

Kevin Skinner. This America's Got Talent 2009 winner is a down-home country boy from Kentucky who's still trying to find his footing in the music business.

Whitney Duncan. Another Nashville Star Season 5 contestant whose time on the show was cut short. Duncan signed to Warner Bros. Nashville and is featured on the Footloose soundtrack, but thus far, it's her appearance on Survivor: South Pacific in 2011 that's put her in front of the most people.

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