Teen Drama Stars Who Are Also Singers
Some teen drama stars aren’t just actors — they’re singers too.
In some cases, their musical abilities were worked into plotlines, like with Brian Austin Green (David, Beverly Hills, 90210) and Bethany Joy Lenz (Haley, One Tree Hill). For others, such as Leighton Meester (Blair, Gossip Girl), their singing skills had nothing to do with their teen drama character.
Find out which teen drama stars have serious singing chops in the list below!
Disclaimer: As with other recent lists, this only covers stars who were series regulars on one of the core six teen dramas.
Beverly Hills, 90210
Brian Austin Green (David)
Green’s musicality was apparent on “Beverly Hills, 90210” from its first season, with David showing off his dance moves at the Spring Dance and serving as West Beverly’s deejay. During season 3’s summer episodes, he starts recording music himself and ends up performing at the Beverly Hills Beach Club’s end-of-summer soiree. Later in the season, he scores a short-lived record deal. Subsequent seasons have David in and out of music-driven storylines, with the character scoring a hit with “Keep It Together” in season 8. In real life, Green released a rap-heavy album called One Stop Carnival in 1996. The record was considered a flop, and Green reflected on the experience last year, telling Yahoo:
“It wasn’t an album that fit with the demographic of ‘90210.’ The audience and the label were expecting more of a pop album, and I grew up listening to hip-hop… That was all I listened to and danced to and was a fan of at that point, so it wasn't a stretch for me necessarily, but it was absolutely a stretch for our audience. The audience just didn’t see that coming at all. And the label didn’t really know how to promote it. It’s funny, because critically, hip-hop fans have listened to it and it’s become more accepted and more popular now, and people talk about the fact that it was really underrated and not really given a fair chance at the time when it came out. But at that time, in ‘95, ‘96, hip-hop ruled the world at that point. People just weren’t accepting of the ‘white guy from ‘90210’’ being in that genre as well.”
He further said:
“I think the show itself was a blessing and a curse, because they had a lot of my music on the show and I did a lot of music as ‘David’ on the show, but it wasn’t my music. People were expecting my music to be the music that David was doing, and it wasn’t — it was two completely different things. So when [One Stop Carnival] came out, people were like, ‘Oh, this isn't what I wasn't thinking.’”
Green also sang on the short-lived TBS series “Wedding Band,” for which songs were released as iTunes singles. (I was very much a fan of that show and wish it had a second season!) And in 2018, he self-released an EP, No Ordinary Style, but told Yahoo he “would never do another album, I don’t think, as an artist, unless I did something like the Gorillaz kind of stuff… hide myself as much as possible, just because I like doing music.” I’ll always be partial to “Keep It Together,” though.
Jamie Walters (Ray)
Walters had already starred on the music-themed show “The Heights” before he joined “Beverly Hills, 90210” and sang the show’s theme song, “How Do You Talk to an Angel?”. The track was a bonafide hit, reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and scoring an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music and Lyrics. So it was no surprise that his character on “Beverly Hills, 90210” was crafted to be a musician and he performed his own songs on the show during seasons 5, 6, and 7. Walters’ self-titled debut album dropped in 1994 (coinciding with season 5) and spawned the singles “Hold On” and “Why,” which he performed on the series. Another album, Ride, came out in 1996, and his last, Believed, was released in 2002. Walters starred in the VH1 reality show “Confessions of a Teen Idol” in 2009, hoping to rekindle his music career, but nothing took off, though he did perform in an episode of “BH90210” in 2019.
Katie Holmes (Joey)
Holmes’ performance of “On My Own” in the first season of “Dawson’s Creek” still gets me. In season 5, though, she had the chance to sing more upbeat tracks when Joey performed with a band featuring Chad Michael Murray’s Charlie (though Murray’s voice was dubbed). Of the decision to have Holmes sing on the show, executive producer Paul Stupin told Billboard in 2018, “We just thought ultimately it would be great. That was just one of those things that she was so brilliant at conveying the depth, the yearning and the edge.” In 2001, during the show’s heyday, Holmes hosted “Saturday Night Live,” during which she performed “Big Spender” from Sweet Charity. And during a 2008 guest appearance on “Eli Stone,” which was created by Greg Berlanti (executive producer, Dawson’s Creek), she sang and danced her way through Duke Ellington’s “Hit Me With a Hot Note.” There was also a performance of “Get Happy” on “So You Think You Can Dance” in 2008. Holmes has also performed at various benefits, including one where she serenaded now-ex Tom Cruise.
Michelle Williams (Jen)
Singing wasn’t a part of Jen’s storylines on “Dawson’s Creek.” In fact, I had no idea Williams even could sing until The Greatest Showman came out in 2017. In addition to dueting with Hugh Jackman on “A Million Dreams,” Williams has a solo song called “Tightrope” in the movie musical. It’s not my favorite track, but I am pretty obsessed with this film and its music.
Busy Philipps (Audrey)
While Holmes had the the vocal spotlight in season 5, it was Philipps who showed off her signing chops in season 6. Audrey joins the all-girl band Hell’s Belles as she falls into a downard spiral across several episodes. Clean and sober by season’s end, her subued performance of Zakk Wylde’s “Way Beyond Empty” is my favorite. Like Holmes, Philipps has also sung at various benefits, and she’ll be singing in her upcoming show “Girls5Eva.”
Peter Gallagher (Sandy)
Gallagher has sung on and off throughout his career, which has spanned stage and screen. He released an album, 7 Days in Memphis, in 2005, and one of the songs included was a cover of “Don’t Give Up On Me,” which he also performed on “The O.C.” in season 2. On-screen wife Kelly Rowan even appeared in Gallagher’s music video for another track, “Still I Long for Your Kiss.” Most recently, Gallagher had a singing role on “Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist” — for which Lindsey Rosin, daughter of Charles Rosin (executive producer, Beverly Hills, 90210), is a writer. “Beverly Hills, 90210” writers Aaron Harberts and Gretchen J. Berg were also executive producers on “Zoey’s” first season.
Chris Carmack (Luke)
While Carmack didn’t do any singing as a cast member of “The O.C.,” he went on to a hardcore singing role with “Nashville.” In addition to performing on the show, he sang on the series’ soundtracks and on its “Nashville in Concert” music tour. Carmack released his own EP, Pieces of You, in 2015. As recently shared in “Teen Drama Links,” Carmack and wife Erin Slaver (whom he met through “Nashville”) have formed a music duo called Life on Eris and dropped an EP, Stonewall, last year. Their most recent song, “The Risk,” came out earlier this year.
Autumn Reeser (Taylor) and Willa Holland (Kaitlin)
Both series regulars during season 4 of “The O.C.,” Reeser and Holland are known more for their acting roles. But both have dabbled in music throughout their careers, with Reeser doing some club performances and Holland performing for the soundtrack of a Spike Jonze film. Reeser even once sang in a one-night-only “O.C.” musical where she played Julie!
One Tree Hill
Bethany Joy Lenz (Haley)
Lenz’s music skills were worked into the first season of “One Tree Hill,” but became a HUGE plot point in the show’s second season, with Haley working with Chris (Tyler Hilton) and going on tour with him. (Off-screen, Lenz and Hilton actually went on tour with Gavin DeGraw, the show’s theme song performer, and The Wreckers.) For the rest of the series, Lenz performed on the series off and on, and I’m such a sucker for some of the songs, like “When the Stars Go Blue,” “Halo,” and “Feel This.” Beyond singing, Lenz plays the piano and guitar, and released her first album, Preincarnate, in 2002. Four other records have followed, along with seven EPs. Four of those were as part of Lenz’s duo Everly with Amber Sweeney, and her most recent solo EP, Snow, dropped this past December.
Tyler Hilton (Chris)
Hilton, of course, was already a professional singer before he started recurring on “One Tree Hill” in season 2. His self-titled debut album came out in 2000, with six more records following between 2004 and 2019. He also dropped two EPs during that time. In addition to touring with Lenz, Hilton has hit the road quite a few times with Kate Voegele (Mia). Notably, the trio performed “When the Stars Go Blue” together during a “One Tree Hill” convention concert in 2016.
Jana Kramer (Alex)
Like with Lenz and Hilton, Kramer’s musical side was also worked into “One Tree Hill.” In the show’s eighth season, she performed “I Won’t Give Up” and “Whiskey,” and she opted to have a minimal role in the ninth and final season so she could focus on her music career. She told Billboard in 2012:
“I did [‘One Tree Hill’] for three years, and it helped me get the nerve to finally follow my dreams and what I really wanted to do with my music. I was supposed to be a part of it this last season, and I didn’t know we were going to get picked back up. I had my radio tour, and they said ‘Well, you’re contracted for six years, so you have to do it. However, we’ll give you an out if you want one.’ I took it, because the thought of [delaying] my music any longer was not an option.”
Her debut album, Jana Kramer, dropped that year, and Thirty One followed in 2015. My favorite of Kramer’s songs, “I Got the Boy,” is from that one, though I’m also a big fan of “Whiskey” and “Why Ya Wanna” from her first record. Kramer also contributed to the Footloose soundtrack, covering “Let’s Hear It for the Boy.” She’s racked up a handful of award nominations, and even won Top New Female Artist at the ACMs in 2013.
Leighton Meester (Blair)
Meester never peformed on “Gossip Girl,” but her music career overlapped with her time on the show. Meester dueted with Cobra Starship on the hit song “Good Girls Go Bad” in 2009, the same year she dropped her first official single, “Somebody to Love,” featuring Robin Thicke. Her only album to date, Heartstrings, came in 2014 and was quite different from the tracks released earlier (read: much less pop). Of her change in sound, Meester explained to Vice, “I’m not that pop person and I don’t know that I ever was. Because I had started a TV show, music people and Cobra Starship found me… It was good for the time, but for the long run it wasn’t going to work.” A few years prior, in 2011, she combined acting and singing with a role in the movie Country Strong.
Taylor Momsen (Jenny)
Momsen’s acting-to-singing career trajectory is widely, if not infamously, known. Jenny’s darker turn on on “Gossip Girl” coincided with Momsen’s increasing focus on her band, The Pretty Reckless. She asked to leave the show to focus full time on music — last appearing in the show’s fourth season, plus a cameo in the series finale — and has been recording and touring ever since. The band has released four albums, the first of which dropped in 2010, with the latest, Death by Rock and Roll, coming out earlier this year and reaching number 3 on the Billboard Top Rock Albums chart. “Make Me Wanna Die,” The Pretty Reckless’ first single, was featured on “Gossip Girl,” but even more significantly, their song “Kill Me” closed out the show’s very last episode.
Tristan Wilds (Dixon)
Wilds was building his music career while starring on “90210,” and his character had some music-related storylines, including signing a record deal and going on tour in season 4. Off-screen, Wilds (who goes by Mack Wilds when it comes to his music) scored a real-life record contract in 2010 and dropped an EP in 2011. A full album, New York: A Love Story, was released in 2013, followed by AfterHours in 2013. Amazingly, the former was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Urban Contemporary Album, with Wilds losing to none other than Rihanna. Something else incredibly cool? Wilds starred in Adele’s “Hello” music video.
Jessica Lowdnes (Adrianna)
Adrianna was established as a singer in the show’s first season and a lot of her storylines on the show were music-driven. And once Dixon entered the music world too and he and Adrianna became a couple, their musical storylines overlapped. As the show aired, Lowdnes was working on her real-life singing career, going from performing at a Dodgers came in 2009 to releasing her first official single in 2011. That song, “Fool,” was featured on “90210” throughout its fourth season. Lowndes’ first EP, Nothing Like This, came out in 2012, with TBT (Throwback Thursday) dropping the following year. In 2016, Lowndes pulled a promotional stunt in which she pretended to be in a relationship with the actor Jon Lovitz to build hype for her new music video in which he starred.
Do you have a favorite teen drama actor-singer? Let me know in the comments!
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