Who is The Voice?

Sorry for the silence, readers. What have I been up to? Working, mostly. Some writing. My characters keep cracking me up and then I doubt my sanity. So there’s that.

But I’ve also been really getting into one of my favorite shows: The Voice.

For those of you who have been somehow untouched by this phenomenon, let me give you a basic rundown. It’s a singing competition show in which the celebrity judges (Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, CeeLo Green, and Adam Levine) coach a team of artists. And the thing that makes this show really different? At auditions, the coaches can’t see the contestants. They select them for their teams based on voice alone. Not appearance or stage presence (but don’t worry, those things come later).

I’ve been a fan since season one. And the fact that one of my favorites won that first season cemented it as a solid show in my mind.

And each subsequent season, the contestants get better. These people are freakin’ talented. And I can’t help myself. I have to share some of my favorite performances.

Let’s start with some sad news: last night, my favorite, Caroline Pennell was eliminated. This girl caught my ear from day one. Mostly because I want her voice. (No, really.) Plus, she’s got this goofy and sweet personality that makes me want to be friends. Kudos to her for tackling Wake Me Up and making it her own. It’s one of my favorite performances from her. So sad she’s gone but I know there are some incredible things in her future.


Now on to those who remain.

How about a big surprise in this season: Will Champlin. He was originally picked by Adam. But then he lost one of the battles. Boom, Christina snatches him up. And then he loses a a knockout and boom, Adam takes him back. So okay, I misjudged him. I though Sure, dude’s talented but he’s lost twice already. His performances are always technically good but nothing that made me go “whoa.”

I. Was. Wrong. When I found out he was doing At Last this week, I got nervous. I mean, a skinny white dude singing an Etta James song? You can’t blame me for being nervous.

Dude knocked it out of the park. Wow. He’s the ultimate comeback kid. This one’s a fighter, no doubt.

James Wolpert. How could anyone not adore those horn-rimmed glasses? He’s got this dorky, unassuming thing going on. Until he sings. And then whoa, the rocker awakes.

But what really blew me away was a simple song. Which, let’s be honest, can be ten times harder than any rock-out, power song. My gosh. The control, the dynamics. Yep.

Cole Vosbury. This unassuming, soulful singer has such a beautiful, clear voice and so much control. Like Will, he also lost a knockout, kicking him off Team CeeLo, but Blake stole him which has been a perfect match.

And to be honest, one of the things I really like about him is his shyness. He never looks like he expects anything, as if it surprises him that he’s made it this far. And if that weren’t enough, in an interview he talks about how he feels like he owes it to the little kid in him, the one who used to pretend he was performing to big crowds, to make it as far as he can in this thing. I’ve always felt like I owed it to the little girl who used to climb up in trees and scribble out stories to take this writing thing as far as I can possibly get. So that makes me like him even more.

It’s his performance of Maggie May that I think best showcases his style.

In general, I’m not that psyched about the pop artists. Matthew Schuler’s performances tended to be impeccable, if a bit forgettable, but he finally caught my ear with one particular performance.

A lot of people have tried to sing Hallelujah and failed. But this preacher’s kid knew how to handle it. If this song doesn’t make you feel something, you should probably go to the ER because you’re half dead.

So there ya go. My favorites. Everyone is so stinkin’ talented, but these are my standouts and favorite performances.

If you’re not watching The Voice, start. Seriously. Then we can be friends. 😉

If you do watch it, who’s your favorite to win?

Ender’s Game

I went to see Ender’s Game a couple weekends ago, admittedly with some trepidation. Why the trepidation? Well the move I saw before that was Gravity. Not a fan. (Can you say cheesy dialogue and never-ending, super-repetitive story-line?) And since all I knew about Ender’s Game was that it took place in space and involved kids, I kept flashing back to my previous exceedingly dull and never-ending experience. So I was more than pleasantly surprised by this movie.

And, as with all the best movies and books, it got me thinking. What if you, like Ender, were put in situations designed to test your ability to make good decisions, to act quickly, to develop a strategy? What if you had to find the balance between being strong and being kind, to decide how far you’d let your survival instinct push you?

It takes me back to my organizational management classes. We had quite a debate in my decision-making course about logic versus intuition. Does intuition even exist or is it merely knowledge gained through doing? Do some people have more natural decision-making abilities than others? We covered some of the same themes in my leadership course and debated leadership styles. Is one the best, the most successful? Opinions flew from every corner.

There are a lot of org management and psychology themes in the movie, most notably the range of leadership styles. You have the conquerer – the do-as-I-say guy who expects full obedience. There are the brute force types who want you to stay out of the way unless they tell you otherwise, and emotional manipulators who don’t need to use force. And into this bubbling stew of leadership styles comes Ender, the kid who’s kind of not even sure why he’s there.

The story is about his growth as a leader, how he adapts and changes as the story progresses. He’s pushed from one challenge to the next and tested from every angle, so the powers-that-be can see what sort of leader he will become.

But the key part? Ender never completely loses himself. He gets smarter about his strategy, recognizing what’s most important to each person who opposes him and using that to get what he needs while still holding onto his own identity. And who is he? A scrawny, bright kid who doesn’t really believe in himself but comes to have faith in a ragtag group of individuals who believe in him.

And who doesn’t love a story about a bunch of misfits beating all the bullies? (Except in this case, the prize isn’t holding onto their lunch money. The prize is commanding an attack against an alien race.)

But whether in outer space or on earth, the themes resonate: Know who you are. Trust what you know. And never underestimate the weird kids.