It's inspiring. It's creative. If by chance you haven't seen it, its a nine season viewing marathon waiting to happen.
I'm talking about The Voice on NBC. The Voice is a competitive singing show looking to award a record deal to the best new voice. The winner is chosen first by Coaches, through Battle Rounds, Knock Out Rounds, Live Shows and finally by adding in viewer votes.
It is one thing my youngest son Kyle, and I enjoy doing together at the end of the day. He's techie, introverted, on the Autism spectrum and awesome. Watching the Voice together opens all kinds of connections between us. We can talk about music we like or don't like, artists we understand or don't and why. We also play the game of guessing who will win or who we want to win.
If the show only brought together mama and son, it would be a smash hit. But as we have reached Season 10, I've been thinking it is a smash in our house for so many reasons. The show brings us together with all kinds of singers, music and ideas about becoming an artist. It makes for solid conversations about American music, pop culture and our faith.
The show touches on things I hold dear, things I am in the middle of figuring out; what it looks like to take risks rather than gambles, hidden gifts from God I might be holding back on, how to dig deep to find the unique voice that God gave me and just what can happen when my faith meets this world. It makes me ask myself a question the contestants are being asked, "What kind of artist do I want to be?"
Here are the top 10 reasons I am still watching The Voice. Each of them inspire me in my art, my life and my faith.
1.Dignity for all.
Each singer can really sing. No one is kept for sport. Many can sing and play instruments. Others come with talents in songwriting and arranging music. Every singer is treated with dignity and respect from the Blind Auditions through the Battle Rounds and all the way until the time they go home.
Advisor Patti LaBelle told two singers in a duet recently that the best thing they could do was bring dignity to their competitor, to the space between them during a Battle Round. "Make 'em shine", she said.
Oh my, those are words of wisdom!
2.Give and take.
The singers begin in a vulnerable position in hope against hope that a coach will turn their chair saying, "I want you!". (Don't we all want some version of this?) However the balance of power can shift from coach to singer if more than one coach turns around. Suddenly, the coaches are trying to win the singer over to their team.
In those moments of give and take, I can see we are all in this song together.
3.Relationships in surround sound.
There are layers of relationships in play in a circle around the singer; between coaches, coaches and singers, coaches and advisors, singers and singers, singers and audience, singers and their family, even between MC Carson Daly and the singer's family. Ultimately, there is deep and wide relationship between music and everybody!
The Coaches have said that recognizing and coaching new talent has made them remember when and breathed life into their own music.
Every Coach had someone who challenged and inspired them along the way to musical success. It is fun to see that mentoring relationship play out between Coach and Advisor right before aspiring singers. It is encouraging to hear their idols recall a time when someone else saw in them what they could not yet see in themselves.
A mentor and collaborator who takes honest time with you is worth their weight in gold. I am grateful for mine. In turn, I can be available to someone who needs me.
4.Family in the wings.
The singer's family has always been there behind the scenes with Carson watching for the chairs to turn or not, but this year they are waiting in the wings. They are just off stage where the contestant can look to them for support immediately after a performance or advice on choosing a coach.
One of our favorite things is to watch Carson root for a singer, high five-ing in joy or slump shoulders in disappointment, right alongside the family. It's endearing.
We all want someone waiting in the wings hootin' and hollerin' for us.
5.Share and Overcome the Back Story.
We love hearing a singer's journey to the Voice. Some have lost a parent or a beloved, some have overcome addictions, were bullied, or abandoned by a father; all have found comfort and new life in music. I'm sure we don't hear them all and that isn't what wins the day, but I am always inspired by someone using their pain or loss to make something beautiful. Beauty from ashes.
It makes me believe I can do it too!
6.Be your own authentic self.
This competition begins without Coaches seeing the singer, a true blind audition. It is a real chance to shine for those who may not meet the current trends in beauty or body type. The message from the Coaches is always something around being yourself and finding your true voice. You don't have to be like everybody else, in fact, you shouldn't be.
You can be something else. Not someone else.
One big thing you need, you need to know yourself; how you are made, Who made you and how you might best express yourself uniquely in this world.
I am always pulling up the roots of insecurity in myself, ripping out any ideas about me being someone else. (Why do they keep growing back again?) I am trying to just be me. You would think it would be so easy.
It may just be the hardest thing we do, finding our own voice and singing into our own time.
Adam Levine said something like this to one singer,
I'm looking for you in this song . . .
and then I hear it, there you are . . .
If you're gonna do this song, do it like you.
7.Take a risk.
There are lots of moments in the show where a singer's confidence is shaken or the lack revealed. They are holding back in the ring, feeling like young David to mighty Goliath. These are the moments when Coaches and Advisors can speak volumes into a protege's heart. Take a risk and see what is possible. They are asking them to dig deep for confidence, for belief in who they were made to be. The Coaches are believing and challenging the singer to believe too.
And be believable.
You never know what's possible unless you give it a shot. Be willing to spill your true and enormous heart to bless someone. Leave the stage without it.
8.Offer second chances.
It began to happen that when no chairs were turned for a singer, that the Coaches realized there was something almost there. They started encouraging some singers to work on a specific thing and try again next season. This season has two or three artists who worked between seasons and came back for a a second shot and made it into a team.
A few seasons ago, the producers added a chance for Coaches to steal a contestant that was about to go home. Now, almost anything could happen. Each Coach gets two steals, so now in the back of everyone's mind, singer and coach alike, is the real possibility of a second chance along the way. Just at a spot in the road where there used to be none, a come-back opportunity appeared.
It's everything we love, opportunity, second chances, hard and loving work, the fighting underdog and sometimes an unlikely win.
9.Beauty includes flaws.
I love it when the Coaches appreciate the breaks, rasps and rough edges in a singer's voice. They are always shooting for being on key, but the risks we take and the vulnerabilities we reveal can express deep feeling, our true heart.
Here is a spot for me to sit awhile and soak up the sunshine. I need to hear this. I am not a singer. Still, I need to make room to take a risk, to incorporate my flawed heart and wild imperfections into love. I want my life to be holy and real. I am slow to learn that I am made for both.
10.There's more to winning than first place.
It sounds cliche, I know. Yet, truth is hidden there. The journey of becoming our artist selves, our true selves, is invaluable. (Rinse and repeat!)
We can see that truth play out in The Voice. Singers are made better just for competing. Contestants leave with more confidence, more skills and the deep knowing that they went down singing and swinging. We can see their hearts grow stronger as they learn to handle disappointment and honest critique. They each go home just a little closer to becoming the artist they dreamed they could become.
I've heard Coaches whisper into a singer's ear who is headed home, "This isn't the end for you".
Now who doesn't need a little more of that?
I'll leave you with a few quotes from the show that say what I'm trying to say so well.
"She came out swinging her purse like a southern church lady."
"You don't sing into people's ears. You sing into their hearts."
"Dont just cover the song, make it your own."
"I'm not classically trained, but I'm flawed in very fantastic way."
"You can't let the legends do all the work for you."
I'm taking these beauties to heart and soul.
I want to go down singing and swinging.