A few months ago, Indianapolis’s Josh Kaufman was essentially playing background music at local bars and restaurants. Last night couldn’t have been any more different: He was propelled into the spotlight after winning The Voice on NBC, receiving a recording contract with Universal, a $100,000 prize, and even a new car. (K-K-K-Kia!) Not bad for a nearly 40-year-old family man who was ready to ditch a brutal music industry that thrives off of an ADD-addled demographic half his age. On that note, he was up against 20-year-old Christina Grimmie, a social-media powerhouse ready to use her pre-built fanbase to catalyze a victory, and 18-year-old Jake Worthington, a genuine country boy with an entire town of folks rallying behind his golly-gee personality.
Monday gave way to the trio’s final live performances, and then it was up to voting viewers nationwide to determine The Voice‘s winner. Like most Emmy Award–winning shows, there was no shortage of drama. Josh Kaufman fans could not find any of his performances from that night on iTunes, and downloads were to count as votes for that particular night. Forced to play catch-up, Kaufman tweeted links to his songs stating that an iTunes glitch occurred outside of his control. By the time voting closed at noon the following day, Worthington had reached the iTunes singles chart’s Top 10 with both of his vote-casting songs. Grimmie had one vote-worthy song in, the highest of all the competitors, at No. 3. Week after week leading up to that point, Kaufman had speedily landed in the Top 10. At one point, his song was No. 2, the highest-charting of any Voice contestant all season. Something was definitely wrong.
At the top of Tuesday night’s show, host Carson Daly made an announcement about the glitch: NBC had decided to throw out all the iTunes votes, though they hadn’t affected the outcome, he said. Thus we can assume that, when voting closed Tuesday at noon, Kaufman already had the most total votes cast for him via text message, e-mail, phone, and iTunes—glitch and all. Younger fans of Grimmie and Worthington took to social media, wondering why the network said anything at all if producers knew Kaufman had already sealed the deal. Answer: It’s called public relations, and it’s their job to acknowledge such untimely mistakes, even as a simple, brief formality.
What makes Kaufman’s victory so refreshing is the fact that the best vocalist on the show actually prevailed. As he’s nearly twice as old as his final foes, it can be said that he knows his own voice best—an important asset. Even so, Americans who take to such shows are so often misled by the high note. We tend to believe that if an artist can hold a soaring note the same way in each performance, he or she is the best. Not only did Kaufman accomplish that with ease; he frequently glided from falsetto to low register like the seasoned vet he is. Basically, he’s rangeless. And the most impressive part of his journey is the fact that he rarely (as in once or twice) sang out of key. That’s next to unbelievable coming from a guy who’s used to playing in front of handfuls of people—not tens of millions.
Each of the three finalists also performed with previously ousted contestants of their choice. What’s more, last night’s finale was packed full of high-profile artists, including Tim McGraw, Coldplay, Robin Thicke, OneRepublic, Alabama, and Ed Sheeran. Grimmie performed with Sheeran, and Worthington with Alabama. Kaufman himself took to the stage for a soulful number with Thicke. Sheeran and Grimmie delivered “All of the Stars,” a song he wrote for book-turned-movie The Fault In Our Stars. (The film is set in Indy and hits theaters on June 6. Suffice it to say, The Voice was almost all about our city last night.)
We’ve followed Josh Kaufman from Day One on The Voice and are proud of him for representing what Indy is all about. He maintained his humble attitude throughout the entire show. He provided originality in his cover tunes. And he carried himself graciously while keeping an open mind all the way to the end. To that, we say, Congratulations, Josh!
Now that we’ve had one recognizable Indy figure get to the finals and win, let’s hope the Indiana Pacers take note as they play in Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals, Saturday at 8:30 p.m. in Miami.