When last we saw our Indianapolis-based, full-throated troubadour, he lost in his second battle round on NBC’s The Voice in late March (see video below), but was immediately saved and then stolen away by another coach. This left no doubt that he’s a frontrunner to emerge victorious on the TV singing bonanza.
Kaufman has shown he’s a serious contender since compelling the judges to turn all four of their chairs around with his first performance, a blind audition. (Those judges, if you’ve been living under a pop-culture–loathing rock: Usher, Shakira, Blake Shelton, and Adam Levine of the popular band Adam Levine and the Maroon 4.) Kaufman actually won his first battle with ease—a battle Shakira called one of the best she’d seen on the show. Then, on March 31, he and Delvin Choice delivered a goosebumps-worthy take on Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.” That performance catalyzed a standing ovation from the coaches, and left Levine, their mutual coach, with a tough decision, as he felt by choosing either he’d lose a “potential winner.”
Understandably, coach Levine wrestled with his emotions before eventually deciding on Choice, leaving Kaufman in a vocalist’s purgatory. “When Adam chose Delvin, I definitely felt some disappointment, Kaufman tells IM, “but I was also somewhat optimistic because I really felt like our performance was strong enough that whoever didn’t win would have a good chance of being stolen.”
Indeed, before host Carson Daly could finish his sentence informing the other judges that Kaufman was available for a “steal,” Usher assertively hit his button, wearing an obvious I-just-hit-the-jackpot smirk on his face. (Ironically, Usher was the last to turn his chair during Kaufman’s original audition.)
Even with a new coach now, it’s business as usual for Kaufman. “I think it’s going to be a continuation of what Adam started, focusing on performance, presence, and emotion,” he says. “I really like Usher’s approach, though: hard work, focus, and no nonsense.”
It’s clear Kaufman’s voice can take him to the finals, but stage performance is key late in these reality shows, in which no one is a shoo-in. “That’s really been the primary focus for me,” he says. “And I definitely feel more comfortable with each performance.” These are noticeable improvements for the local hope. Last week he seemed comfortable meandering about the stage, showing he’s fully enjoying himself, and a mic drop at the end of that showing revealed the confidence that he had nailed it. (Overhyped Hoosier humility be darned.)
With Usher as his new coach, Kaufman is in good hands for sustaining high-end stage performances. His journey continues this week when he competes in the final battle rounds airing tonight and Tuesday at 8 p.m. on NBC. Assuming Kaufman makes it to the show’s final 12 in coming weeks, it will be viewer votes that determine his fate—so if ever there was a time to rally behind this guy, Indy dwellers, it’s now.