I’m a big fan of NBC’s The Voice. I started watching the tail end of the season when Sawyer Fredericks won. At first, I picked my favorite singers and rooted for them with all my heart, but most often my heart would get broken somewhere along the way. I tend to like the folksier artists, and they often get overlooked in favor of singers with bigger voices and badass runs.
I learned my lesson. Nowadays I watch mostly for the sheer artistry of the singers, each of them unique in their own special way. I also watch for the advice handed down by the coaches, often in throwaway lines as they coach their contestants. Advice that can apply to any creative person, including writers. Like don’t sing the perfect song; tell your imperfect story. Pure gold that can apply to writers, artists, dancers—any of the creative arts where self-doubt and striving for perfection can steal the soul from creativity.
Then along came this season and the trio Girl Named Tom. Oh, lordy, but I was hooked from the moment they sang “Helplessly Hoping” by Crosby, Stills & Nash in the blinds. I love CSN, and their harmonies are killer on this song. Well, Girl Named Tom (or GNT, as Kelly Clarkson calls them) and their crisp, clean harmonies more than did this song justice.
As I’m writing this, Girl Named Tom are in the semi-finals. They did it by stepping out of their folk-ish comfort zone with a performance of Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida.”
When the show first announced that Girl Named Tom would be doing a Coldplay song, I nearly groaned out loud. I can’t count the number of singers who’ve attempted a Coldplay song over the years that I’ve been watching The Voice. I say attempted because most, if not all, have failed miserably. It’s the same reason I’ve only seen one singer, no matter how good they are or what kind of range they have, even try an Evanescence song. Some songs just can’t be covered if you want to do them justice.
Well, that’s what I used to think. Girl Named Tom’s cover of “Viva La Vida” not only wrapped up that night’s show in a kickass way, their performance got them voted into the semi-finals.
My daughter and I were talking about GNT’s success at doing a Coldplay song where so many have failed, and she said something that really struck a chord. They succeeded, she said, because they didn’t try to do Coldplay—they did Girl Named Tom. Other singers fail because they try to replicate Coldplay’s unique sound when they sing a Coldplay song. GNT didn’t do that. They stayed true to their own voice while performing a Coldplay song.
There’s a lesson in there for writers. We all study writers who’ve come before us. Try to figure out what makes their stories and novels really come alive. Deconstruct their plots and paragraphs and sentences. Even when we don’t realize we’re doing it, we’re absorbing story whenever we read a book or watch a movie or television show. That’s how we learn.
But when we write, we have to do it with our own unique voices, not try to emulate someone else’s voice. (Unless you want to become a ghostwriter, but that’s a whole different skill set and not what I’m talking about.) No matter how much we study, we’re never going to write like Stephen King, just like no singer’s going to sing like Amy Lee of Evanescence. That’s the way it should be. We already have a Stephen King and an Amy Lee. We don’t need to replicate their style.
I’m really hoping Girl Named Tom makes it to the finals, but it’s not a shoe in. This season’s tough. Some truly awesome singers have already been voted off the island. (Whoops, that’s a different show.) All the singers who’ve made it to the semi-finals are amazing in their own way. I wish GNT the best. You’ve got a fan here, guys.
Copyright © 2021 Annie Reed
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