Second Chances, in These Final Hours

An exchange in comments with Judy over at lifelessons on NBC’s singing competition show The Voice led to this post. One of the aspects of The Voice that draws me to it is its acceptance of artists that have “pounded the pavement” for years without success. This usually means playing small venues, or even weddings and bar mitzvahs, then working a “real” job to support the music. The other type of hopeful that I feel a connection to is the artists that gives up the music due to responsibilities. It doesn’t pay to be a struggling musician (or writer, or painter, or actor…) and supporting a family comes first. To get a second chance at the dream of becoming a self-sustaining professional artist is the Holy Grail for many people, and very few ever get there.

If you compare these artists to the younger ones that haven’t faced adversity, the difference is stark. Life experience bleeds through in music, as it does in writing. You can’t sing or write true pain, hunger, heartbreak, despair or passion without having lived it. At least to me, that puts the “reality” in reality TV.

Last season’s winner, Josh Kaufman, is an artist of the second type I mention above. “I Can’t Make You Love Me” is a Bonnie Raitt song, and the original is heartbreaking. I connect more with the George Michael version, but both amazing performances convey the same emotion – acceptance. Kaufman’s version is different. Whether by his own decision, or that of his coach Usher, the delivery here is a fiery protest.

“Here in the dark,
In these final hours
I will lay down my heart,
And I’ll feel the power
But you won’t,
No you won’t.”

While Raitt and Michael deliver these lines fondly, tenderly, even plaintively, Kaufman growls them in a crescendo. There’s no resignation.

“And I can’t make you love me
If you don’t.”

It’s a statement. He’s not telling her “I surrender,” he’s telling her “reconsider, while you still have the chance.” The emotion is even more heart-rending, at least to me. That alone will make me follow the The Voice for seasons to come.

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