Madi Davis is a 16-year-old from McKinney who, on Tuesday afternoon, hours before another Voice elimination episode, sat at No. 5 on the iTunes Top Songs list, behind No. 1-seller Adele (of course) and three of Davis' fellow contestants on The Voice. Justin Bieber sits just beneath Davis' slowed-down, turned-up reading of Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Want to Have Fun."
Davis' ascension to the top of the pops is to be expected, of course: Davis, the sole remaining member on "coach" Pharrell Williams' team, is among the Top 10 finalists on a nationally televised singing competition that airs twice a week and tallies votes based in large part on iTunes sales. She's the star of a prime-time infomercial featuring brand-name pop favorites -- Williams, Adam Levine, Gwen Stefani and Blake Shelton -- who beg the faithful for downloads.
But Davis, who survived Tuesday night to land in the Top 9, is hardly a TV creation, one of those Voice contestants who ditched a day job to see if they could sing and oh well if they can't there's always that teaching gig waiting in Wichita but hey that sure was fun because Adam Levine.
From 2008 until last year she was a member of the Children's Chorus of Greater Dallas, and spent several months part-timing as a teacher at The Guitar Sanctuary in McKinney. She has performed at countless local venues, among them Klyde Warren Park and the Meyerson; released EPs and a full-length; and received radio play on KISS-FM long before she she turned a chair on NBC. She sings, writes her own music, works (and works and works) and serves up the very flavor of homegrown success story the local music press would champion if she weren't doing it with a network-TV bump, which, I guess, seems to ick up her hip factor.
But The Voice needs Davis more than she needs the show. Look no further than her latest offering to scale the iTunes chart. She didn't need Pharrell's assist with that stripped-down Lauper redo. Davis got there first, on her own, in 2014: The song appears on her EP Madi Anne Davis, alongside originals and the Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Californication" and "Say Something" by original Voice judge Christina Aguilera.
You can stream her entire body of work here -- and you'll find her version of "Girls" is even simpler (and more profoundly satisfying) than the one she's hoping pushes her into the show's semis -- nothing more than piano and a voice as clear as crystal and sharp as diamond.
Dallas -- well, North Texas -- has a long, rich history of great female vocalists, dating back to blues singer Lillian Glinn in the 1920s and Ella Mae Morse, the Mansfield-to-Paris-to-Dallas great whose "Cow-Cow Boogie" became the first million-seller in Capitol Records' history. The list, even partial, is estimable: Texas Ruby, Erykah Badu, LeAnn Rimes, Norah Jones, Edie Brickell, Kelly Clarkson, Sara Hickman, even Demi Lovato and Selena Gomez (for the kids).
It's far too soon to include Davis on that list; give her another record or so, a few gigs at the Kessler. But one thing's certain: Win or lose -- and, let's be honest, who even remembers the names of the winners? -- she doesn't need The Voice to tell us she's got a voice.