Madi Davis, McKinney's own, was among the five Voice contestants escorted off the stage last night -- not exactly the most stunning development given her propensity for singing songs she likes rather than the kind America votes for.
The audience dialed into NBC's singing competition over its nine-season run has shown, via iTunes charts and Twitter votes, that it favors modern-pop hits over American standards, country over quirky. And the 17-year-old who spent six years singing with the Children's Chorus of Greater Dallas spent weeks using valuable prime-time real estate to perform Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You," U2's "Love is Blindness" and Carole King's "It's Too Late." Her final song, performed Monday night before Tuesday's mass elimination leaving just four for next week's finale, was a charming rendition of a 53-year-old Four Seasons hit, "Big Girls Don't Cry."
During a conference call Wednesday afternoon, Davis and some of the other eliminated contestants made it very clear that on more than one occasion they chose sentimental favorites over shoo-ins. That's why, say, Amy Vachal chose an 18-year-old Bob Dylan obscurity Monday night ("To Make You Feel My Love"), and why Davis performed a wonderful, sparse, slowed-down "Girls Just Want to Have Fun" last week or the Four Seasons song Monday.
"There is a certain, ya know, pull to do what the people like to win," Davis said the day after she was voted off to all the anguish Twitter could muster. "But at the end of the day my goal was never to win. My goal was to make it as far as I could doing the music I love and the music I wanted to do."
She did say that, yeah, as the show neared the semi-finals, she considered playing it safe and performing "a song I hate to make America happy." But in the end, she couldn't.
"At the end of the day, that's not the kind of artist I want to be," she said. "I think the rest of us will say the same thing. ... Be the artist you are and sing the songs you want to sing."
Davis said that, yes, it's never a bad move to sing country on The Voice. If nothing else, she said, Blake Shelton "had the 'country mafia' on his side," a joke with no small amount of truth to it given Shelton's track record: He's won four of the first eight seasons, most recently with Mesquite's own Craig Wayne Boyd just one year ago, and has two singers (Barrett Baber and Emily Ann Roberts) out of the remaining four.
But Davis is a native Texan who doesn't do country, and if that cost her a shot at The Voice, so be it.
"There is a certain thing America likes, and that's just what they'll vote for," she said. "And at the end of the day, that doesn't mean there's not a part of America that doesn't like what I do or what Amy does. It's just a smaller part of the world. That's OK. I've come to terms with that. The best I could have hoped for at this point was making it this far. I'm really just lucky to have gotten to work with the people I've gotten to work with this long."
By which she means coach Pharrell Williams.
Davis said that going in, she thought it was just enough to be, you know, talented. Good. Capable. She said she went on the show thinking she didn't want to collaborate -- couldn't, wouldn't. But rather quickly, she said Wednesday, Davis realized "having natural talent isn't enough." If only it were.
"When you get in a room with amazing, talented people who want to help you and make great music, great music is made," Davis said. "That's how that's done. I've learned that from this, and I've learned being open to suggestion doesn't mean you don't know who you are and that you don't know the kind of artist you want to be. It just means you're willing to get help from people like Pharrell, who's an award-winning producer and one of the greatest artists of our time. And I'd be a fool not to listen to him when he tells me what he'd do."
Davis and the other contestants, those cut weeks ago and those still in it, will appear on next week's finale. Then she will come home, play gigs around North Texas and wait for the future to begin.
"I think now we kind of have to see what happens next and see who contacts us as far as record labels go," she said. "It's hard to know what's going to happen in the future. But I am excited for it. This isn't the end. It's just the beginning. We all have bright futures ahead of us. There's no need for us to be sad that it's over, except it was so much fun."