I’ve been watching “The Voice” on NBC.
I’ve been consistently impressed with this season’s contestants. They’re all ridiculously talented, and seem to be a genuine lot of earnest and dedicated artists committed to their craft. And they’re very different, which makes listening to their performances extra fun.
But last night was off. the. chain.
First of all, every single performance in the show’s semifinals was quality. I’m actually contemplating downloading “9 to 5,” a fact which even I can’t wrap my brain around. Bob Dylan will never be the same. Cher got schooled on her own song.
But even before it aired in my time zone, Jordan Smith’s performance of Queen’s “Somebody to Love” started blowing up my Twitter feed. Viewers were hash-tagging #micdrop, #unreal, #jordanwins and other superlative sentiments. I love me some Queen, and I’ve loved Jordan Smith, a Christian student at Lee University, ever since his spot-on rendition of Sia’s “Chandelier” in the blind auditions.
I sat hunched forward in my chair (mindlessly munching far too much caramel corn) whilst waiting for Jordan to take the stage.
He did. And then he sang this:
Aside from arguably being what everyone’s saying — “the best ‘Voice’ performance ever,” “the best performance on a reality TV show ever,” etc., Jordan Smith’s performance last night was also something that should be equally obvious: a lesson in what happens when you take what God’s given you and work freakishly hard at it.
It’s been mentioned by many how grueling being a contestant on “The Voice” actually is. Song choice, memorization, staging, performance cues, media appearances, rehearsals — it’s all in an average week for these contestants. This is not your mama’s birthday karaoke.
Maybe y’all don’t know, but I minored in music in college. I took 17 years of flute lessons, have played in chamber groups, orchestras and marching bands. I took voice lessons, too. I sang in choirs, ensembles, and have even soloed from time to time. I like to think I can recognize musical prowess when I see it.
To that point, did you notice how in Jordan’s performance, you could understand every single lyric of the song? That takes control. That takes practice. That’s called “disciplined diction.” Did you hear the individual notes in Jordan’s outrageous runs? That’s a mastery of vocal gymnastics. That’s what happens when you deconstruct a song in practice so it sounds effortless in performance.
I’m no Jordan Smith. I have neither the gift nor the training or time spent to do what he does. Sadly, I’ve even let what musical skill I do have fall by the wayside. I now play and sing only occasionally, much to my mother’s chagrin.
But I do other things. Some things, like writing and speaking, I do every day. And last night’s performance by Jordan Smith (and all the contestants, quite frankly) reminded me how God is glorified when we put effort and intention into our giftings and work. Proverbs 22:29a (ESV) says, “Do you see a man skillful in his work? He will stand before kings…” Similarly, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
How can I work with excellence in my job? My hobbies? And how can I encourage and applaud excellence in others? I can pretty much guarantee I’ll never be a contestant on “The Voice.” But I can marvel at what I see in Jordan. And I can put extra time and effort into my next article or talk on dating. Or my next email, phone call or budget report.
Thanks, Jordan, for rockin’ it out. And for reminding me to run hard after excellence in all that I do.