But the far more interesting story this season has been anger surrounding Meghan Linsey, the 29-year-old country-turned-soul singer who came in second place. An ongoing issue among “Voice” fans: Some don’t believe that Linsey has any right to be in the competition because of previous success in the music industry. But now that the season is over, we’re here to ask: Can people please stop complaining about her “unfair advantage” now? Save your rage. Not only have many “Voice” contestants had professional backgrounds, but history shows that past success doesn’t make it any easier for the show’s winners in the future.
If you’re unaware, Linsey was once part of the mildly popular country duo Steel Magnolia. Linsey and her then-fiance, Joshua Scott Jones, won the CMT competition show “Can You Duet?” in 2009, leading to a record deal with Big Machine; an album; and a hit debut single, “Keep On Lovin’ You,” the 15th most popular country song of 2010. They landed two consecutive Country Music Association Award nominations for Vocal Duo of the Year, and similar accolades from other mainstream award shows.
Then Jones went to rehab, and Linsey was briefly forced to tour alone. After several failed singles, they were dropped from their label and the couple broke up. Linsey has been working as a solo artist in Nashville for the last couple years, but found it difficult to gain traction. With her career in a freefall, she turned to “The Voice.”
“It’s kind of like going back to Square One,” she said in her first audition. “It’s humbling. But I feel like I have to figure out something get me to the next level.”
Inspirational story about a second chance, right? Not so much, according to some. Nearly every article about Linsey mentions certain fans are upset that she has an unfair advantage. Plus, she was once a tour opener for Blake Shelton, one of “The Voice” judges and Linsey’s coach. Incidentally, he was the only one not to spin his chair around when she first auditioned — she wound up on Team Pharrell, but Shelton stole her in a later round for his team.
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However, it’s ultimately a waste of time to question Linsey’s place in the competition, because “The Voice” never hides the fact that it scouts professional singers for auditions. (The show famously tried to recruit Jason Isbell, after all.) More importantly, having a past music career doesn’t necessarily mean big things in the future. With few other options in a viciously competitive industry, why shouldn’t Linsey use every tool at her disposal?
Just look at some of the past “Voice” winners alone: Javier Colon (Season 1) had a jam band and released two albums on Capitol Records. Jermaine Paul (Season 2) won a Grammy with Alicia Keys. Cassadee Pope (Season 3) toured the world opening for Fall Out Boy and All Time Low with her pop band, Hey Monday. Tessanne Chin (Season 5) was a star in her native Jamaica. Craig Wayne Boyd (Season 7) was a writer in Nashville for years, opening for acts like Jamey Johnson and Randy Houser.
In other words, if people are upset that Linsey took up someone else’s deserving spot because she had connections — well, as any of the above winners can tell her, that generally not translate into success on its own. Most of the time, it can’t even necessarily help if you actually do win the show. While a few of “The Voice” winners have carved out niche careers, they’re far from stars. About six months after his victory, Craig Wayne Boyd is already gone from his label.
Obviously, the music industry is a fickle, terrifying place — with every singer struggling to make a mark, it makes perfect sense for someone who wants to break out into the mainstream to attempt a reality show. It’s not just “The Voice.” Nashville artist Sarah Darling, also a country singer with a label and many connections, got similar criticism when she auditioned for “Rising Star” on ABC last summer. She got cut a couple rounds in and quickly faded.
“The Voice,” the most popular singing competition show in the country, is helpful for exposure. But even Linsey knows it’s not a lock for anything in the future. Already having industry connections and Billboard chart success doesn’t guarantee anything. She may have country stars Naomi Judd and Big & Rich on her side, but does that actually help? It certainly didn’t help her land in first place.
At the end of the day, appearing on “The Voice” got Linsey’s name out there; though it could do more harm than good if people continue to wonder why she even got a chance in the first place. Linsey’s well-aware of that, repeteadly defending herself and reiterating that — seriously — she certainly wouldn’t be on a reality show if she felt there was any other way.
“I know some people are questioning if I deserve to be here,” Linsey told Billboard. “I’ve heard a comment or two that are like, ‘Oh, she had her shot’ or ‘Her career is over.’ I’m 29, and I moved to town 11 years ago, and I’ve worked so hard and don’t believe in giving up on a dream.”
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