Shortly after the horrific news broke that 22-year-old pop singer Christina Grimmie was shot Friday night while signing autographs after a concert in Orlando, #PrayforChristina was a worldwide trending topic on Twitter. When police confirmed that Grimmie died on Saturday morning, the hashtag was replaced by #RIPChristina.
The worldwide outpouring of grief over Grimmie’s shocking death was no surprise, as she was a popular YouTube star with a very passionate fanbase. Plus, since 2014, Grimmie was best known as the third-place finisher on Season 6 of NBC’s reality singing competition “The Voice.” While thousands have auditioned for the show since it debuted in 2010, among all of them, Grimmie was a stand-out from the beginning.
It’s not an easy feat, especially because the series features a ton of artists in the early “blind audition” episodes when singers try to impress the four coaches, who have their chairs turned backwards and spin around when they hear a voice they like. But in Season 6, Grimmie landed the prestigious spot as the very first audition of the season. On reality TV, that’s a sign you’re about to hear something special. Introduced as “a 19-year-old pop singer from New Jersey,” Grimmie explained she had been singing covers on YouTube since she was 15 and currently had two million subscribers. Then, she belted out a glorious cover of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball.”
Watching it, you can see why “The Voice” producers were so impressed and hoped to lure viewers in with footage of Grimmie’s audition. She not only knocked the song out of the park, she got the rare “four chair turnaround,” when all the coaches whip around to see the face that belongs to an amazing voice. Usher turned first, followed by Shakira, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton.
Though they all made passionate arguments to have Grimmie join their teams that they would mentor through the season, she chose Team Adam. “You’re more comfortable than I am up there, almost,” Levine gushed. “And that is the moment when you realize this person can be a huge star.”
Levine also chose Grimmie in the subsequent “battle” episodes, where she competed against other Levine teammates to move on to the next round. But she really made an impact during the “playoffs,” when she sang an emotional version of Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up”; she dedicated it to her mother, who beat breast cancer three times.
Even the other coaches were blown away by her powerhouse pipes, especially given her small stature. “I was looking over at Adam going, ‘That’s the best singer on your team right there,'” Shelton said. “How does such a big voice come out of such a miniature person?!” Usher chimed in with praise as well, calling her a “baby Celine Dion.” The following week, after Grimmie tackled Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” Shelton echoed his praise: “When I hear your voice, it’s impossible to understand how that much sound comes out of such a tiny human being,” he said, calling her the artist to beat on Levine’s team.
Meanwhile, while Levine was clearly a huge Grimmie fan, he was officially all in when Grimmie made it to the Top 10 and came up with the idea for a unique, piano-driven cover of Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” Singer Graham Nash, that week’s mentor for Levine’s team, was especially impressed: “I’m amazed at the range and the control and the depth of her voice. At 20 years old? That’s insane,” Nash said.
After her performance, Levine couldn’t stop beaming. “This was a moment that gave me the goosebumps,” Levine said. “Honestly, I couldn’t be prouder.”
The coaches continued to heap on the praise until it was clear Grimmie was the frontrunner. She couldn’t do anything wrong, as she covered songs from Lil Wayne’s “How to Love” to Imogen Heap’s “Hide and Seek” in further episodes. (Shelton: “You look and sound like a superstar up there.” Usher: “Your music transcends all genres.” Shakira: “Your high register is out of this world.”)
Grimmie’s online fanbase also made itself known. When she placed in the bottom three in the penultimate episode and was nearly kicked off the show, she got the coveted “Twitter instant save” at the last minute, thanks to the public frantically tweeting to keep her in the competition. Coming full circle in the finale, she sang “Wrecking Ball” once more.
“I felt like I was just watching you perform your single on an awards show,” Levine declared. “I was taken away from the competition aspect, you’re that good. I’m bursting with pride for you, Christina.”
During the finale, Grimmie placed third, behind runner-up country singer Jake Worthington and the winner, rocker Josh Kaufman. No matter, Levine promised; he wanted to sign her to his record label regardless.
““THANK YOU ADAM LEVIINNNEEE!!!!! For wanting to sign me to yur label….bc after 5 years on YouTube, not a single label out there would sign me,” Grimmie wrote on Facebook during the show.
Again, it’s an unusual move on “The Voice” — but Grimmie was simply that kind of contestant who stood out above all others.