Twinsburg resident competing on ‘The Voice’

By Rich Heldenfels
Beacon Journal popular culture writer

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Anthony Paul of Twinsburg performs in front of judges Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, Anthony Paul, CeeLo Green and Adam Levine during blind auditions for The Voice. (Tyler Golden/NBC)

Twinsburg’s Anthony Paul is finding that fame “is taking some getting used to.”

The Elmhurst (Ill.) College freshman was seen briefly on a recent installment of The Voice, making it through the blind auditions and joining the team of contestants working with CeeLo Green. But that bit of him singing Chris Brown’s With You was enough that he now gets stares from others on campus and strangers coming up to him to ask if he is indeed the guy on The Voice.

They also say they liked his singing, Paul said in a recent telephone interview, and that’s good news for the 18-year-old music-business student who has long wanted to be a performer. At Twinsburg High School, he said, he spent four years in show choir and had a lead solo every year. His inspirations include Beyonce, Usher and Michael Jackson; he wishes he could blend Jackson’s way with an audience, Usher’s dancing and Beyonce’s ability not only to succeed consistently but also to keep surprising people.

His musical ambitions had him eyeing televised music competitions for some time. When he was 16, he won the boys’ category in local auditions for a spot in Chicago auditions for Fox’s The X Factor, although he did not get far on the national show. American Idol was out of the question because his father, Anthony Sr., works for Ford, a major Idol sponsor, the younger Paul said.

But The Voice was worth a try “and, of course, it paid off.”

Eventually. Paul said his parents (mom is Kimberly Paul) were uncomfortable about him trying out last January, when he was still in high school. “But I said, I’m 18. I’m either going with your blessing or I’m going on my own.”

Going meant another trip to Chicago to audition at an open call for contestants. Then came a smaller, private audition. In both cases he was armed with two songs: Beyonce’s Sweet Dreams and Jessie J’s Mamma Knows Best. His work was good enough to get him flown to Los Angeles to sing for Voice producers, who asked him to do Bruno Mars’s When I Was Your Man. On a roll, Paul next faced The Voice’s blind auditions.

In that phase, four judges — currently Green, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton and Adam Levine — are in chairs with their backs to the stage. Singers come out and begin singing. Judges can then turn their chairs around before the song is done, indicating they want to work with that performer. If more than one judge turns around, the performer gets to pick with whom to work.

Songs have to be chosen from a list cleared by the show. The list included hundreds of songs, Paul said, and he spent hours studying it. While many of the options on The Voice and other singing shows lean heavily on older songs familiar to the most viewers, Paul wanted something that underscored his own youth and contemporary quality.

Besides, he added, “Like the show says, it’s about the voice.”

His performance got Green to turn his chair — and “I wanted either CeeLo or Christina.” In a clip from the show, Green said that with some work and guidance, Paul had “a strong chance” to win. At this point, though, Paul was also tied up somewhat in legal red tape. On the one hand, as someone interested in the music business, he has found even dealing with lawyers to be useful. On the other, the show has already taped not only auditions but also the so-called battle and knockout rounds leading up to live shows in November — and Paul is not allowed to talk about how he does.

He did say that he had been able to work with Green, and sing with him, and he has gotten the coaching Green promised. He’s also pleased that a full recording of his version of With You is available on iTunes.

But Paul also knows there are a lot of strong singers in the competition, singling out Minnesotan Ashley DuBose, who impressed with a performance of Rihanna’s Diamonds; she had all four judges turning their chairs, and chose to be on Levine’s team.

DuBose has also become a friend, Paul said, adding that — competition notwithstanding – many of the singers are brought closer by their shared Voice experience, And, though he can’t say how far he has gone, the show has already given him a step up. “To get into the blind auditions at the age of 18, to get a song on iTunes — I’m really grateful.”

Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including in the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or rheldenfels@thebeaconjournal.com.


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