Coming off what he called “my worst performance ever,” Anthony Paul sees a bright future.
The 18-year-old Twinsburg High School graduate, now a freshman at Elmhurst (Ill.) College, still thinks about singing at the Super Bowl, or headlining a big tour. And, if that happens, he will still thank The Voice for helping him along.
Paul’s run on the NBC singing competition ended when he lost to singer Jacquie Lee in a “knockout round” — where two singers from the same team perform, and the team leader chooses one to continue. Christina Aguilera, who had added Paul to her team after he was dropped from one headed by CeeLo Green, decided not to keep Paul on her team after his lackluster performance of Jason Derulo’s The Other Side.
Paul had clearly been unhappy with how his performance went, but he did not blame the judges, or the show, even though he could have made excuses. Indeed, when asked recently about the performance, he said the song was more upbeat than he liked, and he wanted “to take it a lot slower. ... But we just don’t have the time to do that.” Although he had been given the song about a week before the performance, he said onstage rehearsal time was limited.
“We only had about 15 or 20 minutes with the band,” he said in a telephone interview. “The other contestants have to get in their 15 or 20 minutes, too, so it’s a constant in-and-out.”
Still, after the performance aired, he said he was happy for Lee, whom he considers “amazing.” And the show had been what he expected.
“You hear stories about show business, how it’s fast-paced, and not everything goes your way,” he said. “But it’s how you react after the mishap that counts. It was good to actually experience it firsthand. To be able to say I went so far on such a fast-paced show, such a big show, at such a young age. ... No performer is perfect.”
He was quick to acknowledge his imperfection when, after the show aired, he tweeted that it was his “worst performance.” And, he added during our phone chat, “Hopefully that was my worst performance ever, and it will never get worse than that.”
Besides, that same tweet said that “the fact that I still have so much support is incredible.” In our chat, he said, “To me, my performance was just awful, but [other people said] ‘I can’t do that.’ ”
In addition, the show got him advice from Green and Aguilera, music-biz heavyweights (and Aguilera was enough of a fan to rescue him during the earlier rounds).
“They’re both really cool,” Paul said. “CeeLo’s take on my voice was that I’m very technical … that I can do any riff in the book, I can do whatever, but to try and pull out the emotion in a song. For some people, riffs are easy and emotion’s hard to grasp. But for some people, emotion’s easy but they can’t do a riff at all. I had to work on emotion. …
“Christina’s thing was also with emotion. But she said, ‘If you have the riffs, do ’em. Make the song your own. Switch it up. Do something cool here.’ ”
Asked if the singers’ advice reflected how they approach their own work, Paul agreed. “Hearing CeeLo’s songs, you don’t hear him do riffs. I can’t even think of a song where I’ve heard him go for one. But he always has that energy. He gets you going. He just has that emotional drive, whether it’s happy or sad. Where Christina can start off with this big roar of riffs where you do, ‘Oh my God, how are you doing that?’ ”
And, in the end, “it worked out great for me. I had Christina, who basically does every run in the book, complimenting me, saying I can do it. So I’m confident in what I’m doing. I know I’m doing it right. And for CeeLo to help me with the emotion side, I know I can get stronger now. Because those are the two sides of music right there — the emotion to drag someone in, and the riffs to impress.”
For all that recent revisiting of his performance, he has had a couple of months since it was taped to put it behind him. Now, he said, he just has to take the next step in his musical life, building on what the show has given him in terms of instruction and exposure.
On The Voice, he sang for about 12 million viewers. As he tours with his college’s vocal jazz group, he has found himself recognized by fans.
While he remains in college, he said, “I’m just getting everything I need to apply for a [singing] job.” He’s assembling photos and videos to send to talent agencies, and would take a break from school “if the music takes off ... depending on how big it is.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.