Michael Lynch of Chicago began his “blind audition” on NBC’s “The Voice” alone on the stage. By the time his 90-second audition was over, three coaches had hit their “I Want You” buttons, and Lynch soon found himself in the midst of an impromptu dancing duet with his new mentor, pop singer Christina Aguilera.
Lynch, a University of Iowa alumnus with degrees in Spanish and communication and a minor in music, auditioned by singing Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailamos.” After he joined Aguilera’s team, she called for a mic, joined him on stage and they launched a reprise.
“That was completely unexpected, not planned at all,” Lynch said on the phone a few days after his audition aired Oct. 7. “When she approached me on the stage, I was simply going to thank her. When she asked for the music, I couldn’t believe it.”
Each season on “The Voice,” singers vie for a chance to audition for four celebrity coaches. Lynch estimates there were only about 120 contestants who advanced to the blind audition, during which the coaches, including CeeLo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton, face away from the singer. If they like what they hear, they hit a button that swivels their chair 180 degrees. Once they’ve won the coach’s approval, they must decide which coach’s team to join.
The field of 48 is winnowed through head-to-head competitions known as battle rounds (two contestants perform a song simultaneously) and knockout rounds (two competitors perform consecutively, only one advances). The coaches decide who advances and who goes home. These rounds, like the auditions, happened earlier this year.
Next, the show shifts to live performances, and America’s vote cuts the field down to the eventual winner.
And despite Aguilera’s early enthusiasm and seemingly natural fit for Lynch’s ambitions, it wasn’t a simple choice come decision time. As a longtime fan of the show, Lynch always felt Shelton came across as a cool, genuine person.“But I knew Christina would be perfect for me; we have the same style,” he says.
Lynch’s episode will air the week of Oct. 21. Yes, the outcome is months old, and no, Lynch can’t say anything about it. And the promos for upcoming episodes don’t offer clues about Lynch’s fate, unlike the commercial that ran in the days before Lynch’s blind audition aired (it showed him singing with Aguilera, an expression of joy all over his face).
“That promo was cool; I had no idea they were going to use that clip,” Lynch says. “Friends of mine who were watching ‘Saturday Night Live’ or ‘Sunday Night Football’ were calling and texting after seeing me with Christina.”
This was Lynch’s second attempt on “The Voice.” He tried out during the previous season but failed to get past the preliminary screenings in Chicago.
“I told myself I would make it to that big stage someday.”
And when he did make it to the big stage, he gave the coaches quite a surprise: that a through-and-through Irish lad was knocking out Spanish lyrics as if they were second nature. But singing in Spanish is no gimmick. It comes from years of study and immersion; “a true love for the language,” as Lynch puts it.
Lynch began learning Spanish during his first year of high school in Chicago. Spanish was definitely in the plans when Lynch came to the UI. He studied abroad twice during his undergraduate years: once for eight weeks in Guanajuato, Mexico, with a number of students from Big Ten schools; and again for a semester in Seville, Spain.
Music was part of the equation at the UI as well. Lynch took some vocal lessons, then explored piano—soon enough, he was doing enough to satisfy a music minor. After graduation, Lynch enrolled in a music school in Mexico City and pursued a music career there. A breakthrough did not come there, so he returned to Chicago, where he performs at private events and weddings with a cover band. But the dream remains and Lynch feels the Voice audition was the perfect debut for a national audience, in both English and Spanish.
“It’s the best opportunity I’ve ever had,” Lynch says. “To make it that far, to have four superstars poised to turn around at the sound of my voice … what a dream.”