The soft sound of Chipper’s basketball shoes barely broke the room-enveloping silence. He waited on the darkened stage, head bowed, and microphone clutched in his hands, for the music to begin. A side-glance assured him his sister, Cristina and his niece, Carolina watched from the wings with Carson Daly, the host. The corners of Chipper’s mouth ticked upwards.
Butterflies swarmed in his stomach, and he needed to calm his nerves. He stared at the back of the coaches’ chairs and tried to concentrate on having sung in front of presidents before. This should be less intimidating. A single spotlight on him and the first bars of the song cleared his head. He was born to perform and this was his chance.
Chipper was unable to see the coaches’ faces. It was later, when he watched the broadcast-ready episode, he could observe their expressions and hear a few of their comments. Four well-known musical stars listened to potential contestants sing, not knowing what they looked like. The show, predicated on highlighting vocal ability, discouraged appearance influencing the audition’s result.
An evil smile formed on country music icon Blake Shelton when he seemed to recognize the song. He glanced at the other coaches and slammed his open palm on the red button in front of his seat. The chair rotated until he was able to see the individual singing, and the microphone caught his reaction. “Oh, crap. It’s Adam’s mini me.”
“HE’S IN! HE’S IN!” Daly sprung from his crouching position and high-fived Cristina. Chipper noticed their broad smiles and later heard the jubilation on tape.
Moments after Shelton turned his chair to indicate his interest in coaching Chipper, the aspiring musician reached a high note that made the two female artists sitting in the middle also hit their buttons.
The fourth coach, Adam Levine—lead singer for Maroon 5—had been on every season of the show with Shelton. The two had a bromance thing going the producers seemed to encourage. Critics agreed it was part of the show’s appeal. They acted like frenemies and often competed head to head when trying to persuade participants to choose them as their coach.
As Chipper neared the end of “Denim Jacket,” Levine at last showed his interest. As the chair rotated, the grin on his face was so big his eyes were nearly closed. It was not often an aspiring musician risked doing a song by one of the coaches; Chipper had gambled, and Levine seemed to approve. When the performance ended, there was bedlam in the audience, and the four coaches stood applauding.
The first comment was Blake’s. “You know, this isn’t fair. But just because the two of you shop at the same thrift store, and he sang one of your songs doesn’t mean anything, Adam. He might be smart enough to choose a coach who could help him win.”
“Shut up, Shelton. You’re just jealous.” Levine sprung from his chair, climbed on stage, and faced the audience with an arm around Chipper. They wore similar faded blue jeans with strategically placed rips around the knees and near the crotch. The only differences in their attire were Chipper’s jacket, and Adam’s shirt having sleeves; something he remedied by rolling them up his arms. “Dude, we’re destined to be a team. We’re gonna make beautiful music together. Forget the other three.”
While Adam returned to his chair, Blake spoke to Chipper. “Let’s ignore your lack of fashion sense for a moment. What’s your name?”
“Well some beach! Blake Shelton turned first for me.”
“Don’t you forget it, son.”
“Anyway, my name’s Chipper. I’m twenty-two. And I’m originally from New York City.”
“YASSS!” Alicia Keys sounded excited a fellow New Yorker was on stage. “You have an incredible voice. Adam can hit high notes most of us have trouble reaching, but you nailed it. It was a gamble to sing a coach’s song, and you pulled it off. Where in New York?”
“I was born and raised in the Upper West Side. Both my parents are from Argentina, and I’ve spent the last four years at the University of Miami.” Chipper held both hands up, his thumbs touching, to form the U flashed by Miami Hurricanes’ fans at sporting events. “Go ’Canes!”
“You said Argentina. Do you sing in Spanish, too?” Kelly Clarkson, the fourth coach, hailed from Texas and always appeared interested in bilingual contestants.
“Definitely. I did a Julio Iglesias song in my initial audition.”
“Oh, you gotta pick me, you gotta pick me. I so want someone who can sing in Spanish to win this show.”
Levine drummed his fingers on the chair’s arm while the other coaches made a pitch for Chipper to join their team. When everyone turned their attention to him, he became serious. “You and I are going to win this season. You were faithful to the song, yet you made it your own. Some of those runs were sick!”
“Are you calling him a sick individual?”
“Shut up, Shelton. Chipper sounds like a smart man. I have no doubt he realizes we’re meant to be together. I can’t wait to beat your ass this season.”
“Well done, brother.” Carson had joined Chipper center stage and vigorously pumped his hand.
“Okay, Chipper. You’re the first contestant this season to have all four chairs turn. Who do you choose to be your coach?”
Chipper had been given direction on what to do in a variety of situations, from no chairs turning to having all four coaches interested in him. He remained quiet, dragging the moment out to build suspense; he suspected that in his case it wouldn’t fool anyone. “I’m on such a high right now I’m having trouble thinking and talking. I’m so humbled all four of you want to work with me. But I think I know who I want.” He paused again for dramatic effect, gliding his eyes along the line of chairs until they rested on the leftmost one. “I pick Adam!”
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