The Rise of Bria Kelly

Behind The Scenes Of The Smithfield Singers Wild Top 10 Run On NBC’s The Voice

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Although NBC was doing its best to follow the reality TV formula of “controversy plus confrontation equals ratings,” the contestants themselves weren’t buying into it. Bria had formed lasting friendships with several of the other singers, most notably with Christina Grimmie and Tess Boyer. “Our fans call us the Three Musketeers,” Bria says. “They’re my sisters, and I just love them to death.”

But that wasn’t the story playing out in the news. Bria recalls one article where a reporter mused whether there was about to be a catfight between Bria and Christina. Bria laughs as she recalls where she was when she read that. “I’m sitting there in bed eating donuts with Christina and I [do this].” She wrinkles her nose and turns her hand into a claw and swats it once through the air. “And I said, ‘Well, that’s all [the fighting] I’m going to do.’”

The Three Musketeers made it through the Battle Rounds into the Top 20. But only 12 could go on to the live shows. Standing in their way was one more pre-taped round called the Playoffs in which each artist would do a solo performance for his or her coach.

When Bria stepped on stage for her Playoff performance, she wore a white jacket and a new guitar slung over her shoulders. “My dad recently bought me this guitar,” she said in a pre-taped package. “When I’m taking it up on stage, it’s like taking a little piece of family.” She would later autograph and auction off her previous guitar for $1,725, donating the profit from that sale to Smithfield Music.

Tonight, though, it was her new guitar and the song “Wild Horses” by The Rolling Stones, a song that showcased Bria’s full range. The opening strains were soft and trembling, but she swiftly climbed into the upper register and burst into roaring heights that left at least one of the judges flabbergasted.

“I don’t know how you do what you do,” said Shakira. “How do you reach those high notes? Then your voice breaks and it’s so raspy and sultry. That sound is just so unique.”

But it wasn’t Shakira’s decision whether Bria would stay or go. Usher clearly felt the same way though. When his five mentees lined up before him, he had to pick three to keep and two to send home. Bria was the first he tabbed to move on to the live shows, where viewer voting would decide who moved on.

In the first live show, Bria stepped away from classic R&B to try something a little more modern: Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep.” But she changed it up to give it her own identity.

“She has this ability,” says Bzdick, “to take whatever song she wants to sing and make it her own. That really has to do with knowing chords and music structure and all that sort of thing. Her musicianship shows in the way that she bends tones and does all those turns with her voice.”

The only glitch to her performance had nothing to do with singing. The performances are very much like a high-powered concert with flashing lights and theatrics. Bria began atop a set of stairs while flames danced on two-story high screens that surrounded her. When the song started to amp up, she tossed her guitar pick out toward the crowd and strode down the steps to a waiting microphone stand. A second guitar pick was taped to the stand and Bria struggled for several moments trying to rip it free.

“The producers have the final say in everything you see on the show,” Jan says. “A lot of people go, ‘Well, why did the coach do that?’ Or ‘Why did the contestant do that?’ Well, probably because the producer told them to.”

No one seemed to have noticed the gaffe and Bria was voted through to the Top 10. There, however, things did not go so well. She again sang a popular song, Avril Lavigne’s “I’m With You,” but seemed uncomfortable during her performance. The judges commented on this and Bria agreed. But most importantly, the viewers agreed.

Tears were streaming down Bria’s face during her exit interview, but it was her friends she was thinking about more than herself. “Saying goodbye to Christina was probably the hardest thing I’ve done throughout the entire competition,” she says, “including singing and everything.”

Yes, Bria was going home, but she was leaving with valuable insight to aid her burgeoning music career. “This last song I sang wasn’t really me, and I got kicked off,” she says. “So the biggest thing that I can say is be true to who you are.”

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