MTSU alumnus Kris Thomas’ venture into his oldies repertoire paid off with another week on NBC’s “The Voice” after a nationwide vote moved him into the Top 10.
After a live performance of the Motown classic “I’ll Be There” that showed off his Michael Jackson-like falsetto on Monday night, Thomas was the first contestant “saved” Tuesday night by viewers’ votes via phone, text, Internet and iTunes purchases.
“Having America bring me through let me know I’m doing something right,” Thomas said, adding, “if I lose this round I go home to nothing, no job, so I have to make sure I’m dead on with my pitch. I have to fight for my spot.”
One of his “teammates” being coached by singer-songwriter/judge Shakira, Garrett Gardner, wound up leaving at the end of Tuesday night’s announcements. Gardner and R&B hopeful Vedo, a member of singer/producer/judge Usher’s team, were sent home after receiving the fewest public votes.
Thomas and Vedo also sang along on a special performance of “Blurred Lines” Tuesday night by guests Robin Thicke, T.I. and Pharrell Williams.
On Monday night, Thomas’ performance of the Jackson Five’s “I’ll Be There” elicited more praise from the show’s judges.
“When Michael Jackson was 10, that was high for him, and he had a high voice as a child and as an adult,” Maroon 5 frontman/judge Adam Levine told Thomas. “That is a task that you definitely rose to.”
“You always seem to choose songs that push you to the extreme, to do everything you can possibly do. You’re always proving yourself to people. And this week is no exception, man. That was incredible,” country star/judge Blake Shelton added.
“I think that you just sound like you really want to win this competition,” coach Shakira said. “You sang with so much sincerity, so much sweetness and honesty at the same time. You should feel very accomplished today.”
Usher told Thomas that he didn’t like some a few vocal shifts in the performance, adding that he wasn’t sure whether Thomas was singing the Jackson Five version or Mariah Carey’s remake. “But the point is, no risk, no reward,” he said.
Shakira had warned Thomas earlier during rehearsal about “straining” to reach some of the notes.
“One of Kris’ strengths is his ability to go from full tone to falsetto and then back to full tone,” she said. “If he milks it, I think he’s gonna move on in this competition.”
The Memphis native told his coach during that rehearsal that after a prior recording deal fell through, he “was about to join the Navy, but something wouldn’t let me sign.… Literally two weeks later, the show called.”
The competition continues next Monday night, May 20, with more live performances.
Thomas, a 2008 MTSU graduate with a degree in psychology, made his reality-show debut March 25 during “The Voice’s” initial “blind auditions,” when the judges could only hear, not see, the contestants.
Shakira chose Thomas to mentor on her team before he could sing the chorus of the R&B classic “Saving All My Love for You.” The other judges expressed surprise at seeing a man at the microphone because of Thomas’ pitch-perfect high tenor vocals on the Whitney Houston classic.
Thomas has noted that he finds his presence and opportunities in the competition “very humbling.”
Competitors on “The Voice” are selected via the blind auditions into teams for each of the four judges to coach. They sing every week for a chance to move to the next phase of the show, ultimately being trimmed from 73 to 48 down to a final four. The winner receives $100,000 and a recording contract with Universal Music Group.
The artists on each “Voice” team will perform live weekly from Hollywood for enough audience votes to stay on the show in this final phase. The audition shows, as well as the “battle rounds” and “knockout” competitions between the judges’ teams of singers, were recorded last fall.
Thomas, 27, minored in industrial and organizational psychology and management at MTSU and performed in talent showcases during his school years.
He began work on an MBA degree at MTSU but decided that music was his true goal and landed a brief record development deal, cutting a debut single and working with country superstar Pam Tillis on “Two Kings,” a tribute to Elvis Presley and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
You can watch all Thomas’ performances on “The Voice” at NBC.com.