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Posted on Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 2:18 p.m.

Why Michelle Chamuel may be the big winner on 'The Voice,' despite her second-place finish

By Jenn McKee

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University of Michigan grad and former My Dear Disco/Ella Riot front woman Michelle Chamuel may have come in second on Tuesday night’s season finale of “The Voice”; but she may also prove, in the long run, to have more staying power in the brutal, flavor-of-the-month music industry than her competitors.

There’s no denying that winner Danielle Bradbery has powerhouse pipes; and watching a young person with talent and poise far beyond her years never fails to captivate Americans.

But this latter point is key. Despite the show’s title, “The Voice” is, in the end, not just about a performer’s vocal ability. (Judith Hill’s baffling elimination? Exhibit A.) As the field narrows throughout the season—to the point where nearly everyone left in the contest is a pretty strong, talented performer—the competition, more and more, becomes about which contestants charm and captivate viewers.

The show’s judges—this season, Shakira, Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, and Usher—even seemed to acknowledge this tacitly by, at a certain point in the season, offering only praise after each contestant’s performance. (This is what they ended up sounding like to me: You were great. She was great, too. And those brothers? Great. You guys are all so great.)

So it’s less than surprising that the vocalists left standing in the end were the people who most captured our imagination: a come-from-nowhere, wildly self-possessed teenager with a gorgeous voice and a genuine, “aw shucks” level of humility; a bespectacled, quirky alternative rock chick who seems shy and awkward until the moment she gets the microphone in her hand and cuts loose; and a wise-cracking brother duo whose country music harmonies conveyed their palpable, appealing connection to each other as best friends and siblings.

But after the dust settles from “The Voice”’s season finale, the Swon Brothers may struggle to distinguish themselves when the focus lands more narrowly on their music (their cut-up video segments were no small part of their charm); and Bradbery, as a young blond country singer, inevitably calls to mind those who’ve already blazed a similar trail (like LeAnn Rimes and Carrie Underwood).

Chamuel, though, looks and sounds like no one else. From her first appearance on the show, when she sang a slow-build version of Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl,” Chamuel demonstrated that she wouldn’t just hit the right notes while working through the contemporary pop catalog that “The Voice” primarily showcases; she’d breathe new, sometimes surprising life into them and re-make them in her own image - signature glasses and all.

And speaking of glasses, Chamuel, before singing a single note, connected with many of us as a slightly awkward, nerdy-looking person who, despite her shyness, fiercely held on to her hard-earned sense of self. (While singing Pink's "Raise Your Glass," she unabashedly pointed down at her own head while singing, "So if you're too school for cool." That's someone I can get behind.)

So now that Chamuel’s music choices won’t be limited to songs that “The Voice” considers highly marketable on iTunes, I’m really excited to see where she goes next.

I think a lot of people are.

But while we’re looking back at Chamuel’s season on “The Voice,” let’s revisit 5 key moments/things that made us love her.

• Her re-enactment, with sock puppets, of a coaching session with Usher:

• Her anti-diva-ness. Apparently, she always wanted as little hair and makeup work as possible - she addresses this 1:20 into this clip - and it’s refreshing to see a female artist resisting these conventions, and striving instead to present herself as she naturally looks.

• Her hard-rocking, passionate performance of Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble.” In this memorable performance, Chamuel may have improved on the original.

• Her pushup showdown with Usher, which begins 50 seconds into this clip. And she suggested it!

• The friendship and deep sense of respect that developed between her and her coach. Seeing Usher jump up and cheer after Chamuel's performances was kind of touching; and in this segment, when they performed U2’s “One” together, Chamuel showed she can hang with the best.

Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for Reach her at or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.



Tue, Jul 30, 2013 : 4:34 a.m.

I believe Michelle has a great chance at being a long term presence, with a really great career. She can sing, play piano, and violin, and graduated with a 4.0 from college. She has been playing, and, or writing music for a long time. She is not a flash in the pan. She does the work, and gets results. As for music out there, she has lots of it, if you look for it. She is not ackward on stage, she owns the stage, and she had not even a single bad performance. Not one. Also, I am not from AnnArbor. I am from Illinois. I hope Michelle gets on the charts with a really good album, and if there are shows where she apears, I will be one of the first to tune in. She has, besides the music, a sense of humor, and great outlook on life and how to be herself.

Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui

Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 1:41 a.m.

Shamwow is off the ITunes charts. Danielle and the Swon Brothers are still there. Shamwow made it to 2nd place for political reasons, not talent.


Tue, Jul 30, 2013 : 4:41 a.m.

Nonsense. There was not political reason. She is Talent with a capital T.

Jenn McKee

Tue, Jun 25, 2013 : 2:23 p.m.

What political reasons? At no point during the show was Chamuel's sexuality mentioned, by her or others. So how could that carry her? Also, I'm not surprised that the Swons and Bradbery are still a presence on iTunes. They're talented, as I mention in this column, and they were a hit with "The Voice"'s audience, obviously. But this column is more focused on the long-term. I certainly could be wrong, but if I had to guess, I'd say that Chamuel has a stronger chance of longterm success. But time will tell.

TH Pam

Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 4:13 a.m.

I totally enjoyed this opinion page and you picked great clips to show. I'm a huge fan of Michelle. I think she is the most charasmatic performer to come along in a very very long time. I would go to another city to see her in concert. I wouldn't walk across the street to see Danielle - don't get me wrong, I can't deny her cuteness and talent but she has no passion or showmanship. BlueMax - I don't think this page reflects "Ann Arbor" bias - Michelle has a very loyal following of thousands of fans - go to her Facebook page - people totally admire and appreciate her. I can't wait to see her career take off. Lots of us Canadians love her too.


Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 3:54 p.m.

Thank you for this article. Malaysia, Indonesia, HK, Vietnam and Philippines love Michelle Chamuel so much. She's been an inspiration to so many. Her adoring fans in these countries eagerly await the release of her first cd and, hopefully, an Asian tour though in distant future. Michelle's kindness and wholesome personality stand out and her unique style of music is simply world class and perhaps, qualities that are better appreciated in other parts of the world than in her home country(?)


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 12:30 a.m.

There are many of us in the U.S. who appreciate artists with the kindness and respect for others that Michelle puts forth, and her uniqueness with regard to her style and the music she performs. Unfortunately, much of what becomes popular here is only due to perceived marketability. I have repeatedly heard or read that someone is the next Taylor Swift, the next Beyoncé, the next Carrie Underwood, and because they became very popular, it is assumed that a clone will be just as popular. Much of the music that becomes popular here all sounds the same, but there are many of us who are hungry for something new, exciting, original, and for me, and many others, Michelle is that. She has garnered a huge fan base, here, but it is overshadowed by those who still prefer everything to sound the same.


Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 2:50 p.m.

The biggest thing going for Michelle is that she has Producer Usher on her side. Who cares if she didn't win, Usher will producer her music and she will become a star. Bieber-fever? Although I hate the Biebs, Usher made him a world-wide superstar.


Tue, Jul 30, 2013 : 4:46 a.m.

I do hope Usher stays involved with Michelles career, but if she had no talent, he would not be interested. Bieber is so busy making a fool of himself these days, partly because of too much too soon, and whatever else drives him. Michelle, on the other hand, seems to be very grounded, for which I think she has her parents, as well as her own charcter to thank.


Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 2:18 a.m.

Great article, Jenn. I enjoyed your summary of Michelle's climb to the final three on The Voice and loved the videos you included. It may be a blessing that she didn't win because she isn't bound by obligations and is free to take her career wherever she wants. I wish her great success.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 12:21 a.m.

I thought the same thing - that it may be better for her that she didn't win. I doubt they give the artists much creative control. Michelle is a very creative person, she is a song-writer as well as a singer, and she prefers to present herself as who she really is. It would be awful to see her recording songs that were selected for her by a team that cares about nothing more than marketability, and it would be even worse if they try to put her in contact lenses, a miniskirt, way too much makeup, and heels. That kind of contract might be okay for someone who doesn't write their own songs, and already presents themselves as a cookie cutter singer, but it wouldn't suit Michelle at all.


Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 11:28 p.m.

Ms. Bradbery has a nice voice, but you don't get a sense of emotional depth from her work. No surprise given her age, but I thought Michelle killed it and should have won. My take is that Ms. Bradbery is a bit vanilla and will sink into the morass of the similar and yes, Michelle will have a chance to break out and be/represent a different sound.

Jack Gladney

Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 9:41 p.m.

In the immortal words of The Buggles, "Video killed the radio star."

Elaine F. Owsley

Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 8:33 p.m.

Maybe when she gets over all the lunging and crouching a person could focus on her voice. It was really a distraction.


Tue, Jul 30, 2013 : 4:40 a.m.

I love a singer that can move around and OWN the stage. That is what Michelle does. Lunging and crouching, not a problem. She has music in her from the tip of her toes on up. People who just stand around are not rockers, and Michelle can rock it.


Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 2:40 p.m.

Hello! Fyi, Michelle has a huge fan base in Asia (Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, HK), also in Canada and elsewhere) who are so obsessed to support her music career. We love Michelle. Ann Arbor and the whole of US should be proud of her. To us, her adoring fans, she is not just a star; Michelle is a superstar. We look up to her as a role model of how to become a wholesome person and an outstanding performer.


Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 9:47 p.m.

If it is that much of a distraction, then you could close your eyes while you listen. I've certainly done that at times when there are just too many distractions at live events.


Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 7:25 p.m.

I think all of the finalist will have good careers as long as they make smart decisions. Michelle is very talented but I sense a little Ann Arbor bias here.


Tue, Jul 30, 2013 : 4:50 a.m.

towanda1200 has spoken. Could not resist refering to towanda either.


Sat, Jun 22, 2013 : 12:08 a.m.

If you think that no one outside of Ann Arbor is paying attention to her, you are the one who is not paying attention. On The Voice facebook page, people are still posting how much they love her so much that you can't even begin to read all of them. And these people from all over the world. And they are not only interested in her Voice songs, but they are tracking down and buying her work prior to the Voice. On the official website for Ella Riot, their two cds quickly sold out while she was on the Voice. I split time between Dallas, TX and Chicago, and I can tell you that everyone I know who is a music fan, or works in music and watched the Voice thinks she is the most exciting artist we have seen or heard in a long time. Not everyone goes for the cookie cutter singers that all look and sound alike. These shows typically push the cookie cutter singers because they consider them more marketable. The number of fans that Michelle has garnered from this exposure proves that people want more than cookie cutter.


Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 2:55 p.m.

Fyi, Michelle has an emerging huge fan base in Asia (Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, HK, Vietnam); Canada is also her turf. I came to know this because so many of us were panicking and trying to cast votes but were restricted. I was able to vote through Skype, though. And these adoring fans are so obsessed to see Michelle succeed in her singing career. We truly love Michelle. Ann Arbor and all Americans should be proud of her. No wonder she only placed second. If only they allowed non-US residents to vote, Michelle should have won hands down. She is The Global Voice.

Jenn McKee

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 1:46 a.m.

Yes, a LOT of factors are involved in what happens to an artist's music career after appearing on one of these shows. Obviously, Jennifer Hudson went on to pretty big things after losing "American Idol," as did Kelly Clarkson after winning it. It is largely about the choices each artist makes at this critical time, for sure. But to my mind, Michigan connection or no, I'd be most intrigued to see where Chamuel goes from this point.


Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 8:49 p.m.

We might be biased, but Ann Arbor and Boston combined aren't enough votes to get her to second place. Wake up! America is fascinated by her.


Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 7:55 p.m.

agreed. nothing special. hopes she enjoys her 15 minutes. sadly, that is all she is likely to get from all this. Outside of ann arbor, no one is paying attention to her future.


Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 7:21 p.m.

she does not have the look


Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

and what is "the look", exactly?

Jenn McKee

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 1:43 a.m.

Which makes her more all the more interesting and intriguing, in my book. Chamuel never came out in a dress and an up-do, because that's not who she is. She looked polished while still maintaining and expressing her identity throughout. And I admired that about her.


Wed, Jun 19, 2013 : 7:20 p.m.

Judith Hill has a good voice, just seems to lack a little in the charisma category, did not appear as a special singer as Michelle is.......Shouldn't have been that "baffling" to anyone why she was "eliminated"....

Jenn McKee

Thu, Jun 20, 2013 : 1:40 a.m.

But that "charisma" thing is part of what I'm talking about in regard to how the backstory of each contestant, at a certain point, begins to carry more weight in the competition.