Emily Yahr (c) 2014, The Washington Post. As soon as country singer Craig Wayne Boyd was announced as the winner of “The Voice” on Tuesday night, the crowd started screaming and fireworks promptly went off. Boyd looked pretty shocked himself. After Monday’s performance show, it appeared to be a tight race between pop rockers Matt McAndrew and Chris Jamison, along with R&B singer Damien.
Yet Boyd, a 35-year-old dad and Texas native, scored the record deal and $100,000 grand prize. He wiped tears from his eyes as he sang his coronation song and confetti rained down. “The underdog in the finals takes the trophy!” host Carson Daly yelled over the noise.
The underdog angle is a nice one for “The Voice” franchise, still doing impressive ratings in its seventh season. We get it. Boyd, on Team Blake Shelton, was the only guy out of the final four who wasn’t on Adam Levine’s team. But let’s get real: there was not a chance that Boyd wasn’t winning this thing. That’s for one reason, and a lesson we cannot overemphasize — on reality singing competitions, you can never count out the country singer.
If you’re not familiar with reality singing shows — well, you’ve really missed out on some spectacularly good and terrible entertainment. And as we have seen from “American Idol” (Carrie Underwood, Scotty McCreery, Lauren Alaina) to “The X Factor” (Tate Stevens) country singers are a dominant force. Although it’s often forgotten, popular Nashville artists, including Miranda Lambert, Kacey Musgraves and Chris Young, were all bolstered by starring on reality TV competitions. It’s largely a result of audience voting and fan investment, given that country music is a hugely popular genre that still sells. Luke Wade, who hails from the Fort Worth area, was on the finale as well, even though he had been knocked out of the competition a few weeks back.
That was apparent throughout this season of “The Voice,” which incorporates iTunes sales in the audience votes — each performance is available as a single after the show. Just a scan of the iTunes charts post-episode proved that Boyd was racking up a lot of listeners and gaining steam every week, even after a couple close calls of getting voted off the show. He started on Shelton’s team, was saved by judge Gwen Stefani, and then saved by Shelton again during the battle and knock-out rounds, respectively.
Boyd routinely appeared near the top of the charts, particularly with a striking cover of Johnny Cash’s “I Walk the Line.” After Monday night’s episode, McAndrew’s original tune “Wasted Love” shot up to the No. 1 all-genre spot, and Boyd was close behind with “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face.” (Jamison and Damien hit the Top 10 as well).
Regardless of whether his songs sold the most, Boyd had the fan votes locked down. It helped that not only did he have a fan base in Nashville after living there for 10 years as a singer/songwriter, but he had the support of the all-powerful Blake Shelton. In fact, “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face” (written by Mark Marchetti and Stephanie Jones) was supposed to be a single for Shelton; he’s had the song on hold for years but never recorded it. These days, basically every song Shelton releases goes to No. 1, so Boyd had the benefit of material meant for one of Nashville’s top artists.
Anyway, fake-underdog or not, “The Voice” producers must be thrilled. The last time the show’s winner translated into real-world success was Season 4′s Danielle Bradbery. Before that, it was Season 3′s Cassaadee Pope. Incidentally? Both Bradbery and Pope are country singers.