From 'Bailamos' to the battle rounds

From 'Bailamos' to the battle rounds

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UI alumnus reflects on awesome audition experience on The Voice
Michael Lynch auditioning on "The Voice"University of Iowa alumnus Michael Lynch performs the song "Bailamos" on NBC's The Voice. Three coaches wanted Lynch for their teams; Lynch ended up going with Christina Aguilera, considering her the perfect match for his pop-meets-Latin style. Photo courtesy of NBC.

“We dance,” indeed.

Michael Lynch began his “blind audition” on NBC’s The Voice alone on the stage. By the time his 90-second audition was over, three coaches had hit their “I Want You” buttons, and Lynch soon found himself in the midst of an impromptu dancing duet with his new mentor, pop sensation Christina Aguilera.

Lynch, a University of Iowa alumnus with degrees in Spanish and communication and a minor in music, hit a home run with his rendition of Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailamos.” He spurned Blake Shelton and Cee-Lo Green to join Aguilera’s team; clearly thrilled with Lynch’s decision, Aguilera called for a mic, joined Lynch on stage, and the two launched a joyful reprise.

Michael Lynch's audition, where he performed "Bailamos."

“That was completely unexpected, not planned at all,” Lynch says during a phone interview a few days after his blind audition aired Oct. 7. “When she approached me on the stage, I was simply going to thank her. When she asked for the music, I couldn’t believe it.”

For those unfamiliar with The Voice, a primer. Thousands of aspiring singers vie for a chance to audition for four celebrity coaches. (Lynch estimates there were only about 120 contestants who advanced to the blind audition stage.) The coaches sit in chairs facing away from the singer (hence the “blind” audition). If they like what they hear, they hit a button that swivels the chair 180 degrees. If one coach hits the button, the singer is placed on that coach’s team. If more than one coach turns, the contestant picks his or her coach after a minute or two of pleading and playful banter. (If no one hits the button, constructive criticism and best wishes serve as parting gifts.)

Christina Aguilera joined Michael Lynch on stage for a quick dance and reprise of "Bailamos."

The field of 48 is winnowed through head-to-head competitions known as battle rounds (two contestants perform a song simultaneously) and knockout rounds (two competitors perform consecutively, only one advances). The coaches decide who advances and who goes home. These rounds, like the auditions, happened earlier this year.

After these two rounds, the show shifts to live performances, with the contestants’ fate now shifted to the hands of the TV audience. America’s vote gradually cuts the field down to the eventual winner.

Lynch says the 90 seconds on stage go by extremely fast in a moment like this. Aguilera’s early “I Want You” was a heart-stopping moment—one that also brings a bit of self-criticism (“Watch the video, and you’ll see that I missed coming back in shortly after Christina turned for me”). And despite Aguilera’s early enthusiasm and seemingly natural fit for Lynch’s ambitions, it wasn’t a simple choice come decision time. As a longtime fan of the show, Lynch always felt Shelton came across as a cool, genuine person.

“But I knew Christina would be perfect for me; we have the same style,” he says.

The already-completed battle rounds started airing Oct. 14; Lynch's appearance is scheduled for the week of Oct. 21. Yes, the outcome is months old; no, Lynch can’t say anything about it. (Why spoil the fun?) And the promos for upcoming episodes haven't offered clues about Lynch’s outcome, unlike the commercial that ran in the days before Lynch’s blind audition aired (it showed him singing with Aguilera, an expression of joy all over his face).

“That promo was cool; I had no idea they were going to use that clip,” Lynch says. “Friends of mine who were watching Saturday Night Live or Sunday Night Football were calling and texting after seeing me with Christina.”

If at first you don’t succeed…

This was Lynch’s second attempt on The Voice; he tried out during the previous season but failed to get past the preliminary screenings in Chicago. “That time, in the second round, the casting director told me to keep practicing and to come back,” he says. “I told myself I would make it to that big stage someday.”

And when he did make it to the big stage, he gave the coaches quite a surprise: that a through-and-through Irish lad was knocking out Spanish lyrics as if they were second nature. But singing in Spanish is no gimmick. It comes from years of study and immersion; “a true love for the language,” as Lynch puts it.

You can follow Michael Lynch on Twitter; his handle is @MichaelLynchML.

The "battle rounds" begin on the Oct. 14 episode! Lynch's battle round will be shown the week of Oct. 21. The show airs Mondays from 7 to 9 p.m. CDT and Tuesdays from 8 to 9 p.m. CDT.

Lynch began learning Spanish during his first year of high school in Chicago. Around the same time, he started working on a landscaping crew that employed several Hispanic men. “What I was learning in school, I put into conversational practice at work,” Lynch says.

Spanish was definitely in the plans when Lynch came to the UI. He studied abroad twice during his undergraduate years: once for eight weeks in Guanajuato, Mexico, with a number of students from Big Ten schools; and again for a semester in Seville, Spain.

Music was part of the equation at the UI as well. Lynch took some vocal lessons, then explored piano—soon enough, he was doing enough to satisfy a music minor. After graduation, Lynch enrolled in a music school in Mexico City and pursued a music career there. A breakthrough did not come there, so he returned to Chicago, where he performs at private events and weddings with a cover band.

But the dream remains: to be a crossover artist who fuses pop and Latin styles together. Lynch feels the Voice audition was the perfect debut for a national audience, in both English and Spanish.

And he has fans at his alma mater. Lynch says he heard from folks in the UI Department of Spanish and Portuguese—“the students think it’s really cool, what I’m doing,” Lynch says.

And even if Lynch didn’t survive the battles and knockouts, he’ll always have his memories from audition night.

“It’s the best opportunity I’ve ever had,” Lynch says. “To make it that far, to have four superstars poised to turn around at the sound of my voice…what a dream.”


Christopher Clair, University Communication and Marketing, 319-384-0900


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