Anyone who follows GetReligion knows that I am really into music of just about every kind (basically everything except opera and pop-country). I have never, however, been a fan of the whole world of reality TV.
So you put the two together -- pop music and reality TV -- and I would much rather cue up something from my massive Doctor Who library.
However, I do live in East Tennessee and was pretty hard not to notice, in the newspapers at least, when a show like The Voice got down to the final two singers and both of them were from here in the Hills. The winner of season nine was Jordan Smith, from down the valley at Lee University, and the runner-up was a young woman from Knoxville named Emily Ann Roberts.
Now, if you follow those polls to determine America's most religious or "Bible-minded" cities, then you know that Knoxville is not exactly Portland, either Maine or Oregon. Thus, it didn't take a doctorate in sociology to figure out that, here in Dolly Parton territory, young Roberts has spent some time singing in church.
This showed up -- in the vaguest possible terms -- in a recent Knoxville News-Sentinel update on her life and work after the finale of The Voice.
This was not a hard puzzle to figure out, folks. Let's start right at the opening:
There was a lot of music in Emily Ann Roberts before she became a popular finalist on "The Voice." The 17-year-old Karns High School junior says she soaked up her father's CD collection when she was younger.
"I rode around with my dad when I was younger, and he just played his favorite albums for me, so I just grew up on that and just latched on to it," says Roberts. "It's really fun to take his music and try to bring it into my generation. I just think that music has so much soul and it's just so special that I don't think it should be forgotten about."
She says there was one album that was particularly special -- Ricky Skaggs' disc "Soldier of the Cross."
"I knew every word to every song and every harmony part on that album," says Roberts. "If my family were all in the car together, that is the album we'd be playing. We'd all sing along to it. Now when I listen to it, it just brings back so many good memories. That has to be the first piece of music that really just formed my love for bluegrass music and that classic sound."
So Roberts had her dream come true when she was able to perform with Skaggs on "The Voice." Now, this is the same Skaggs who is one of the most outspoken evangelical Christians in the world of bluegrass and country music, even when it comes to taking stands on controversial issues -- think abortion, for example -- that have hurt his career.
But there were other hints in this piece.
Roberts says it was her seventh-grade talent show at Karns Middle School that really put her on the road to becoming a performer.
"I'd sang in church my whole life, but I'd never accompanied myself on guitar and actually gone out and performed somewhere. I tried out for the talent show in sixth grade and didn't make it. So I learned guitar so I could accompany myself. I tried out again in seventh grade and I made it. It was so much fun. I remember it being the best feeling in the world. The whole middle school was in the gym and all the bleachers were full and people were sitting in chairs, and I remember it being such a rush and so much fun. I wasn't even in it to win, and I ended up winning it."
Later on, she talks about her love of the modern-grass style of The Dixie Chicks, but she stresses that her goal is to find a niche between classic country and gospel music.
So, just to state the obvious: Do you think that readers in East Tennessee would have liked to know, well, where this young woman did all that church singing and how she plans to carry on as a believer in the world of mainstream popular music?
There are other logical questions. Has her faith ever been challenged? Has anyone suggested that her beliefs might hinder her career? How does she plan to avoid being pulled into Contemporary Christian Music? Has she talked to, oh, Skaggs about that? How about any of the other thinking Christians who work in the Nashville mainstream (such as T-Bone Burnett or Charlie Peacock)?
Just asking. It could have been a really interesting story with one or two additional questions.