I am a recovering music snob. Working first and foremost as a jazz critic, purists roll their eyes when I mention that shows such as X-Factor, American Idol and The Voice are on my television watch list. I worked directly with the producers on American Idol Season 8 - I know how the game is played and like Simon Cowell, I can spot talent in :30 seconds but it took me half that in watching Will. After having some time to allow Will Champlin's performance on The Voice to sink in it is clear that there is a true rising star that will be breaking on that particular show.
The best technical singer never wins a music competition show. Music reality shows have the best of intentions but the bottom line is they all turn into a popularity contest. No matter what genre of music we might want to consider from pop music to jazz, if you can not connect with an audience on some level then you have longevity that is equivalent to a stick of gum. Nice flavor to start but over the long haul it becomes forgettable.
Champlin is the epitome of the classic singer / songwriter. I have followed his efforts for some time and for those of you playing at home and may be thinking that the name sounds familiar then you are correct. Will comes from a musical family with his father Bill having been a member of the group Chicago for twenty eight years. Aside from the fact Bill brought that band back from the pop music scrap heap, Will is his on man and is blazing his own trail. While growing up in the industry can open doors it is by no means a guarantee of instant or immediate success, like it or not an artist lives or dies at his own hand. Case in point, Bob Dylan's son Jakob is a gifted singer / songwriter yet only achieved marginal critical acclaim with the band The Wallflowers. Music is a business.
While there are the artistic purists that speak of staying true to their vision and never selling out, the reality is "commercial" pays the bills. After reviewing thousands of jazz vocalists that are considered the standard bearers for what a singer should be, many are forgettable. Will Champlin has that "X-Factor" of connectivity with a passionate delivery and mad technical skills that rival a great many of his contemporaries on the scene today. I don't know what Will's artistic vision is but the reality of watching his dream play out is entertainment at an incredibly high level. My contemporaries still argue over the legitimacy of such music reality shows and I always remind them there is no nobility in being a broke ass musician...or a critic.