Sunderland singer Michelle Brooks-Thompson on 'Voice’
SUNDERLAND — Sunderland resident Michelle Brooks-Thompson was the first performer on NBC’s singing competition “The Voice” on Monday — and offered up a rendition of “Proud Mary” that left the judges vying for her to be on their teams.
In a brief segment that aired before she took the stage in the show’s first blind audition portion, Brooks-Thompson described how her husband’s goal of becoming an NFL star had been within reach but then abruptly fell short. Of the possibility of her audition not going well, she said, “It’ll be disappointing to know that both of our dreams were shot down.”
That didn’t happen.
Brooks-Thompson walked out onstage in a purple dress and black high heels, took a deep breath and then belted out a crowd-pleasing version of “Proud Mary.”
Before she finished the first chorus, two judges, singers Adam Levine and Cee-Lo Green, had indicated they wanted her on their teams by turning around in their chairs. (In the blind audition format, judges listen to the performers but cannot see them. When they like a performer, the judges push a button that causes their chairs to swing around so they can face the performer.) A third judge, Christina Aguilera, followed suit, flashing the words “I want you” on her chair.
Brooks-Thompson did not just sing; she stomped, snapped and danced her way through what Green described as a “new” and “fresh” version of the John Fogerty classic. As the song finished, she stood center stage to hear the judges’ reviews.
Levine gave her a standing ovation, saying, “I would be very blessed and very honored to work with you. I think you are incredible.” Aguilera said she was waiting for a flaw that never came. Green called her performance “seamless” and “flawless.”
As the only judge not to turn around, Blake Shelton suggested he was an “idiot” for not choosing her.
Brooks-Thompson had to choose whose team she would join. After a few moments, she said: “My heart has to go with Adam.”
Brooks-Thompson, a Boston native who now lives in Sunderland with her husband, David, and their 4-year-old twins, Aaliyah and Aleesia, went to Amherst Regional High School, where she often sang the national anthem at basketball games.
She also sang before games at the University of Massachusetts Amherst when her husband played football there.
Brooks-Thompson earned a degree in music from Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley. After graduating, she began a career in banking but continued to pursue her interest in performing, especially gospel singing. She is a soloist at Sunday services at Holy Trinity Church of God and Christ in Springfield.
In a post-audition interview with “The Voice” social media correspondent Christina Milian, Brooks-Thompson spoke of her future on the show. “To come this far and see, now, where I am headed, everybody can celebrate with me.”
Last April, another performer with Valley ties appeared on “The Voice.” Naia Kete, a former Shutesbury resident, made it to one of the live shows before she was voted off.
Brooks-Thompson is a veteran of singing competitions. She won the Valley Idol competition in 2010 and finished second at the World Karaoke Championships in Texas that year. In 2011 she sang the national anthem at a Boston Red Sox-New York Yankees game after winning the Boston team’s “Sing Your Way to Fenway” contest, and was a finalist on ABC’s “American Karaoke Challenge” that same summer.
According to Caitlin McGee, a spokeswoman for “The Voice,” Brooks-Thompson will now wait for three more blind auditions to reveal her competition in the “battle round.”
“My daughters are so excited,” said Brooks-Thompson, who was at home Tuesday. “They tell people, ‘Mommy’s on the singing show.’” According to program rules, Brooks-Thompson is prohibited from talking about the details of the competition.
She said the opportunity to audition for “The Voice” came out of nowhere. “I never planned to audition,” she said. “A talent scout in Boston called me about it and it took me a while to say ‘yes.’” Brooks-Thompson said she had to consult with her husband and daughters first.
“I’m very spiritual, so I also talked with my spiritual leaders,” she said. “This was a big decision.” She said she received a lot of encouragement from family, friends and co-workers.
“I agreed at the last minute,” she said.
“The Voice,” hosted by Carson Daly, is beginning its third season. Contestants are drawn from public auditions.
There are four stages of competition: blind auditions, the battle round, a knockout round and finally, live performances.
Brooks-Thompson said she chose to be on Levine’s team because she felt an artistic kinship with him.
“I felt like I’d be able to be myself as an artist with him,” she said, adding that she anticipates getting honest feedback from Levine, the lead singer of the pop-rock band Maroon 5.
She said she may have to travel back and forth to California for a while, but doesn’t mind because “The Voice” will bring her family out to see her on occasion.
“It’s hard to be away from them, but they understand and want this for me,” she said. “They’ll be able to look back on this — we all will — and remember a really good time.”
“The Voice” airs Monday nights from 8 to 10 and Tuesday nights from 8 to 9 on NBC.