Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Appalachian coal county celebrates native son being crowned winner of NBC's The Voice

Appalachian coal country has been on center stage this season on NBC's "The Voice," and last night, Eastern Kentucky native Jordan Smith walked away with the grand prize, which includes $100,000 and a recording contract. Smith, who hails from Harlan County, is currently a senior at Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn. (NBC photo: Jordan Smith performs Tuesday night)

"The epicenter of happiness for Smith has been in his home county, where watch parties for 'The Voice' episodes have grown to hundreds of people the past few episodes and [Judge-Executive Dan] Mosley declared November Jordan Smith Month," Rich Copley reports for the Lexington Herald-Leader. "Mosley said support for Smith can be seen all over the county, in signs, billboards, T-shirts, even a Christmas tree at Appalachian Regional Healthcare Hospital decked out in Jordan Smith ornaments."

Mosley said Smith's win, and his story that dreams do come true, is especially important in Harlan County, an area hit hard by poverty and decline of its coal industry. The homeless rate in Harlan County is 26.21 percent, and only 27 of the 87 licensed mines are active, producing 4.6 million tons of coal last year, the lowest total since 1920.

Even before winning, Smith was named Harlan countian of the year, "which usually earns the recipient a spot as grand marshal of the annual Christmas parade," Copley writes. While Smith couldn't attend the parade because of the television show—his family rode the float in his stead—"Mosley said he hopes to be able to announce a parade and program for Smith once they know his schedule." Mosely told Copley, "Jordan Smith is going to be a musical icon for years to come. That brings a new spotlight to Harlan." (Family Search map: Harlan County, Kentucky)

In the blind auditions, Smith "stunned the judges with his rendition of Sia’s "Chandelier," sparking a fierce competition between judges Gwen Stefani and Adam Levine to be on their teams," Copley writes. "Smith chose Levine, who told Smith, 'I think you’re the most important person that’s ever been on this show' and has enthusiastically been in the singer’s corner throughout the competition."

"In subsequent rounds, Smith beat out competitors who had already had professional singing careers to enter the show’s live competition where he took on a variety of genres, from rock to pop to hymns to showtunes, and mastered them all," Copley writes. "Throughout the competition, the show’s judges showered him with praise. Smith also made unprecedented runs for The Voice competitors on the iTunes Top 100 Songs chart. On the show, iTunes sales count as votes, and making the Top 10 multiplies votes."

Smith's hometown paper, the Harlan Daily Enterprise, has been following his progress since he first appeared on the show. To read the stories, click here.

No comments: