The last couple of months our family has been tracking NBC’s The Voice. The draw has been Girl Named Tom, a sibling trio in their 20s who grew up in Zion Mennonite Church in Archbold, Ohio.
Soloists dominated past seasons of The Voice. On Dec. 14, Girl Named Tom became the first group to be voted a season’s winner.
Their popularity is a bit stunning. As of this morning, Dec. 15, their songs claim the top two spots on the iTunes chart. They have four in the top eight and seven in the top 40. Their songs, all covers, are getting listened to more than any other artist in any genre.
I am not much of a connoisseur of pop culture, but here are a couple observations (and hopes?) from this fun little foray. The other singers almost always relied on a big band, bright lights and showy staging. Girl Named Tom often sang unaccompanied with their own instruments and no flashing lights. The other top singers were excellent soloists. While each of the three Girl Named Tom members are very good singers, their blended harmonies are a whole other creation.
It’s a feel-good story: Small-town Mennonite siblings conquer LA through the nonviolent weaponry of the vocal cord.
I would also like to think their popularity is a commentary on our culture. Beautiful harmonies are hard to find these days. That kind of collaboration requires a different kind of energy than a strong individual voice. It’s an energy and beauty that has captured an audience hungry for it. The Voice gets a makeover into “The Voices.”
As one who is still trying to learn to sing harmony, I’m grateful to be part of a community that values this aesthetic and its deeper meaning of how we share life together.
If you have not yet had the pleasure of listening to Girl Named Tom, or if you want to indulge for the 100th time, I recommend starting with their opening blind audition, Helplessly Hoping, and their semifinal cover of Joni Mitchell’s River.
Joel Miller is pastor of Columbus Mennonite Church in Ohio.