Wearing a flowing red dress, India Carney performed Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” onstage for NBC’s “The Voice” in front of dramatic projected backdrops of scenery ranging from shores to meadows.
The fourth-year music performancestudent sealed a position in the semifinal with coach and Grammy Award-winning singer Christina Aguilera in the eighth season of the reality singing competition before her journey was cut short.
“In the very beginning, Christina told me she’d take me to the end and I didn’t know whether or not she was serious, but she was,” Carney said. “That end happened to be the top five andI was honored to represent her as the last person on her team.”
Carney is graduating this quarter and said she is planning on helping up-and-coming a cappellaperformersat the second annual A Cappella Academy, a summer camp for young musicians.
Even though Carney said she was familiar with all the songs she was asked to perform on “The Voice,” she said it was a turbulent experience undergoing “instant-save” elimination rounds three weeks in a row.
Nagged by the constant reminder of elimination each week, Carney said she tried to focus on her artistry, but found it hard not to overthink everything.
“When you’re up against other people, it’s hard to keep that integrity because you’re always wondering if what you’re doing is enough … to win,” Carney said.
Carney said “Earth Song” was her favorite and final performance due to her love for Michael Jackson. She said that the act also included all the elements of performance that she had ever dreamt about – a fan blowing her dress, big hair, and a full orchestra and choir.
“With ‘Earth Song,’I felt like I gave it everything and I felt really good about it,” Carney said. “So going home wasn’t a defeat for me.”
Carney balanced being both a student and contestant on the show and said her professors allowed her to stay enrolled in their classes and complete assignments out of town.
Carney said she tried to translate what she learned as a music student to “The Voice” stage, including her time with James Lent, a lecturer and coach of vocal studies for the Herb Alpert School of Music. Lent has known Carney since the beginning of her college career and said she has improved as a singer in versatility, range and style.
“When she first came (to UCLA) … she sang one kind of way,” Lent said. “Now she knows how to throw on eight different colors as needed, to shade her voice for different styles and for different genres.”
Lent said he kept in touch with Carney throughout her time on the show, despite being unable to continue giving her voice lessons or coaching during that period. He said hedid, however, encourage her to resist self-judgment and criticism.
“It’s really easy to think you’ve just hit a note less than great and then you’ve lost the competition,” Lent said. “But you can rise to a higher occasion throughout the rest of your performance … to end the song. I think (Carney) took that information to heart.”
Melissa Barnum, UCLA alumna, said she knew Carney for all four years spent at UCLA together through the a cappella group ScatterTones.
“(Carney) did a great job understanding who she was, the kind of music she wanted to do and pushing it out there,” Barnum said. “(She gave) fans an opportunity to decide that they love her … and fall in love with her every week over and over again.”
Although Carney said she has a postgraduate job lined up, sheis still planning on pursuing her dream of becoming a professional solo singer. The vocalist said that she is grateful to have been able to attend UCLA and receive the support the UCLA community gave her during her time on the show.
“I’ve gotten so much out of my time here – it’s ridiculous,” Carney said. “On top of that, my senior year, I get called to do ‘The Voice,’ and I think that’s an opportunity I wouldn’t have gotten if I wasn’t part of the UCLA student body.”