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Monday, July 21, 2014

Chris Mann: Behind-the-scenes drama ‘overshadowed the music’ on ‘The Voice’

By Denise Neil
The Wichita Eagle

Two days after he was named fourth place (or as I prefer to call it, third runner-up) on the season finale of the NBC singing competition “The Voice,” Chris Mann was still trying to sort it all out.

Calling from Los Angeles on Thursday, Mann was subdued and a little hoarse from what sounded like 36 straight hours of post-show festivities.

The Wichita native, who survived weeks of competition and dozens of other talented contestants to make it into the final four, said he was both relieved to be done with the strenuous process and still grateful and in disbelief about how far he made it and how much exposure he got.

But he also sounded more than a little discouraged about all the tension and drama that erupted during the final days of the competition — and he wondered if it might have hurt his chances.

“It’s been a really sort of strange couple of days, I’m not going to lie,” Mann said.

The drama is sort of hard to understand if you didn’t watch the show closely and follow along on the Hollywood gossip blogs. But in essence, Mann’s celebrity coach, singer Christina Aguilera, developed a bit of a beef with contestant Tony Lucca, who appeared with her on “The Mickey Mouse Club” back when both were kids.

She was critical of him on the air, which angered Lucca’s celebrity coach, singer Adam Levine.

The angered ones, Mann said, countered by choosing Jay-Z’s song “99 Problems,” which contains an unflattering reference to a woman, and it was obvious that the woman the song was directed at was Aguilera.

She objected to Lucca singing the song with its original lyrics, and Levine objected to the objection.

Bloggers picked up on the unflattering feud, and many theorized that it contributed to Mann and Lucca finishing last among the four finalists.

(Jermaine Paul, Mann’s roommate during the show, won the whole thing, and Juliet Simms was second.)

“I was so happy with how I sang and who I was and the way I was presenting myself,” Mann said. “But the drama that was going on really overshadowed the music. I think it cost me in the end to have been associated with it.”

I told Chris that I always assumed such drama was staged to keep things exciting on reality shows. But Mann assured me that — at least in this case — the tension was all too real.

He insisted that he wasn’t angry, though, and said he was excited to see how the exposure would translate into his post-“Voice” career.

“I’m not mad,” he said. “I represented myself musically, and I wasn’t using PR stunts to advance. I couldn’t be more happy for Jermaine. He was my best friend on the show.”

Mann’s next move?

First, he’s taking some much-needed vacation time in Las Vegas.

Sometime in the next two weeks, his new single “Roads” should be digitally released and available on iTunes. He recorded the song, an inspirational tune, before “The Voice” started.

He has several appearances scheduled, including a homecoming concert in Wichita as part of the LIVfest on June 16 at The Orpheum.

Most important, though: Mann has to choose a recording contract. His managers are in discussions with several labels. Now, it’s just a matter of choosing which one will be best for his career, which will follow the script of his appearance on “The Voice.”

Mann hopes to make a name for himself singing the big, operatic, classical songs that helped him stand out on the show.

He wants to move fast and promises to keep Wichita updated on what he decides to do.

“I was ready for it to be done, and I just can’t believe all that we did,” he said. “But I got really got sad on Tuesday night when I got home. I thought, ‘Man, I can’t believe it’s over. This is the most fun I’ve ever had.’ ”

Reach Denise Neil at 316-268-6327 or at dneil@wichitaeagle.com.

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