28-year-old Vicci Martinez has come a long way from her days on the television show The Voice. The Tacoma, WA born singer looks to finally be achieving her first big mainstream breakthrough after appearing on that launching pad. It’s been a long struggle for the performer, who has been attempting to find her first big hit for the better part of ten years.
Martinez originally auditioned for American Idol back in the spring of 2002 and placed well regionally, but because of how strict a contract the contestants were placed under, she didn’t want to be bound by all the limitations of it, and decided to part ways. She then appeared on the revived Star Search in 2003, but the showcase didn’t amount to much career-wise, and thus, she went the independent route, recording several albums in 2005 and 2006. It wasn’t until 2011 that she gained notoriety on the first season of a new singing competition at the time, The Voice. She auditioned with Adele‘s “Rolling In The Deep”, which got the attention of both Cee-Lo Green and Christina Aguilera, and Martinez ultimately chose Green to coach her. With memorable performances like “Dog Days Are Over”, “Jolene”, and a duet with coach Green, “Love Is A Battlefield”, she ended up make the top 4 of the season, with an original song, “Afraid To Sleep”, becoming a moderate digital single.
Fast forward to February of this year when I first heard a song by Martinez that wasn’t getting an immediate push to radio, but was getting some sort of promotional appearance of The Voice later in the season. I equate it to a modern-day musical equivalent of an old Western cowboy flick. I suppose it’s just the guitar in the beginning that establishes the flashback feel of it. “Come Along”, in fact, is not an original song; it was first recorded by Titiyo in 2002, but Martinez’s version fleshes the song out to where it should’ve been in the first place. The vocals are crispy, even a little edgy at times, and even Green’s featured vocals work on this hybrid folk-influenced pop record. Plus, who can’t relate to the message: “Time flies, make a statement, make a stand.” Powerful little thing right there about independence and control. I have to admit, I was expecting Martinez’s radio introduction to be with more of a rock single, but this one sounds really nice on the air on a format that’s becoming increasingly dance-oriented based on the sheer number of records coming off of the CHR survey.
The song charted for several weeks at Hot AC radio in mid-July and August, but never went beyond a daily peak of #45 and wasn’t making very much headway in terms of building spin detections or an audience. It quickly fell off the radar as several songs pushed it out of the top 50. That was, until early November, when the song suddenly appeared back in the Hot AC chart with a moderate-sized gain in airplay. Though it’s facing an uphill battle just as the first time around, it easily made the top 40 within a month, and has now achieved larger gains and double the audience that it did during its first run a few months ago, currently at #34. Perhaps it’s because of her recent appearance of The Voice where she performed with the finalists from Green’s team in a Christmas music showcase. Perhaps program and music directors are more open to her sound now. Perhaps it’s because of all the other twangy folk singles by The Lumineers, Mumford & Sons and Phillip Phillps doing so well that this got an unexpected boost. Whatever the case may be, Martinez’s song may just be the dark horse hit of 2013 on the format at the rate it’s going. It’s different, it’s appealing, it’s meaningful, and it’s not auto-tuned to death.
Martinez released an EP in May and a full length album, Vicci, back in June. Considering “Along” has become the biggest airplay single to come out from any contestant out of The Voice so far, she may well be remembered next year as the biggest overall success from it. It’s a nice way to believe that there’s a chance out there for singers from the show, other than the judges, to become well-known singers in their own right. She keeps breaking ground each week, and there’s no stopping her now. Time to “come along” for the ride. –AFS