(photo: Reuters/Kevork Djansezian)
Tragedy has struck the Voice and music communities. Christina Grimmie, a rising pop singer and YouTube sensation who gained mainstream fame as a top three finalist on The Voice Season 6, has senselessly died at age 22, after being shot Friday night by what seemed to be a deranged “fan.”
Details of Grimmie’s shocking death are still forthcoming, but according to police, she was shot during a post-concert autograph signing/meet-and-greet at Orlando’s Plaza Live Theater. The 27-year-old suspect, now identified as Kevin James Loibl of St. Petersburg, Florida, apparently targeted Grimmie, traveling to Orlando commit the crime and somehow making it past the venue’s security screening with two guns and a knife. After Loibl fired at the singer, her brother, Marcus Grimmie, heroically tackled Loibl at the scene. The suspect then fatally shot himself. Grimmie died five hours later at an Orlando hospital.
Grimmie was an incredibly gifted vocalist. Even before her covers of Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” and Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” went down in history as two of the greatest Voice performances of all time, the New Jersey-born pop diva had a promising career, touring with Selena Gomez, teaming with the Creative Artists Agency to release the 2011 EP Find Me and 2013 album With Love, and racking up literally hundreds of millions of views on YouTube. In 2011, she was the New Media Honoree at the American Music Awards, and she was later nominated at the Radio Disney Music Awards, Young Hollywood Awards, and Teen Choice Awards for being an Internet star.
When Grimmie appeared on The Voice in spring 2014, she was the presumed frontrunner all season long, and it was a shock when she placed third. On Season 6’s finale night, her coach, Adam Levine, offered to sign her to his 222 Records label right then and there. Lil Wayne’s Young Money Entertainment label also reportedly offered her a post-Voice deal. Instead, she signed with Island for a brief time, before going independent.
It was last year, when Grimmie was promoting her latest independent single, the feisty and upbeat “Shrug,” that she visited Yahoo Music’s studios, with her aforementioned brother Marcus accompanying her on guitar. The performance above, from September 2015, was done all in one take, all acoustic, with just one guitar, one camera, and one microphone. Even with none of the bells and whistles of a major Voice production, Grimmie’s stellar vocals and naturally dazzling personality were on full, glorious display.
At the time of this visit, Grimmie’s sweet nature and bubbly charisma were also evident in her interview: She was in an especially fantastic mood, having just won another talent competition, the iHeartRadio/Macy’s Rising Star Contest, which gave her the opportunity to perform at the 2015 iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas. During her interview, when discussing how she overcame nerves when performing on The Voice (or on an iHeartRadio bill alongside the likes of Kanye West and Sam Smith), she answered, “What makes me nervous is crowds that don’t seem into it… That’s when you just have to push through and pretend everyone loves you – a lot.”
Grimmie’s comment is especially chilling now. Reality stars tend to be the most accessible celebrities, often doing meet-and-greets, crowd-sourcing their music funding, and directly engaging with fans on social media; it’s all part of the job of keeping their names and faces out there and leveraging their fanbases, once their time on television is over. The fact that Grimmie died closely surrounded by fans, at an autograph signing, makes her death even more senseless and shocking. Jeffery Austin, a finalist from The Voice Season 9 who says meet-and-greets are usually his favorite part of his own gigs, tells Yahoo Music’s Reality Rocks: “See, that’s what’s horrifying. Where do we draw the line? We’re supposed to be in constant communication with our fans, but if we communicate with certain people, do we incite them? If we ignore them, does it make it worse? It’s just nuts to me, and so sad.”
The entire music community is in mourning today. Among the many high-profile Grimmie fans expressing their grief on social media are Adam Levine, along with Before You Exit (the band that played with Grimmie Friday at the Plaza Live Theater) and various pop stars and Voice alumni and cast members.
Behati and I are absolutely devastated and heartbroken by Christina Grimmie’s death. Our hearts go out to her family pic.twitter.com/y4OMkm0uXu— Adam Levine (@adamlevine)June 11, 2016
— Christina Aguilera (@xtina)June 11, 2016
I’m stunned and disgusted and heartbroken that we lost that sweet little girl… Keeping @TheRealGrimmie family in my heart and mind.— Blake Shelton (@blakeshelton)June 11, 2016
There are no words. We lost a beautiful soul with an amazing voice. Our hearts go out to the friends, fans and family of @TheRealGrimmie.— The Voice (@NBCTheVoice)June 11, 2016
— Before You Exit⇞ (@beforeyouexit)June 11, 2016
My deepest and most sincere condolences go out to the family of @TheRealGrimmie . Such a tragic loss.— Josh Kaufman (@iamjoshkaufman)June 11, 2016
A star has been snuffed out. An amazing story unwritten.— Jordan Smith (@JordanSmithLive)June 11, 2016
Rest peacefully Christina G. Such a beautiful soul gone so soon. Never forgotten. Prayers for her family,friends,& fans.— Lil Wayne WEEZY F (@LilTunechi)June 11, 2016
#RIPChristina 😰😢 my thoughts and prayers are with her loved ones..— Demi Lovato (@ddlovato)June 11, 2016
i have no words. rip christina💖
see you again, love. isaiah 25:8 https://t.co/z6d4joaMPQ— Tori Kelly (@ToriKelly)June 11, 2016
Woke up this morning to this incredibly sad news … In total shock !!! Words fail me ,… https://t.co/GiXW4s3nfW— Tessanne Chin (@Tessanne)June 11, 2016
I didn’t know her personally, but I knew that voice. Performers of the same stage. Heartbreaking and too close 2 home. #RIPChristinaGrimmie— Juliet Simms (@JulietSimmsALL)June 11, 2016
— Katrina Parker (@katrinapmusic)June 11, 2016
It’s not fair that people can be taken for doing what they love. What they live for. Sharing music. It’s just not fair. #RIPChristina— Jeffery Austin (@JefferyAustin)June 11, 2016
My heart is absolutely broken. I miss you Christina pic.twitter.com/KWGwZZlj4t— Selena Gomez (@selenagomez)June 11, 2016
So sad about @TheRealGrimmie. I’m still in shock. She was special. Had IT. Talented. Kind. Funny. Loving. Courageous. We hurt w her family.— Carson Daly (@CarsonDaly)June 11, 2016
This is a tragic loss. My heart goes out to @therealgrimmie’s family, friends and all the people that she touched.— Pharrell Williams (@Pharrell)June 11, 2016
To an amazing soul and voice…may your legacy live on forever. Rest in peace beautiful, Christina— Usher Raymond IV (@Usher)June 11, 2016
.@BarackObama please do something. we have to have gun regulation in this country. innocent people are dying and they don’t have to!— Kat Robichaud (@katrowbeeshow)June 11, 2016
Us in Denver not so long ago. Laughing. Being silly. Heartbroken. Shocked. She was too young.… https://t.co/ZCfrRhKrJ1— Dia Frampton (@DiaFramps)June 11, 2016
I can’t believe this. My heart goes out to Christina’s family and friends. What a sweetheart she was. The world lost a shining star. 😔— Cassadee Pope (@CassadeePope)June 11, 2016
— RaeLynn (@RaeLynnOfficial)June 11, 2016
— Kristen Merlin (@KristenMerlin)June 11, 2016
— Sawyer Fredericks (@SawyerFrdrx)June 11, 2016
— Will Champlin (@willchamplin)June 11, 2016
— Chris Mann Music (@IamChrisMann)June 11, 2016
— Kat Perkins (@katperkinsmusic)June 11, 2016
Grimmie’s publicist, Heather Weiss, released the following statement: “Yes, it’s true. The world lost an angel last night. My friend, my client and a person who lived without greed, jealousy or anger and gave the world her heart and soul inside and out was unfairly taken from this world. I can’t understand these actions. The world was given a gift with your voice and your heart, and we are so lucky to have been graced by you for this short time and that we can keep you alive through your beautiful music. The world is at a loss without you, Christina.”
Grimmie’s longtime manager and friend, Brian Teefey (stepfather to Selena Gomez), stated: “Words cannot begin to describe the pain I am feeling. I learned this business through the eyes of a father and Christina was like a second daughter to me. ll I wanted to do was assist her in achieving her musical dreams while protecting her from the pitfalls associated with the business. I never could have imagined this horrific event being one of the pitfalls needing to be avoided. In Christina’s honor I have created a Go Fund Me page to assist her family in their time of need. As family Mother, Father, and Brother made the ultimate family sacrifice to support Christina on her musical journey. They did nothing but love her and support her as family the best they knew how, the only worry I want them to have at this point is that of recovery. Please visit www.gofundme.com/christinagrimmie to support. Grimms I love you, and miss you beyond comprehension.”