Too Much of the Voice pt. 2
While traveling overseas for work, I could not watch the show on TV or online but I HAD to find out what was going on. I went on Twitter and followed hashtags for #thevoice, #teamblake and #teamxtina. Let me give a big shoutout to everyone who helped me stay up too late and up to date on what was happening.
People often say that they are on Twitter but they are not sure why or what it's good for. Keeping track of the Voice in almost real-time when you can't watch. That's what it's good for.
The show has broken my heart repeatedly. I have become irrationally attached to so many of the contestants on the show. Even when I listen with a critical ear. Even while I judge harshly from home, I get totally sucked in.
It's probably all for the camera but I love the idea that The Voice is a big lovebug hugfest where everyone is nice and the best of friends. That is the fantasy. I like the coaching aspect. I like that Blake Shelton seems to tear up and to be insanely proud of every single person on his team everytime they perform. I like the supportive vibe, the celebrity advisors.
Of course it's reality TV so it's likely that everything has been engineered for heightened emotional manipulation and there is no hugfest going on back stage and they all openly hate each other. But if this is the case, don't tell me. Let me live with my illusions for a little longer.
Battle Rounds: Cannon Fodder and Lambs for the Slaughter
For the most part, the coaches picked a song that was perfect for one of the two battlers and an almost impossible stretch for the other. Sometimes the singer at the disadvantage pulled it off or brought something really special. Sometimes the singer who you would think had the upper hand, didn't. It's rare that performers are put on stage and compared in real time side by side on the same song. No Diva in her right mind would agree to such a thing. The format favors those who have stronger bigger voices that project. It favors the good looking and people who are comfortable on stage. In practice, it was very Darwinian and vicious.
Pumped Up Kicks
I was not a Lex Land fan until the battle round. She and Charlotte Sometimes had my favorite battle. It is among my favorite performances on the show. It was so good that I am sad that the duet track is not available for sale online. I have listened to their battle perhaps a bazillion times.
It's mostly due to Lex's singing. The song sounds so interesting because she made a lot of smart and interesting vocal choices. Charlotte was more solid but Lex was more musical and multifaceted in her performance. It's worth watching the battle to see her pace around Charlotte, staring her down. Intense. I am not sure how much further Lex could have gone but I would have loved to see her sing one or two more songs on the show. I am listening to "Play In Reverse" Holy Shit.
During Jermaine Paul's audition, I thought he was a technically flawless singer but that his pipes lacked power and that the timbre and tone of his voice was weird. But with each performance I am forced to admit that I was totally wrong. His battle with Alyx was clear evidence to the contrary. He demolished that song. He elevated the song far beyond what Billy Ocean could have imagined.
I thought Gwen Sebastian made interesting choices in her battle with Erin Willett. This battle was heavily set against her. Erin's rehearsal clips were amazing. Her tone is gorgeous. Had Erin let go and sang the way she had in rehearsal it would have been no contest. But there was something really lovely about what Gwen was doing. And I was so sad that she did not make it through.
Blake was highly critical of Jordis' battle with Brian Fuente. It sounded strained and not in a good way. But when I listen to it again, I think that the problem was that the interval that they chose for their harmony parts was ever so slightly off and their voices don't have enough blend to smooth that over.
At the end of the battle rounds, it was a very sad farewell to Lex Land and Gwen Sebastian.
Xtina's battles were some of the best performances on the show (besides Lex and Charlotte) and very tough to call. In some cases, her decisions seemed to be very biased towards who she liked and not the better performance. Then again, if both performers are equally strong, perhaps you would.
If I Ain't Got You
Anthony Evans and Jesse Campbell were one of the first battles and perhaps the best. Lex and Charlotte's battle was my favorite but I think Anthony and Jesse's was in another league. Anthony Evans stepped up to Jesse in a way that probably no other vocalist on the show could. This might have been the toughest call of any of the battles. It was a Melismafest like no other, Olympic level.
Lee Koch and Lindsay Pavao had a very interesting battle. It was spooky. It was weird. It was creepy. I think Lee was the more musical of the two on this song. He stretched the most and I thought he won the round. Lindsay's voice had a really flat tone that was not entirely pleasant. Lee did not go down without a fight. I do think that Christina played favorites here.
Chain of Fools
Sera Hill and Geoff McBride had a really great battle. Singing Aretha is near impossible for a mere mortal. We all think that we can sing Aretha but this is because we are singing along to her records. These two delivered. I think Geoff was the stronger singer. His range does not have the highs that Sera does but his voice has a bigger projection. Her voice was swallowed up a bit. This seems to happen more and more for Sera as the competition went on. Again, I think Christina played favorites.
Moses Stone and the Line had the battle with the most potential to be a trainwreck. It turned out really electrifying. The Line was pushed to work the stage. Hailey Steele was on fire. She was a living fury on that stage. And Boy, was she pissed when the Line lost! But Moses had the more engaging stage mojo - such a natural performer.
Ashley De La Rosa had the Geoff McBride effect in her battle. Her voice projected more strongly and carried in her battle. She conquered.
It would have been great for the Voice to record and release a lot of the battles as duets on iTunes.
Sad good byes to Geoff McBride and Anthony Evans. We hardly knew you.
For whatever reason while members of Team Adam were exceptionally strong in their blind auditions did not have such strong battles. Which was surprising. Perhaps because he had the most variety in ability and vocal and tonal quality in his camp. In most cases there were clear winners and losers and the battles didn't make for interesting performances. The songs often seemed to be a weird fit for the singers.
No More Drama
Probably the best battle was Kim Yarbrough and Whitney Meyer. It's a shame that they were put up to battle each other. It would have been great to get both of them through to the next level. Kim's voice was just so much stronger. Much more power and richness of tone. If they had battled other people, I have no doubt that they both would have dominated. Kim did have a really standout performance.
The other stand out performance of this team were Katrina Parker who pretty much seemed to channel Adele on Bleeding Love.
As a side note, I stumbled on an Angel Taylor single "Like You Do". It's a great track and she sounds sooo good on it. It has me rethinking Angel Taylor entirely and should probably cause me to rethink my opinion of every singer on the show this season. In the right environment, under the right conditions, probably all of these contestants are amazing. Reality TV is a very artificial platform.
Sad sad sad farewells to Whitney Meyer.
Team Cee Lo:
The battles on Team Cee Lo were the most unfair. Sometimes heartbreakingly unfair.
Jamar Rogers' battle with Jamie Lono was a heartbreaker. Plain and simple. It made me cry and cry. Because Jamie is extremely musical and so lovable on screen but in no way shape or form able to sing that Foreigner song in that way. It wasn't even remotely in his key. This was a total lamb for the slaughter scenario. Truth be told, very few people can sing that Foreigner song, they recorded it with a whole choir. To his credit, Jamar steamrolled through that track. But I cried and cried when Jamie got eliminate.
Jamie Lono has this very lovely cover of Blackbird and a very catchy original My My My on the facetubes and is still very musical and lovable on screen.
Stay with Me
Sarah Golden was set up for a fall in her battle with Juliet Simms but she held up her end respectably despite the fact that the selected the key was in no way a good one for her. Strangely when she sang so close to her break, she had this fantastic pop star quality to her voice that was very Jackson 5. If she could got little more comfortable there, she could completely rock the pop dance tunes, if she wanted.
Justin Hopkins was also set up in his battle with Tony Vincent. But he really delivered the goods. It would have been interesting to see what he could do in the kind of staging and theatrics that Cee Lo would have placed him in, had he advanced. I think Justin could have stretched beyond that performance and was being pigeon-holed. Journey is as impossible to sing as Aretha. Steve Perry has enormous shoes to fill. And while Tony and Chris on Team Adam were terrified to do a U2 song but I think Tony and Justin would have been way more justified to crap their pants at the prospect of doing a Journey song. It was a great duet. Legendary. If Justin and Tony had been battling Chris and Tony, on Faithfully, Team Cee Lo would have wiped the stage with them.
What's Love Got to Do with It
The Shields Brothers were also set up in their battle with Erin Martin. It seemed like the perfect song for her and one would think that she would have dominated. But it ended up being a really strong match. Their battle was great. The Shields Brothers brought the fire and Erin brought the sex appeal and the pterodactyl sounds. It was a fantastic piece. Erin and the Shields Brothers should consider becoming a trio. Cee Lo should have moved the three of them to the next level together. I think the Shields Brothers, like Justin, were pigeon-holed.
One thing that they did in this battle was to modulate the key of the song to accommodate each battle side. Had that not happened, this would have been painful for one of the two battlers. And had they done this for Jamar and Jamie, their battle might have been less of a blood bath. The minute Jamie's voice cracked in rehearsal, that should have been a part of the discussion.
I have become a big fan of the Shields Brothers.
Their covers: We Are Young, Forget You, Pumped Up Kicks
Their originals: Addicted to You (sex!), Rock and Roll Is Not Allowed
The super saddest of farewells to Jamie Lono and to the Shields Brothers.
My favorite battles:
Lex and Charlotte
Moses and the Line
Erin and the Shields Brothers
Lee and Lindsay
Justin and Tony
A quick word about the celebrity advisors - Babyface was my favorite followed very closely by Neyo.
The Blind Auditions were the most exciting part of the show. The spinning lighted chairs. Fabulous. And these people can really fucking sing. The bar is set incredibly high from the very start.
But these the ones that really struck me.
Gwen Sebastian, Stay, the flutter in her voice is gorgeous. She has a Dolly Parton quality to her vocals.
Jordis Unga, Maybe I'm Amazed
Erin Willett, I Want You Back I don't know why I didn't note how damn amazing Erin's blind audition was on previous viewings. And I don't know why Blake was the only coach to turn.
Sera Hill, I'm Going Down She had maybe one of the most compelling auditions and had an amazing battle round.
Jesse Campbell, A Song for You. I still can't believe he was eliminated.
Lindsay Pavao, Say Aaaah had a really interesting audition, perhaps the most interesting of all the blind auditions, musically. She has great taste. I have looked up every song that she has performed on the show. With the exception of one, I have really liked them all to the point of obsession. But I have liked the originals better in every case. I find this a little concerning. The covers all go through the Pavao process and come out with a consistently weird, downtempo, low key feel. I do wish that she had gone along with Xtina's suggestion of a Rhianna mashup of "S&M" and "We Found Love". It's not really her style but it's SUCH an awesome idea. I can almost hear it in my brain. Texturally, it's a great match with her voice. It's possible that when singing her own songs, the Pavao process would lead to delightful musical outcomes. But I am not sure. I worry that instead they will come out weird, downtempo and too low key to be appealing.
Mathai, Rumor Has It, unfortunately she peaked with this performance and never really clicked in after. But this performance is incredibly strong.
Kim Yarbrough, Tell Me Something Good, power altos have a very hard time on these kinds of shows. As an alto, this bugs me to no end. I could write a whole blog post about it.
Orlando Napier, Waiting on the World to Change, I am really surprised that Orlando did not go further. His audition was amazing. But if he had, we would not have seen Karla Davis' best moment.
Whitney Myer, No One, had a really lovely blind audition and I do wish that she had had the chance to go further. Putting anyone in a battle round with Kim Yarbrough is unfair.
Chris Cauley, Grenade, had a lot of style, so fluid.
Team Cee Lo:
Jamar Rogers, Seven Nation Army, I don't understand why they didn't all turn around.
James Massone, Find Your Love, made enormous strides while on the show. He has a very high nasal tone but also a beautiful lightness. His covers of Don't Know Why and Just the Way You Are were a great direction for him to take. Having Cee Lo pick him in the battle round was a great moment of judge impartiality.
Jamie Lono, Folsom Prison Blues, I really love this performance.
Tony Vincent, We Are the Champions, I think Tony also peaked with his first performance. Somehow he never quite found his groove. His last chance performance of Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) was what he needed to be doing the whole time. He could use some new dance moves that are less spider-like.
Now all that is left is a discussion of the final performances and results and a meditation on the show as a whole.