Wednesday, April 27, 2011

NBC's The Voice -- Premiere Episode

I've been excited about this new singing competition reality show since I first heard that Mark Burnett was behind it.  I'm sure by now you know the premise: The Voice has four "coaches" who each try and discover the next great singer, after first selecting them based only on how well they sing.  If more than one judge selected a singer, the singer then gets to choose who he or she wants to work with.  Meaning within a three minute period, they go from "Oh, please, God, Allah, Buddha, Whoever, let someone push the button," to "What exactly can you do for me, country boy?"

The coaches know a little something about having a successful recording career -- they are Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine (of Maroon 5) and Blake Shelton. Of course, they came up the old fashioned way which makes you wonder why we need reality TV talent shows, but we need them so I have something to write about besides the economy, the attack on Internet gambling, and REM's latest video.  Oh, and that other subject I've written about once or twice.

It begins with a blind audition -- the judges have their backs to the singers and unless they've rigged up some reflective device or placed spies in the audience to flash them signs, they have no idea if the contestant is hot or not.  Of course, the singers were already preselected by the producers, so one would imagine that no one likely to scare small children has been allowed to sneak through.  So no Iggy Pop appearances any time soon.  Seriously, can we chip in to buy that guy a shirt.  Hanes sells tees at 3 for $10.

It seems that the show is not taking the AI approach of shock and ugh, so no memorably horrible auditions.  The first singer of the night is Tarralyn Ramsay singing "Breathe."  She is an example of what the show is about -- someone overcoming their outward packaging and being judged just on how well they sing.  Except, I wasn't all that wowed by her voice anymore than her unfortunate outfit.  She seemed out of breath, but it could have been nerves.  Fine, both Christina and Cee Lo mention that it was really clear that she started out nervous. So, what are you saying, I only stated the obvious?  I'm not some musical savant?  On second listen I can see that there may be something to her voice  Well, both of them want her and Tarralyn has to choose and she goes with Christina.

Patrick Thomas says, looking at me now, you wouldn't know that I was bullied, but back in elementary school I was a complete nerd.  Well, someone sure found their confidence! Then he mentions he wasn't athletic as a kid.  What are you trying to tell us, Patrick?  Spit it out.  So he's wearing a cowboy hat and he comes from Nashville and he is singing "Live Like You Were Dying," by Tim McGraw.  I wonder where he's going to end up. The suspense is killing me.  Cee Lo may have been the first to hit his button, but Blake convinces him that he has people and connections and knows the secret country music handshake, so Patrick goes with him.

Bald rocker.... not Daughtry...Jared something comes up next and he's singing the Cobra Starship song Good Girls Go Bad which, since my daughter is a fan, I've heard some three dozen times give or take a hundred and he doesn't do as good a job as those cute guys so, while judge's hands hover tantalizingly close to the button, he is the first reject of the night. In fact, I couldn't even find a video of his performance, so here's the original, featuring the fetching Leighton Meester.

The next contestant who makes it is Vicci Martinez who decides to tackle Adele's "Rolling in the Deep." Let me first take a moment to acknowledge what a terrific job Haley Reinhart did last week with this song, because I found Vicci's performance just average. But the song is so mesmerizing and the original so indelible, I think you get brownie points for just reminding us of it. She may have a lisp, she definitely has some trouble corralling the wayward notes that escape her raspy throat. So while I thought Vicci should, first, change the spelling of her name to any of the commonly acceptable versions and, two, be kicked to the curb, Cee Lo and Christina both saved her from elimination hearing something that was apparently not obvious enough for me to notice. She squats, calls Christina a goddess, then choose Cee Lo as her mentor.

A commercial for The Hangover 2. How hot it Bradley Cooper? Discuss.

We're back and a really pretty girl sings an Alicia Keys song passably, but not memorably enough to be chosen, and the rest of us try not to feel a touch of Schadenfreude. Sonia, it's called rejection. It's what you'd hear more of if you wore a burka. Meanwhile, when Cee Lo sees that he missed out on a hot one, he does a big time Oh, #$&! and tries to force his button to stay lit. I don't like the song enough to go dig up a video, so on to the next song!

The next singer is actually a married duet named Josh and Nicole so of course their professional name is "Elenowen." They're singing one of the most cloying songs ever, "Falling Slowly," and I'm not sure what they could possibly do with this treacly mess to make me not start dry heaving. As they start singing, Nicole has a nice tone to her voice and the judges seem to be digging it and then Josh joins in and they become apoplectic. See, no one told them a duo could be auditioning and they thought she'd undergone gender reassignment in the middle of the song -- which would have been impressive. Blake slaps the button because he wants to see what's going on and eventually Cee Lo wants them too. The too cute folk rock couple question the judges and they - y'all - like what they - y'all- hear from - y'all - Blake and so they go country.

Wow this show is sure reminding me of American Idol. I mean this next contestant looks just like that girl who was kicked off of AI for having done porn. What was her name? OMG, it's Frenchie Davis! She's baaaack. Having been on Broadway, having been on more places than she'd like to remember I'm sure over these past few years, she wants another go at reality tv stardom. She sings "I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry and, luckily for her, one of the judges liked it as well. Christina picks her and Frenchie gets her second chance at stardom.

It's another gorgeous girl having to be judged just on her voice. But, Kelsey Rey, who takes on Estelle's "American Boy," can sing! She actually seems touched that she's being appreciated for her talent, not for her looks, and call me a sap, but I buy it. I like the tone of her voice and her ease on stage. She gets yeses from Adam (his first pick -- maybe he did have a mole in the audience), Christina and Cee Lo. I guessed she'd pick Cee Lo and she does -- so she's pretty, talented and smart. Does she remind anyone else of that brainy actress who was on the Wonder Years and later went to Harvard?

As if god wants to test just how comfortable I've become with country music (because it is all about me, right?), Patrick wasn't the only country crooner on the show. Oh, no, he was Eminem compared with the next guy, the twangy, cherubic Jeff Jenkins who sings "Bless the Broken Road" by Rascal Flatts. He's from Texas and his mom just died, so if this was AI he'd be getting votes by the boatload. My heartstrings, which are a bit frayed right now, are being tugged all over the place so even I overcome my initial reaction to stab myself in the head and decide to listen to the whole song. Yes, it sounds like twangy, twangy, drawl, yee haw, y'all, but in a good way. All four judges want to work with him. He's so country I need subtitles to understand what he's saying, so of course he picks...Adam!!

The next singer is Rebecca Loebe and she has the cojones to take on a reworked version of Nirvana's "Come As You Are." I am spellbound. I'm not swayed by the "homeless" storyline, she has enough money for mascara and eyeliner. But, her singing? I could listen to her all night. It may be the best single audition I've ever heard. I want to take my savings and buy her off the show right now. She doesn't need anything but a microphone. I can not express in mere words how she moved me. Hey, Adam, stop looking over my shoulder! I said "reworked" first. Sheesh. Anyhow, everyone loves her as they should and she makes what I think is a good choice, going with Adam.

Because no one could follow that, they put up someone who has zero chance, 56-year-old Joanne Rizzo. Now, the trick with this show is that the judges can't see her, so they have no idea how old she is -- until she starts singing a song written before any of them were born!!! She does a mediocre, at best, version of "I Say A Little Prayer" originally sung by the gifted singer turned crazed Celebrity Apprentice player, Dionne Warwick, and to no one's surprise, no one picks her.

Xenia Martinez sings "Break Even" by The Script. She's really young but has a remarkably mature voice. What the heck is going on here? So this is where all the talent that didn't try out for AI ended up. She has an amazing rasp that is not off-putting in a Paul McDonald way, but serves the song. Talking about her performance today, I agree with my daughter who said Xenia didn't quite connect with the song (she added that she thought the girl was going to nod off during the song). I agree with that assessment. There was a sleepy quality to her performance and, considering this was her one shot, you would have thought there would be more passion. But, Blake and Cee Lo both hear something special and they fight for her, complimenting her tone and vibrato. Blake makes a very funny comment about Cee Lo's ever-changing appearance and how it could be unsettling for someone so young, but I doubt that entered into her decision to ultimately choose Blake.

The next singer is a self-described big goofy nerd conveniently named Tje Austin (also his hometown) who sings "Just the Way You Are" by Bruno Mars. They have us listen to him as the judges are, without seeing him first, so you know something is up. Yep, the pop crooner with the white Mormon parents is sporting one of the most impressive Afros I've seen since the early 70s. Oh, that's not the surprise? Oh, yeah, he's African American. Cee Lo and Adam race to be first to push their buttons, but I'm not quite as wowed by his vocals. Christina and Blake held back -- Christina immediately regretting her decision when she sees how cute Tje is. Ultimately, he chooses Cee Lo. I'm on the fence with Tje. He's got the look, but his voice was a little thin in places. We'll see.

As unexpected as Rebecca singing Nirvana, was the next contestant, Javier Colon, taking on Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time." I'm a sucker for this song and so I don't know if he was as good as I thought. Yeah, I'm listening again, what he does with those notes is illegal in 11 states. Okay, so now I have a new favorite? While AI has left me cold, already two singers have me enthralled. If you've come here to read me skewering untalented wannabes, you're a day early. What an impressive vocal performance. Javier may not know how to dress, but what his voice can do is magical. Oooh, nice question to Christina...what took you so long to ring in. I like that. Good answer, but not good enough. Javier joins team Adam. Adam may have been slow to pick contestants, but he somehow managed to get (in my never to be humble opinion) the cream of the crop.

Last of the night is our second bald female contestant, Beverly McClellan,
who does her best Janis Joplin impersonation on "Piece of My Heart." It was too copycat for me and I wasn't digging it at all. Too many random "wooo's," I didn't get it. This was from the trying too hard school of rock and roll, which masks average singing with desperation. She has spunk and heart and all that, but I do not see her going far in the competition. Poor Christina ends up with her to go along with the follically challenged Frenchie.

So at the end of Day 1, I'd say Adam has the strongest group with Rebecca, Javier and Jeff, and Christina has the weakest.


  1. Karen Smith from HillsboroApril 27, 2011 at 5:32 AM

    I loved the show. The two hours flew by and I hated for it to end. The judges were really entertaining, especially Blake. And I'm glad they got down to the talent before it aired. I really liked Rebecca, Vicci and Xenia for their earthy, Bowersoxish vibe. Maybe the girls will have a fighting chance on this show. Great recap.

  2. i loved the show Blake S.was so entertaining
    and loved Celo too.

  3. 1.Rebecca 2.Javier 3.Xenia 4.Jeff 5.Elenowen 6.Tje 7Kelsey 8.Tie all the rest 'FGM47'

  4. "My heartstrings, which are a bit frayed right now" Wha? How can we help? Or just... I hope you feel better soon. ...yikes

    "I overcome my initial reaction to stab myself in the head" You're so precious in how you despise rural American culture. Previously, I had been afraid for your television, but perhaps I should worry more about your darling noggin.

    "He's so country I need subtitles to understand what he's saying" I've heard a few New Englanders whose words I couldn't parse, and a few African-Americans, and a few Southerners, too. If they spend a lot of time talking with local people, and not a lot of time watching TV, reading, or talking with people from other places (which is only possible in large cities), they will not notice their own accent, and then it will only get stronger. Like a constant smell or a constant sound, unless it's dangerous to your body, your brain adapts to it and begins to ignore it, so as to better perceive any changing factors in the local physical environment.

    "I'm a sucker for 'Time After Time'." Me, too. That and 'True Colors'.