Wednesday, May 4, 2011

NBC's The Voice -- Episode 2

The first episode of this new entry into the reality TV talent show genre was unexpectedly great.  The four coaches showed a lot of personality and the talent was seriously stellar.  Only the personality-less Carson Daly (making one wish for a Dunkleman comeback) cast a shadow over an otherwise bright debut.  Could tonight's second episode of The Voice measure up?

Well, yes and no.  The judges were still adorable in their bickering.  But the quality of the talent did not reach the levels of the first fact, there was not one contestant chosen by all four coaches.  Meanwhile, Carson apparently took some lessons from the Chris Harrison-Ryan Seacrest handbook and learned how to deliver the "shocking rose ceremony/results" type intro with just enough faux intensity and concern. 

So first up is Melinda Doolittle, a background vocalist who wants to step out of the shadows and... what?  Oh, nevermind. It's Cherie Oakley, a background vocalist who wants to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight.  She decides to lasso her aspirations to a Miranda Lambert song, even though the only country music coach up there just happens to be ... let's delicately say intimately familiar with the original artist. 

I think she does a good job with Gunpowder & Lead.  I'm not jumping up and down (which I would only do metaphorically since otherwise it would look really weird), but I think she had a decent enough voice and a good stage presence.  Not surprising, since he doesn't want to sleep on the couch after this episode airs, Blake Shelton passes.  But Christina hits her buzzer at the last moment, just as Cherie is ratcheting up the histrionic, over-the-top flourishes to near Aguilera-like proportions.  Once again, Cee Lo was sad to see he passed on a cutie.

The next guy, a Kevin Corvais doppelganger -- did this show want so many American Idol comparisons?-- says it's either be a singer or go to med school. When asked where the med school idea came from Devon Barley says his dad, Dr. Barley.  Oh, that's sweet, his dad is a doctor, maybe a heart specialist or a brain surgeon, maybe an ENT.  Wait, what was that?  He's a chiropractor?  Yeah, I can see why his son would want to try singing instead. 

So Devon sings the catchy "I'm Yours" by Jason Mraz and he has a smaller obstacle to overcome since, as far as we know, no one is currently involved with Mraz.  Devon has a nice throaty, breathy quality when he sings that could be cool. But when he goes for the big notes, he can't back them up.  The guy needs to eat his Wheaties...bulk up a little.  Barry Bonds, you're a buff guy, what would you suggest?  What's that stuff that makes your head grow?  Don't worry, there's no steroid testing in music -- primarily because only Henry Rollins would be under suspicion.

Still, two people buzz in for him, Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green, and though there's not as much hard core campaigning as last week, Adam does give him enough love to make the choice easy.

The next one up is Joshua Scott Hand.  He thinks he's hysterical because he speaks slowly, in an exaggerated fashion, and uses obvious physical gestures to try and sell what he thinks are jokes.  At first I have no idea what he's singing...until he gets to the chorus and I can finally make out it's Lady Gaga's "Paparazzi."  Not a good sign.  There's putting your own twist on a song and there's singing so poorly that the song is unrecognizable.  He falls into the latter category and is gone. 

Raquel Castro is 16 years old, but when she talks she sounds even younger. She nervous about singing in front of her idol, Xtina, but she's a tough Jersey girl so she's going to soldier on.  She sings "Bleeding Love" by Leona Lewis and the nervousness is apparent at first...she can barely catch her breath.  She's hardly singing at first, but by the time she gets to the chorus (which, for the record, is really monotonous and annoying) she gets stronger.  She starts belting her little heart out, going after notes whether or not they fit the song or are in her range, but it works and Christina turns around. 

Emily Valentine from Hollywood is next.  We don't get to see her at first, so we can play along with the judges.  But we're given a few hints by her saying that people who judge her by her appearance end up surprised, so we know something's up.   She sings Pink’s “Sober" and it's one of those great songs that would make almost anyone sound good.  So when she does some runs at the end of the first verse that are so off key it acutually makes me wince, I think she's not going to make it.  But, with the lesson of this show (and American Idol, I'm looking at you Lee DeWyze) being "tone" is more important than "pitch," two of the four judges choose her.  Welcome to the Autotune age!

When we see her she's very blond, a slightly less attractive Gwen Stefani, but cute.  And covered in tattoos.  There's a little battle for her, even with Christina pointing out the obvious problems with staying on or anywhere near key, and Cee Lo and Blake Shelton vie for her affection.  Blake uses the argument that he likes her more since he buzzed in first, but like every other overly enthusiastic suitor, he is rejected for the guy who seemed less desperate, who needed a little more convincing.  So she goes with Cee Lo.

We are quickly informed that Cee Lo also gets Niki Dawson, who sang Katy Perry's Teenage Dream, while Blake was the only one who picked Sara Oromchi who sings (well, from what little I can hear), John Lennon's "Imagine."  Either these two girls don't get to voting rounds, or The Voice is also copying the idea of producers' manipulation from American Idol.

Tim Mahoney is one of those contestants that the show will remind us repeatedly "is what this show is all about," meaning he's at the age where he probably needs reading glasses, he's not super attractive and has been trying in vain for longer than most of the viewers have been alive to make it in the music business. It's a sad, but not at all uncommon story.  And it begs the question, how long do you keep chasing your dream?

He sings “Bring it on Home to Me," originally sung by Sam Cooke. His voice is passable, and I fear he's going to be disappointed, then Adam buzzes in, rather quickly.  Adam makes a face when he turns around as if what he is seeing isn't what he was expecting.  That's the premise of the show, dude.  No one else buzzes in, which was not surprising as there was nothing unique or memorable about the performance (except for how unattractive his hat was...that may stay with me for a while).  Funny thing. Turns out, Adam thought Tim was a chick.  That's why he hit his buzzer so fast....that was a cool sound to be coming out of a girl. Not so much a guy who was born before the Watergate scandal.

But the two of them will be a match made in heaven since both of them sing like girls but have penises, which Adam was nice enough to point out for all of us, not unlike Boy George and Cher.  So after some more discussion about male genitalia, they finally figure out there's not much to talk about as Tim has no choice to make.  He's on Team Levine.  Good luck with that one, Adam.

Julia Eason sings Duffy's song "Mercy" and I realize that I used to think it was an Amy Winehouse song.  Anyone else?  Julie is really cute and she has an okay voice, but it sounds so much better because of the song.  I'm thinking in the future they should have the contestants sing their ABC's or Happy Birthday or The Star Spangled Banner or something else that no one sounds good singing.  Cee Lo and Xtina both love her...and I'm not getting it.

The next contestant to make the Miranda Lambert faux pas is Angela Wolff.  She sings the future Mrs. Shelton's “The House That Built Me" and unless she was able to make a blind person see or Christina's roots come in blond, she was not making it out of the audition alive. 

Next is Tyler Robinson from Folsom, California.  Blake Shelton humorously claims to have never heard of the city that's home to the famous prison that even more famous Johnny Cash sang about famously.   So, Tyler is gay and out on national TV but not out to his dad.  Maybe his dad is a Luddite and he'll never know.  Or maybe he's watching Dancing With the Stars and has something to tell his son, too. 

Tyler commits a bigger crime than wearing that really unattractive jacket -- he sings Train's "Hey Soul Sister."  In the chat room tonight it was agreed that there is no such thing as a good version of that song (and I tried to pimp Street Corner Symphony's version to no avail).  Blake has a momentary seizure which causes his hand to involuntarily attack big round red things and suddenly this not really talented guy without much talent is on his team.  Thank goodness for cuts!

Next up is a big hairy teddy bear from Austin, Texas named Nakia who is also gay and also ballsy...he sings Cee Lo's "Forget You."  This apparently isn't the poison that a Miranda Lambert song is and Cee Lo and Blake both want him.  I'm not surprised.  While he may not have the best voice I've ever heard, he has presence and personality in abundance.  He's a showman with a good enough voice.  Blake makes an unfortunate joke trying to dissuade from going with Cee Lo, saying that he dresses like a peacock.  Not exactly something will turn off a gay guy.  I'm just sayin'.  Not at all surprisingly, the immensely entertaining Nakia goes with Cee Lo.

We quickly learn of two other selections -- a girl named Serabee who sang “Son of a Preacher Man" and was picked by Blake and the stereotyped "goth-rocker" chick Casey Desmond who performed Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way."  Was it just me, or did Adam's, "you're mine, awesome" to Casey not seem all that enthusiastic?  Was it the flaming read hair, the unfortunately heavy handed blush or the neon green eyeshadow that discouraged him?  Justin Grennan sang Train's "Drops of Jupiter" and was picked by Christina as her team's first male member.  That's right, I said it.

There was a quick medley of people who didn't make it, complete with some tears from Christina. 

Dia Frampton is nervous as she's about to sing Colbie Caillat's "Bubbly."  She sings about two lines and Blake hits his buzzer.  Apparently he's really excited to hear a girl not singing a Miranda song.  Dia's voice is quirky, but not in a cool way.  I don't know if it's just nerves, but she's all over the place. She starts doing various vocal flourishes that make is sound like she's gagging or choking.  She has a weird vibrato and an odd of course, she gets two coaches' votes!  But they're rewarded because she's cute as a button.  She has to pick between Cee Lo (who may need to stop off at the Human Resources office to pick up the sexual harrassment pamphlet) and the spoken-for Blake and she wisely chooses Blake. 

Curtis Grimes wears a cowboy cat and is singing "Hillbilly Bone" by...uh oh...Blake Shelton. Will he be as overly protective of his own music, as he is Miranda's?  Curtis says, "If Blake doesn't push the button for me, I'm going to run up there and push it for him."  Foreshadowing, party of one?  Well, I don't know the original, but this is really sleepy.   He's singing all the notes just fine and he has a nice country twang, but there is no electricity at all in his performance.  It's just blaht.  Cee Lo gives his a mercy push...and Blake doesn't touch his.

Blake explains what was missing from the performance -- cockiness.  That makes sense.  So while agreeing that Curtis can sing well, he didn't think he had the intensity for the song.  I actually agree with him, I think the Curtis-Cee Lo  pairing may be brilliant. Curtis has the voice, he just needs the swagger and maybe Cee Lo can help him find that.

The last to audition are the Thompson Twins...well, actually, they're sisters Tori and Taylor Thompson and close in age, but not twins.  Close enough.  They sing the Sugarland hit "Stuck Like Glue" and do a terrific job, especially on their harmonies.  And they're cute, and one is brunette and one is blonde, and they're confident on stage.  Watching the coaches as they slowly figure out it's two singers, not one, is priceless.  But it looks like our pig farming sisters are heading back to the farm until Cee Lo comes to the rescue!  After they all turn around, suddenly everyone is all positive.  I don't know what their hesitation was.  I think Cee Lo will have fun with this group.

So that's the last competitor so goodbye, we'll see you next week. What?  Oh, not everyone has a full roster.  Whaaaaat?  In fact, Adam only has six contestants he needs two more!  So they decide to give some of the contestants they passed on a second chance to make a more tuneful first impression.  For some, that means a second rejection which means that any effort to come up with a non-hurtful excuse for their failure is now out the window.  You didn't pick the wrong song, were too nervous, were too similar in style to someone else, you sucked.  Ouch.  Althought Sonia Rao takes it very well.  Kudos to her parents for raising her with enough confidence that the Entertainment Industry BS doesn't get her down!! 

But not experiencing this double blow is Lily Elise who had made Christina cry earlier.  She starts out singing lower than I would think was possible, unless she borrowed Tim's penis and does a decent job with Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You" and they're both all excited that Christina "got her back."

Jared Blake singins "Not Ready to Make Nice" by the Dixie Chicks and I love his voice.  Great raspy, Hootie-ish sound.  Blake pickes him and is genuinely happy, saying "I got my guy."

Adam is the last to fill his team and unless a hermaphrodite is auditioning, will he find anyone he relates to?  Casey Weston sings "Stupid Boy" by Keith Urban and she reminds me a little of Crystal Bowersox, barefoot, folk-rocker who will turn country when her first album sells okay but doesn't exaclty excite mainstream radio.  She's the second to last member of Team Levine.

Angela Wolff will not be singing another Miranda Lambert song, this time she takes on "Rolling in the Deep" by Adele because we haven't heard enough covers of that song recently.  Adam picks her up before she even goes for the glory notes.  She is so excited and so isCee Lo because she's another "pretty girl" and even if she's not on his team, at least he gets to see her around the set.  Rawr.

So the auditions are over after just two episodes, now it's time for the battle rounds.  If only they were preceded by the host elimination round.  I'd watch that on pay-per-view.


  1. Karen Smith from HillsboroMay 4, 2011 at 9:37 AM

    Love the recap and can't wait to see where this production is going with the coaches, etc. But, Shari, you might have done the show justice if you could have taught the coaches the old "poker face" at the onset. On a couple of occasions, you could see the total disappointment on a coach's face after he/she turned around. All in all, I'm enjoying the show more than Idol this year.

  2. i've seen that dissapointed look too.but i do like the show and i will continue watching.

  3. "The two of them will be a match made in heaven since both of them sing like girls but have penises." Well put, with an assist from Adam. This show isn't as stellar as AI, but it seems to be as watchable. We'll have to see how the "production" episodes go, for those could be really cool, if enough of the machinations of the studio system are revealed.

    "If only they were preceded by the host elimination round." Now there's an idea. Have a vote-off show where one contestant AND one judge has to go home every week. It would certainly turn into a popularity contest, with as much sincerity as "Which Suitcase Has The Money?" starring Howie Mandibles. And how would that affect what the judges wear, what they offer as critiques, and what they say to each other? Whether it was a singing talent show, or some other talent show (not a Survivor-type show, but one requiring an actual practiced skill all qualifying contestants must possess), it would be a new thing. Perhaps even refreshing.