Monday, November 17, 2014

Recapping The Voice Season 7 Top 12: Where Gwen discovers that this is a weird show

Yes, Gwen, The Voice is a weird show.  We're voting for singers based on how well they cover, whether faithfully or uniquely, someone else's song.  Weirder still, some songs they sing were already covered successfully by someone else (such as this week's "Take Me to the River" which had been a hit for The Talking Heads after Al Green first put his spin on it).  A good vocalist can sing someone else's song really well, while still reminding you of the original.  A great artist can sing someone else's song and, though it's cliche to say it, do something different enough with the song to make it their own.  Often, a song is reimagined so well that the new version exists outside of the world of the original as something completely new and different.  That's the sort of transformative moment we all hope for in singing shows like this and American Idol.

We didn't get any of those moments last night.

Instead, we had some good vocalists doing a solid job, some others stumbling, but not one goose-bump inducing, jaw-dropping moment.

Ryan Sill took Duran Duran's "Ordinary World" and gave a substandard performance so abysmal that the word "ordinary" would have been a compliment.  He was totally out of his depth, here.  He lacked any emotion, any connection to the lyrics, and when he strained to hit the high notes he went totally off the rails.  Horrible. If you must, you can listen to it here.

Sugar Joans did what she does. She oversang, screeching her way through "Take Me to the River."  It was what her coach wanted and he was clearly thrilled with her performance. What he hears is not what I hear.  I hate the growling and vocal gymnastics, it's forced and doesn't make me feel anything besides irritated.   Listen here.

I had high hopes for Jessie Pitts. She started out "Don't You Worry Child" on the piano and her breathy style worked well for the first half of the song.  But when she stepped away from the piano and took center stage, it all fell apart.  Her voice is not at all suited for the techno beat and she was swallowed up by the song.  Check it out here.

Damien was up next with the Hollies' "He Ain't Heavy" and there's no question that he has a great instrument.  His voice is crystal clear, strong, and piercing. A few times I started getting caught up in the sound of his voice and was close to being carried away, then he threw out a small grunt or two and it took me out of the moment.  When he goes all churchy or adds those guttural embellishments,  it's just too much and the sweetness of the song is lost.   Take a listen here.

What DaNica Shirey and her coach Pharrell did to Radiohead's "Creep" is probably a crime in seven states.  It was so very awful that I can't believe it was on a network show.  Someone should have stepped in to stop it.  She was pitchy and all over the place trying to find her way through that song.  But that wasn't the worst part, because DaNica really has an amazing voice. It was turning that anthem for the underdogs, into a dance song.   She took all meaning out of the song, stripped it of its twisted, painful expression of frustration and desire.  It's here if you want to hear it.

Taylor John Williams was given a song that is 43 years old and was old fashioned when it was first released.  "If" by Bread may hold the record for the shortest title for a number one song, and it is technically a beautiful song albeit with some crazy lyrics, but it is pretty much a lullaby.  It's snoozy in the Ambien sort of way.  But Taylor has a really pretty voice and he handled the falsetto very nicely.  He also played a bit with the melody, doing the best with this otherwise sleepy song.

I'd heard that Reagan James has been sick and maybe that's why her vocals on Lenny Kravitz' "It's Not Over Til It's Over" seemed pretty breathy and weak.  She has a great tone and she's certainly a trooper, but this was not her best performance.  She seemed winded and worn out by the end.  Check it out here.

Luke Wade had a rough time with Ed Sheeran's "Thinking Out Loud."  Right at the beginning, Luke started a couple beats before the band.  He recovered, but still seemed troubled by this misstep.  That's too bad because I thought this was his best vocal on the show.  Usually, I find him a bit fake but tonight I heard the Van Morrison-esque styling that everyone's been so crazy about.   He has a good sound and certainly emotes more than most of his competitors who usually come off too controlled.

Matt McAndrew has a great adviser who again gave him a song to connect with the god-fearing (and he hopes vote-giving) fans of The Voice.  This week it was the amen-filled "Take Me to Church" by Hozier.  I'm a fan.  Matt has the whole package. Great, identifiable voice.  Cute look.   He knows how to connect with the song while also connecting with the audience, which is not as easy as it sounds.   As Gwen said, even covering someone else's song, you can hear there's something special there.

I don't like old-fashioned country music.  Not a big George Strait fan.  But I like me some Craig Wayne Boyd.  He sang "You Look So Good in Love" and it's cheesy but I'll say it, he looks so good on stage.  This guy is just solid week after week.  He's a rarity on a reality competition show - he doesn't do too much (oversing, overgesture, overperform) just to show he can.  He sings like he's at a concert, not on a TV show.  You can see not a contestant, but the guy who will be playing the small club next week.  Great job.

So last week when I was stomping my feet and carrying on about how stupid Adam was for saving Chris Jamison?  Yeah, my bad.  Chris KILLED it tonight with Nick Jonas' "Jealous."  He out-falsettoed his coach and showed an amazing range.  Chris had a flawless vocal performance, yet never seemed studied, stiff or phony.  He was completely on point yet totally relaxed.  He could easily slot himself in the current void of young, cute male singers.  The standout of the night!

For me, they did not save the best for last.  It's not that Anita Antoinette didn't do a good job with "Redemption Song," but having the Reggae singer sing a well-worn Bob Marley classic was neither inspired nor surprising.  So, yes, she sounded great, but if you're, like me, allergic to that style of music, even a very good version of it is still something you don't like.  Like foie gras at a Michelin 3-star restaurant.  It may be the very best, but I still won't like it.  I can appreciate it...but not enjoy it.

My prediction for the bottom three:  Ryan, Jessie and DaNica.  If DaNica sings something from the Whitney Houston end of the musical spectrum, as opposed to the Thom Yorke, she should be saved by America's vote.  Tune in Tuesday to find out!

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