Posts Tagged ‘Angie Johnson’

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Thoughts on The Voice: Battle Rounds Part 1

March 6, 2012

Image edited from the original by me’nthedogs at Flickr

I apologize for the delay in this post. Things have been a little rough at my job and when I get home I’m not always in the mood to recap. Accordingly, I DVRed yesterday’s episode and am recapping it today. So the auditions are finally done. Let’s have a battle!

Guest Mentors:
Team Adam: Alanis Morissette and Robin Thicke (Canadians in the house!)
Team Blake: Kelly Clarkson (American Idol? REALITY SHOW DEFECTAH!) and Miranda Lambert (Awww and Nashville Star? REALITY SHOW DEFECTAH!)
Teem Cee Lo: Babyface and Ne-Yo
Team Xtina: Jewel (Platinum Hit and Nashville Star? REALITY SHOW DEFECTAH!) and Lionel Richie

Note: I’m happy to see that the boxing ring set is back. I also like the WWE walk-ons. If only the contestants got to do poorly written banter beforehand. [“Do ya smell what the RaeLynn’s cookin’?!’]

Team Adam: Tony Lucca vs. Chris Cauley – “Beautiful Day”
From a pure story perspective, Tony will likely win this battle because of his ex-Mickey Mouse Club story. This U2 smash could be a challenge because of the understated quality of the verses and the big sustained, yet muted belting in the chorus. Who will be more messianic?
These two guys start out eerily alike until Tony compacts into itself like he’s desperately trying to stifle a yawn at church and Chris starts to foolishly emote like he’s singing alone in the car. You have to be open and cathartic with a song like this. I can relate to that. It turns out he can hit his notes a lot better than Tony. Tony flubbed his opening notes and belted quite abrasively, erasing what goodwill I had for him going into this episode.
Winner: Tony (Boo! Also: Called it!)

Team Blake: Adley Stump vs. RaeLynn – “Free Fallin’”
Based on past choices, I predict Blake will pick RaeLynn because of her upbeat personality and overall green quality (basically a twangy Xenia.) To me this Tom Petty classic seems to be more about evoking imagery in the singing than pure vocal prowess. Hopefully these contestants won’t overdo it on the chorus.
RaeLynn comes out the gate way too hard and ends up sounding off-key and forcibly twangy. By contrast, Adley does a quiet-loud thing that reminds me of Melissa Ethridge. Her approach sounds more like some saloon torch ballad, which works for me. I give both contestants props for not overdoing it on the chorus, but they harmonize like ass.
Winner: RaeLynn (Boo! Also: Called it!)

Team Xtina: Chris Mann vs. Monique Benabou – “The Power of Love”
I wish these contestants were singing Huey Lewis and the News, but nope, it’s Celine Dion. This has “recital” written all over it. Brace yourself for a lot of vocal pyrotechnics. This could be close. Supertechnical Chris could court the lite pop Josh Groban demographic whereas Monique has the better “a raw beginner can be a winner” story, which might be more palatable to a TV producer. The montage had them on equal talent footing.
I think Monique sounded a little buried in the mix. That or her naturally softer voice fit better into the backing music. Chris’s tenor cut more into the mix, which got my attention but felt somewhat annoying. Technically both singers were spot on and did a really good job harmonizing with one another. My only criticism outside of not liking the song was that for a song about the power and passion one feels with a lover, both singers seemed to be more about selling the song than conveying true heart-bursting emotion. Eh, if you’re gonna oversing, oversing to Celine.
Winner: Chris (Yay! Monique was good too. She would have gotten a yay as well.)

Team Cee Lo: Cheesa vs. Angie Johnson – “Total Eclipse of the Heart”
Cheesa and Angie each have the raw power, but Angie has the devil-may-care sense of fun that might better endear her to Cee Lo. While this song is also a schlockly ballad mess, it has the built-in theatricality that can win over curmudgeons like me (Kathy and I have this song in Rock Band.) It’s also written as a duet, so these contestants will really have to play their parts.
In the slow build into, Cheesa has the clear advantage with the lower key, but as the song builds in its intensity Angie gradually comes into her element. This was another even match as neither contestant seemed to really waver, be it on the harmonizing, the power belting, and the emotional low intro. It’s a fight to the end.
Winner: Cheesa (OK! Cheesa really brought her A-Game to the song and deserved to win, but honestly I was rooting for Angie.)

Team Blake: Jordis Unga vs. Brian Fuente – “Ironic”
So we’re seeing a lot of slower, quiet-loud songs today. “Ironic” is a good song, but come on, can’t we do some INXS? Oh wait, then Jordis might be a little too familiar with the material. Seriously, I would like to see something more uptempo in the battle rounds. At least this Alanis hit has a great singalong quality. Nail those lyrics, kids!
Jordis kicks things off faithfully, then one line in gets bored and starts doing vocal runs just to get in Brian’s head. When his verse comes up, he tries to match Jordis’s power belting, but his range is too limited. On the chorus, Jordis sings herself into a corner, but it’s an energetic corner of goodness. Brian has a little more contour in his singing, but he can only do so well. This was another song that called for domination and Jordis conquered!
Winner: Jordis (Yay! Brian got maybe 5 seconds in the audition episodes. He was cannon fodder from the start. Also, Jordis tried a lot harder.)

Team Xtina: Anthony Evans vs. Jesse Campbell – “If I Ain’t Got You”
I’m tired of this song, and that’s entirely because of its overexposure back in ’03 and for its status as Idol audition staple. This song is slow and has lots of emotional belty parts over sparse accompaniment. I predict a lot of hard charging. I predict a Jesse win because he got 4 turns in 4 seconds back in the audition rounds. It would be hard to turn that kind of in-demand singer down. Who will make the dogs howl?
How do they differentiate? Anthony goes for the playful approach, with lots of cute hand motions and understated singing. Jesse goes for the professional power approach, with effortless belting that slashes through the music like a katana. Vocally Jesse was tops, as his voice was naturally more commanding. However, you had a sense that Anthony was trying a lot harder. When he came forward on the second chorus, holding onto that note like it was a life preserver, I could feel the conviction and that really resonated with me.
Winner: Jesse (Boo! I mean, yeah, he sang better, but it was singing with natural effort. Anthony sang well too and he tried way, way harder.)

So this wasn’t the best start for this round of the show. There were too many ballads and I was ok with maybe half of the winners. Still, with 36 contestants still up in the air a lot can happen.

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Thoughts on The Voice: Audition Round 2

February 6, 2012

Image from technotheory at Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Voice Coaches – “Prince Medley”
Well, Blake’s credibility as a voice coach is suspect – he mumbled his way through “1999.” Cee Lo lacked the energy he usually provides to his live performances on “Little Red Corvette.” Adam nails the Prince falsetto but fails the diction. Christina gets the last note and shows why she’s the most powerful singer on that stage. As the show starts up, I feel like I’m getting psyched up for a game of NBA 2K12. “Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!

-Dammit Blake Shelton, don’t accuse Christina Aguilera of luring contestants with “flash and boobs,” lest you remind America that you were the asshole judge last season.

-I wonder how long Carson Daly’s enthusiasm will last. By the second voting episode last season, his professional courtesy gave way to subliminal contempt for the contestants, the guest performers, and the whole show in general.

-Oh goody, another vocal duo. At least The Line’s relationship is less lovey-dovey and more like that of The White Stripes – an ex-couple who kept on working together professionally. I still feel like using the duo dynamic to harmonize for a fuller sound is cheating. If either one of those singers went up alone, they would have been passed on like the Atlas Shrugged movie. To their credit, they seem more genuine than last year’s Elenowen or Tori and Taylor Thompson.

-Speaking of The White Stripes….Jamar Rodgers is the first contestant to successfully perform a song I like, injecting it with enough Cee Lo-esque wooooooaaaaahhhhs to make it unique. I’m not a fan of sob stories, but he quickly shot to the top of my list. Also props for namedropping Cee Lo’s Dungeon Family past with Goodie Mob. Nice run, dude!

-At first, Neal Middleton looks like another long-haired Bo Bice lookalike, but check out his top hat – it has gears! Does this guy do steampunk? He certainly does CCR, nailing their version of “Heard It Though The Grapevine” with growl and control. He wasn’t pitchy. He kept his vocal strength up. He was like a male Beverly McClellan, or at least a baby Nakia. Yet no chairs turn for him? Bad call, coaches!

-Gwen Sebastian goes the sparse route. Her voice is shaky as hell, but she pulls it together to get a few chair turns. She seems quite skilled at working the contour of her voice, but I just don’t care for the sound of it. If she goes far I hope she learns to enrich her delivery. I also hope that piano that played during her speech was added in after the fact. Cee Lo’s reaction to Gwen’s choice of Blake was pure “Well played, Mr. Bond, but let’s how confident you are when you meet my associate Mr. Jaws. Seize him, men!”

-Pamela Rose needs to enunciate. And sing in the right key. And pick a more fun song. Based on Adam and Cee Lo’s comments, photogenic contestants like her are the reason why we have the blind auditions. I’m happy sure she’s “Already Gone.” (Ba-dum-bish!)

-I wonder what kind of singing Kim Yarbrough did back in the day. Disco? Gospel? Genre aside, she’s talented enough to overcome a choking house band and some finicky coaches to show her potential as a blaster, which is right in Christina’s zone. So it’s a pity that she goes with Adam, since she would have made The Line look like a couple of tools in the battle rounds.

-The third fun song of the night comes from Air Force vet Angie Johnson. Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker” is one of Kathy and my favorite songs to play in Rock Band, and Angie destroyed it. Cee Lo’s pick was a lock, especially after his and Vicci Martinez’s Mad Max rendition of “Love Is A Battlefield” last season. This could be a good match. I’m getting excited.

-Dez Duron takes it back to the boy band era with his slick looks and performance of “I Want It That Way.” Too bad if he were to join the Backstreet Boys, he’d be second string for Howie at best. Was he sucking helium to take the edge off before he went onstage? You’re too damn nasal, bro! Another posterchild for the blind auditions!

-Lindsey Pavao seems to be going for the soft Dia Frampton tip, but she cannot sing quietly without devolving into Mush Mouth Syndrome. It’s a good thing she can belt. Props for doing a Trey Songz track in a way that I couldn’t immediately recognize.

-Poor Hoja Lopez. Her delivery just wasn’t there. She also picked “Teenage Dream,” which being from the house that Max Martin and Dr. Luke built, uses vocal processing to enhance otherwise mediocre vocals. Maybe if she picked a more natural-sounding song? It got really sad when it became clear that no one was going to turn and she started to pull away. Here’s hoping she gets more confidence to come back next season.

-I want Jermaine Paul to keep things bouncy and upbeat. Having come up under the wing of Alicia Keys, he certainly has the chops to bring down the house twice a week. One cool thing he did during the coach negotiations was ask who would keep him through the battle rounds. It was an empty gesture, but it still showed that he was thinking. Until he went with conservative ol’ Blake. I predict a battle round elimination.

-Cue the waterworks! Angel Taylor’s singing “Someone Like You.” While it’s not my favorite Adele song, Angel nails the tune note for note, which is pretty damn hard to do. If she picks more interesting or fun songs, she’ll go way up in my book.

And now a summary of tonight’s winners, in the order they were announced:
-Duos are cheating!
-Alternative soul do-gooder
-Shaky shaky country histrionics
-Master blaster
-Rock N Roll special ops
-Her knowledge exceeds her pipes
-Great execution, bad priorities
-Otherwise nondescript damn good Adele impersonator

My condolences to Steampunk Bo Bice. Here’s hoping the coaches are as picky as they were last season and he gets another shot.

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