Archive for May, 2011

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Thoughts On The Voice: Sing-Off Part 4

May 31, 2011

This is the last battle round! Two singers enter, one singer leaves, and there is not much else to say that wasn’t said three weeks ago. After tonight, we’ll have the final 16 acts, give or take a few extras from the duets.

 

Team Adam (guest coach Adam Blackstone)

Jeff Jenkins vs. Casey Desmond – “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me”

This feels like a battle of the leftovers. Previous sing-offs felt like the combatants had something in common. You know, so as a coach you have a basis for comparison. Jeff and Casey are incredibly different in terms of genre, look, and singing style. Just like Blake’s battle last week it will come down to which style Adam likes more. I’m also kind of blah about the song after Elton John night in Idol.

I’m not quite keen on Jeff’s singing style (too cartoony), but his steady twang carries him through this snorer. Meanwhile Casey gives a good effort, but it’s a hard fight. Her voice seems better suited to shorter quiet-loud bursts than sustained holds, and this ballad is all about the holds. In my opinion it was kind of one sided.

Winner: Jeff (Objectively he did better, but his voice is better for this kind of song. This felt rigged to me.)

 

Team Blake (guest coach Reba McEntire)

Xenia vs. Sara Oromchi – “I’ll Stand By You”

Both of these singers give off a cute/precocious/low-key vibe to me and given the ballady tone of the song, this feels like an Idol audition (that’s not good.) Nonetheless if either singer can convey sincere emotion on this song (along with a little cannon), she can win big.

Both singers fail in their own unique ways. Xenia, being 16 and all, still has some room to grow in her vocal range. I was yelling, “Sing louder!” While Sara can indeed sing louder, that’s all she has going for her. She misses notes left and right, like she’s hearing the song for the first time. What a failfest!

Winner: Xenia (She kind of hit her notes, and she’s green enough that she might take to Blake’s training.)

 

Team Xtina (guest coach Sia)

Lily Elise vs. Cherie Oakley – “Since U Been Gone”

Finally some uptempo goodness! Christina is testing for stylistic range, but this is also a challenge of raw power. Remember, Kelly Clarkson has enough vocal power to rival Christina (and when Christina sings parts of the song in the practice montage, I actually wonder what the song would sound like if she did a full on cover.) Both contestants have demonstrated that they can blast ‘em, so this could be a good fight.

When the song starts, I’m reminded of all the somewhat difficult note-y parts during the verses. Cherie puts the expected twang flavor on it and hits most of the notes, but keeps her singing in a set boundary. Meanwhile Lily (who is cosplaying Avril Lavigne) flubs at the start but is the only contestant to really hit that BIG note. She had the worse overall performance, but she had the best moment.

Winner: Lily (She’s a risky pick, but this performance demonstrated the cannon that Ms. Aguilera can relate to.)

 

Team Cee Lo (guest coach Monica, who apparently taught Cee Lo the whiny “whyyyyysss” from “Fuck You/Forget You” – you learn something new everyday)

Emily Valentine vs. Curtis Grimes – “Need You Now”

Once again this feels kind of one-sided, as Curtis has that aw shucks pop-country vibe that fits this song to a T. By contrast Emily is more of your garden variety rocker and so forth. The angle Cee Lo and/or the producers are playing up is a kind of forced romance to make this duet more of a method act.

Emily jumps out to an early lead, as her quiet voice is tons more melodic that Curtis’s. When the chorus kicks in, Curtis feels like a backup singer following Emily’s vocal lead (though they do sound great together.) He eventually takes some of the spotlight, but Emily sings circles around him: power, control, and stage presence. And their ending kiss (predictable, but you still don’t see that on Idol) elicits an actually good zinger from Daly.

Carson: Is something going on?

Curtis: Um….

Emily: We’ll see.

Carson (incredulous): Someone’s going home….not alone I guess.

Winner: Curtis (Bad call! He totally shrunk in Emily’s presence. He was a backup singer! I guess he has a “wrecked by love” story, but picking him on that basis is bullshit.)

 

Once again I agreed with half of the coaches’ picks tonight. Right now it feels like more of these picks (at least for the contestants I’m not rooting for) are being made on the basis of storyline, not on the basis of “the Voice.” Still, it’s naïve to think that as soon as the voting opens the audience won’t just vote for the most likable or folksy contestant, vocal prowess be damned. We’ll have to see how the voting plays out next week….

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Thoughts On American Idol Finale Part 2 – Coronation!

May 25, 2011

image from Emotional Competency

…And here we are. Buckle up for one hour, fifty five minute of filler and five minutes of actual results.

Top 13 – “Born This Way”

Damn that sound is mushy. Everything is whitewashed literally and figuratively – everyone is wearing white, the dance moves are straight out of a middle school production of High School Musical and the group singing is clipped and rote. Someone dump some red paint on these kids, please!

James Durbin + Judas Priest – “Living After Midnight + Breaking The Law”

This is what James should have been doing all season – hardass metal with some growly falsetto vocal fireworks. He’s also dressed leather and steel biker gear just like Rob Halford used to sport back in the 80s. Meanwhile the actual Rob Halford hasn’t aged one bit and his voice is in top form. It just rocked!

Jacob Lusk + Kirk Franklin + Gladys Knight – “I Smile”

Now this is some piano-driven bouncy R&B! Religion aside, I wish Jacob did more lively stuff like this. I would have rooted for him then.

Casey Abrams + Jack Black – “Fat Bottomed Girls”

There’s a cute intro when Casey kicks the couch aside to reveal a reclining Jack Black. Casey is just a vocal trainwreck onstage and it’s a relief when Black takes the mic to show him how hamming it up is done.

Idol Ladies + Beyonce – “Single Ladies + Irreplaceable + Get Me Bodied + If I Were A Boy + Déjà vu + Crazy In Love”

Despite the diversity of their singing styles, all six ladies kill their solos. Even Thia and Ashthon! Damn! Where was this during the regular season? They should have done a Beyonce night, because if some of these contestants performed like they did tonight I would not have been so quick to get frustrated with them. Beyonce’s mere presence made each of the women come off as better performers. Beyonce, you are the Steve Nash of R&B.

Haley Reinhart + Tony Bennett – “Steppin’ Out” (?)

I like Haley like this. She sings really well in the jazzy setting and the cool, classy vibe has her dialing back her big antics while still having tons of fun. Tony Bennett gives a performance like you would expect him to give – understated and smooth.

Montage: You know, J.Lo was my favorite judge this season. She gave the occasional constructive criticism and had a sense of humor without being crass. Plus “On The Floor” is hot!

Idol Ladies + TLC + Lil Jon – “No Scrubs + Waterfalls”

Damn, Chilli has not aged a day. Meanwhile T-Boz doesn’t look old, just different. After Lil Jon’s bombastic intro, TLC get the stage to themselves for “No Scrubs” before the women join them as backup singers on “Waterfalls.” You don’t see too many girl groups with all male backup dancers.

Scotty McCreery + Tim McGraw – “Live Like You Were Dying”

When Tim McGraw sings the “I hope you get the chance to live like you were dying” lyric, he sings right at Scotty as if he wants to say, “You have potential, kid, but for shit’s sake take it seriously! You do not sound credible when you sing about going 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Manchu.”

Audition Freakshow Montage: This is why I don’t recap the auditions. I just feel bad for the camera and sound operators who have to get beat up by pissed stage parents.

Marc Anthony & Jennifer Lopez

OK, that was hot.

Idol Guys + Tom Jones – “Kiss + She’s A Lady + What’s New Pussycat + Delilah + other songs I didn’t catch + It’s Not Unusual”

Unlike the women’s numbers, the guys don’t sing together. This is because they sound like ass when they harmonize. When Tom Jones came out for “It’s Not Unusual,” the guys finally pulled it together and sounded like good backup singers (or just shut up and lip synched.)

Ford Music Video – “Whenever You Remember”

Were all the other contestants that much more interesting than these two?

Lady Gaga – “The Edge Of Glory”

Mother Monster sings from the top of what looks to be the Aggro-Crag from Nickelodeon’s Guts. Highlights of her performance included Gaga playing her keyboard with her boot and Mark from So You Think You Can Dance climbing up for some contemporary ballet grinding. It’s Gaga so it’s crazy fun.

Lauren Alaina + Carrie Underwood – “Before He Cheats”

Underwood’s legs were several shades darker than the rest of her body. Lauren was singing at her like it was a direct challenge. Not a bad move.

Beyonce – “1 + 1”

I wasn’t into it. I just like her uptempo numbers better. Beyonce sang well but the song didn’t really go anywhere.

Spider Man: Turn Off The Dark ft. Bono & The Edge – “Rise Above”

While it would have been cool if the high-flying Spider-Man landed onstage and started singing, this song was still pretty good. It had that heavy, melancholy tone of mid-90s U2 with some of that electronic pop edge (no pun intended.) I really want this musical to do well.

Steven Tyler – “Dream On”

It was no Aerosmith, but Steven can still wail when he wants to.

The Results

Scotty McCreery wins. Scotty will be the fourth white guy with an acoustic guitar in a row to take home the prize. He overcame a fairly diverse slate of competitors, several producer-ordained Chosen Ones, and a performance style that barely deviated from smirking frat boy. This is disappointing, Lauren was robbed, blah blah blah. Did you really expect anything else? I did, and my optimism was misguided. I now realize how out of step I am with this show’s audience and that Jeb Bush could totally win the presidency. In conclusion, fuck you very much American Idol.

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Thoughts On The Voice: Sing-Off Part 3

May 25, 2011

We’re halfway through the battle rounds! Two singers enter, one singer leaves, and there is not much else to say that wasn’t said two weeks ago.

Team Xtina (guest coach Sia, who I forgot wrote 4 songs for Christina’s Bionic)

Raquel Castro vs. Julia Eason – “Only Girl In The World”

Seeing as how this song was probably written with so much vocal processing that not even Rihanna can sing it live, this will be a challenge. When I hear someone sing it live it just sounds weird, especially on the chorus. “Julia and Raquel have pitch problems,” says Christina, but that’s not entirely their fault. The challenge is making the best out of a bad situation.

Both women have very rough starts but pick things up by the chorus. Raquel uses her naturally fuller voice to barrel into the song head on. Julia takes a more cerebral approach by adding notes to the chorus’s flat progression to make it sound more natural. By the end of the song Raquel seems to still be having fun while Julia looks like someone is choking her.

Winner: Raquel (It kind of made sense. She sounded richer, though one could also make a case for Julia’s vocal acrobatics.)

 

Team Blake (guest coach Reba McEntire, who founded Starstruck Entertainment, which I think manages Blake Shelton)

Dia Frampton vs. Serabee – “You Can’t Hurry Love”

Blake is really on a Motown kick. He sets two of the more experienced singers against each other. Dia has a softer folksy style, whereas Serabee sounds like she aims for the cheap seats. I can’t call this one. It will depend on how their vocal styles overlap.

Except they don’t, not really. Dia sings the first half and her singing is like a muscle car that takes forever to reach top speed, but when it does it’s just cruisin’. Meanwhile Serabee goes full gospel, zipping all over the song like a Porsche 911 on a test course. When the song fades out Dia stays the course and sings straight on while Serabee does runs on top. They each play to their strengths, so victory will be a matter of which style Blake likes more.

Winner: Dia (She had to settle into the song, but once she found her groove she reduced Serabee’s runs and loud aesthetics to so much sound and fury.)

 

Team Adam (guest coach Adam Blackstone – seriously? A music director?)

Rebecca Loebe vs. Devon Barley – “Creep”

I never thought I’d hear a Radiohead song in an American singing competition. Adam is trying to pair the ominous song with shiny singers to see what results, though Rebecca might have an advantage given her Tori Amos-meets-Jewel performance style. Given how situations like this have worked out before on this show, pop-rocky Devon has a chance for a come-from-behind victory.

Early on it looks like the song is just too low for Devon, and he sounds flatter than Al Gore. Rebecca at least sounds on key, though her belting is like “what if Evanescence covered Radiohead?” By the song’s climax, it’s just an off-key mess. Devon was flat and Rebecca was oversinging.

Winner: Devon (Did I hear a different performance? That song would have mauled Devon’s ass in Rock Band. On Medium.)

 

Team Cee Lo (guest coach Monica, who I found out is married to pro basketball player and Michigan State alum Shannon Brown)

Kelsey Rey vs. Jonathan Taylor Thomas Tori and Taylor Thompson – “Unwritten”

Great. Now I’m flashing back to The Hills. Thanks Cee Lo! From the practice round it sounds like the danger might be in screaming this song during the loud parts, so control might come in handy. Despite her numbers disadvantage, Kelsey could still beat these cult siblings back like Jared beat the Elenowen couple last week.

Kelsey has trouble finding the key at the start of the song, but she settles into things nicely and she sings with control and style. She sounds like a pro. Meanwhile Tori and Taylor sing kind of flat when they solo and miss cues when they try to sing alternations. Together they still sing well, but will it be enough?

Winner: Tori and Taylor Thompson (This was a bad choice. Notice how when the judges were complementing them it was all on concept and “innocence” and not on singing ability. And what Cee Lo calls “innocence” I call “creepy.”)

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So tonight I agreed with half of the coaches’ picks. As with any reality competition, there are bound to be choices I disagree with. We’re still seeing a diversity of contestants come out of the battle rounds (and there’s still one more round to go), but the real test is who the audience votes for. Shit, Idol had a somewhat diverse field this past season and look how that turned out. I guess my thread of hope is that the viewership for this show will be younger and fresher; more open to new and exciting performers as opposed to Idol’s conservatism and blandness.

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Thoughts On American Idol Finale Part 1 – Competition!

May 24, 2011

Tonight is the final voting round! Can you believe that it was only back in January when we first saw these kids, these annoyingly twangy kids? As Seacrest pointed out last week, this is the youngest (and country-est) finale in the show’s history. I’m as happy about this as you probably are. (Not very happy.) The success of these two wholesome country teens is indicative of how far gone the voting audience for this show is. I thought things were bad when the white guys with acoustic guitars were dominating things (oh wait, they still might be.)

J.Lo is dressed in what looks to be a figure skating costume. I wonder if it has the traditional matching skate panty underneath? Randy “Status Quo” Jackson’s look is halfway between Joel Hodgson’s Salesman/Disco DJ character on Freaks and Geeks and a caricature of a drunken pro bowler. Steven Tyler looks the same. Seacrest looks totally out of place in his penguin suit. The contestants do not emerge unscathed from the fashion crimewave. Lauren continues to look like an AARP member who shops exclusively though QVC, while I don’t know what the fuck is up with Scotty’s discount-bin t-shirt. Are those two scuba divers climbing over that lady? Did the stylist pick that up from Googie Rene’s Discount T-shirt Barn?

They have to stretch this thing out to an hour (though thankfully only an hour,) so let’s break this down:

Round 1: Contestants Pick Their Favorite Performance from This Season

Round 2: Carrie Underwood and George Strait Pick Songs and Mentor

Round 3: Potential Coronation Songs

Scotty McCreery – “Gone”

And we kick things off with a mush! Scotty needs to push himself because he is just buried in the mix. His stage presence is light on the crap, which I appreciate, but this performance felt more fun the first time around. I still feel like any reasonably deep-voiced teenage boy could have had Scotty’s experience on Idol (and he probably would have looked less like a smarmy asshole to boot.)

Lauren Alaina – “Flat On The Floor”

Lauren matches Scotty in the lively department, and slightly edges out ahead of him in the vocal power department, insomuch as I could actually make out her voice when she was belting. While I feel like not every teenage girl could have had Lauren’s experience, I feel that she has benefitted from a slight producer favoritism (though to her credit she did fend off challenges to her Chosen One status from Jacob and Haley.) Lauren “wins” Round 1.

Scotty McCreery – “Check Yes Or No”

Good gracious this kid is stiff! He might as well be singing “Walk Hard.” While Scotty sounds slightly better for the first part of the GeorgeStraithit, it goes to shit once the chorus hits and he gets ridiculously off key. He’s not even belting. Fucking try, kid. Don’t even get me started on his smarmy antics and his “heh heh this song came out before I was alive” demeanor.

Lauren Alaina – “Maybe It Was Memphis”

And we’re right back to where we started, because once again Lauren’s sequined dress is straight out of Toddlers & Tiaras. Shitty styling aside, Lauren didn’t perform too poorly. She sang well, hit her notes, and pulled off most of the belts. I was kind of annoyed with the “tee hee aren’t I cute” antics (yep, they both do it), though maybe she’ll grow out of it in a few years. (Also….Oh Snap! Jacob didn’t clap for Lauren.)

Taio Cruz’s Coke Commercial – “Positive”

What if the futuristic fascist riot cops from Equilibrium started a drumline? Seriously, Taio Cruz sounds better when he has a banging dance beat behind him. He sounds bored on this midtempo affirmation junk.

Scotty McCreery – “I Love You This Big”

You know the Interscope folks think Scotty is stupid (or want to market him as such) when they purposefully write a song with such a grammatical nightmare for a title for him to sing. He starts off like he’s running for office – “I may be young.” “I may be inexperienced.” It was eerie. Otherwise Scotty phoned in his vocal performance for this pop-country snoozefest. Status Quo is right about one thing – this is the perfect song for him.

Lauren Alaina – “Like My Mother Does”

Man that string section intro was refreshing. I was getting tired of that Gambit-resembling fiddle player. Seriously though, this was a cute song. I don’t know too many contemporary songs about mothers, so it was kind of sweet and sincere when Lauren kicked this out. She was on with her pipes, too. She was both personal (I liked her mom-hugging moment mid-song) and professional (r&b diva power moves in a country context), and that earns my respect.

It’s kind of funny the journey these kids have taken. I thought Scotty was kind of good early on in the show (after all he has a deep voice like me), but his mannerisms, one-note performance range, and his treatment of the whole show as some hazing dare quickly wore out his welcome with me. Meanwhile I’ve been down on Lauren since Top 24, but she knocked this out. Unless she pulls a Kelly Clarkson 180 and makes kickass pop-rock, I won’t buy Lauren’s music, but she deserves to win this season. Let’s hope that producer favoritism is still riding strong.

Ranking

  1. Lauren Alaina (She’s young, annoying, and probably benefitted from producer favoritism, but she takes this shit seriously.)
  2. Scotty McCreery (Nope….That’s it. Nope.)
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Thoughts On American Idol Top 3: Elimination

May 19, 2011

Alright, it’s the third to last episode. Can Haley take out the Terror Teens? Damn I hope so! Seacrest introduces the Top 3 and everyone, wanting to look down home, is wearing jeans. Lauren is wearing knee-high white boots (um, yee ha?), Haley is wearing a diadem that looks like she just won a tacky pageant, and Scotty fails to distinguish himself.

Also, how can some of these people not know who J.J. Abrams is?

Haley’s Homecoming Montage

“Gimme Shelter” is the background music. Haley might as well be going to war. She sounded great singing “My Kind Of Town” for her live concert.

Ford Music Video – “Smile”

Wow! I could not hear anyone’s voice amid the din of vocal processing.

Il Volo – “O Sole Mio”

These guys look like the Italian Jonas Brothers. Technically, they could sing circles around the Top 3 contestants. They all look in their early teens and they have this nonthreatening cuteness that would make right at them at home on The Disney Channel. As for what they’re singing, it’s basically opera set to a mariachi arrangement. In Italian. The total package was kind of disturbing. I’m all for cross-cultural action on this show, but I did not know how to process that performance and maybe that makes me a hypocrite.

Scotty’s Homecoming Montage

The highlight was when someone in the crowd handed Scotty a donut (and he ate it.) The lowlight was seeing a “Scotty For President” sign on someone’s lawn. Fuck I hope that’s not some omen. Then Josh Turner shows up (so they’re not having him on the finale?) and they sing “Your Man” together and it unintentionally comes off kind of creepy.

Nicole Scherzinger ft. 50 Cent – “Right There”

Nicole is not even trying to look like she’s singing live. Her outfit rivals the most costumey lingerie you can get at Fredericks Of Hollywood. Meanwhile you know that 50 is rapping live because he raps off-beat for most of his verse (maybe the smoke machine distracted him?) Eh, he’s not such a bad guy, and shows far more patience than I would have. Nicole is going to host the rival show (one of them, anyway – why are all these singing competition shows popping up now?)

Lauren’s Homecoming Montage

Lauren actually gets serious visiting the aftermath of the tornado disasters that hitGeorgiafew weeks ago. She seems genuinely affected and comes across as sympathetic for the tribulations the victims are going through. It was a nice moment of humanity.

The Final 2

  1. Scotty McCreery (Well fuck!)
  2. Lauren Alaina (I guess I’ll be rooting for her. I guess.)

Haley is out. Maybe it was a case of the least of however many evils, but she really, really grew on me this season. Initially she was the target of a lot of my fury with her annoying mugging and mush mouth delivery. As time went on she sang more clearly, channeled her mugging into some affable quirky charm, and made both Randy “Status Quo”Jackson and Jimmy Iovine look like a couple of tools. That’s gotta count for something. So raise your glass to Haley, she climbed her way out of the gutter and became the last force of good this season. It was nice knowing you, player.

Next week: Teen fight! Teen Fight! They have brought this blandness for me to no hear.

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Thoughts On American Idol Top 3: Homecoming

May 18, 2011

We’re almost done! Counting tonight we have only 4 more episodes to go! This is not an optimistic way to start things off!

Tonight is the “homecoming” episode, which means we get to see a lot of clips of the three remaining contestants in their small hometowns. They have to find some way to stretch this show out to two hours (the very thought of which makes me tired.) The other way they’re stretching this out is by doing 9 songs in 3 rounds. Who will have the worst taste in music?

Round 1: Contestants’ Picks (Mentor: Beyonce)

Round 2: Jimmy Iovine’s Picks

Round 3: Judges’ Picks

Scotty McCreery – “Amazed”

Here’s a slow song you may have heard at a lot of weddings and school dances back in the early 2000s. This song sounds perfect for Scotty on the verses, and he doesn’t have to stretch too much on the belty chorus, but he could have gone so much bigger and it would have worked. There wasn’t much emotion in the song: from the “heh heh aren’t I folksy” facial expressions to the lazy belting, this was singing by numbers. “Amazed” is a sweet song and the Lonestar original earns its big sound. If Scotty tried harder, he could have delivered a knockout. I’m not impressed. Bad call, Scotty.

Lauren Alaina – “Wild One”

Well, at least she didn’t pick “Breathe.” Lauren goes for more of a fun angle and at tries to sing for the cheap seats (though she gets buried in the mix at times.) Otherwise I appreciated her hints of stage presence, her bombastic attitude, and her shiny disposition. She sang pretty well, albeit a bit harried. With some post-Idol experience she could actually make a really good country singer. Good call, Lauren.

Haley Reinhart – “What Is And What Should Never Be”

Once again Haley picks a song that’s probably really familiar to a certain musical demographic, in this case classic rock aficionados, and totally new to everyone else. Also, her dad is playing guitar onstage. To a casual Zep fan like me, he does a decent Jimmy Paige impression on the blues guitar. This is the most fun I’ve seen Haley have with a song in a long time, and that’s probably because she rocked out to this song with her dad when she was younger. Way to use the platform to seize the moment. I have to ding Haley a few points for floundering on the blues wailing (I bet she has a lower range than Robert Plant), but I give her mad props for taking advantage of an opportunity. Good call, Haley.

Scotty McCreery – “Are You Gonna Kiss Me Or Not?”

You know they weren’t gonna let us go without one more clip of the “Your Man,” audition. Hell, they’ll probably bring out Josh Turner for an awkward duet next week. When it comes to the performance, the way Scotty is kind of awkward in the way he holds his guitar and how he almost yodels on the end of every syllable. Scotty did a better job with this song than with his first song, but he still needs to be a little more engaging. He should also follow J.Lo’s advice and cut his hair so he looks less like you-know-who. Bad call, Iovine.

Lauren Alaina – “If I Die Young”

Her intro clip is the reminder of why I thought she was the producers’ Chosen One. She makes a huge improvement from her previous song. Her pipes in are in much more of a working order (even with a few flubs she really is the best singer of the Top 3) and I really felt her connection to the song. She looked like she belonged on the stage, which is not something I can say about one of her competitors (see previous paragraph.) While I’m not rooting for her (still too young and green) I won’t be completely pissed off if she wins the whole thing. Good call, Iovine.

Haley Reinhart – “Rhiannon”

Wow! I really don’t remember Haley’s audition. Did they even show it? Given the soft focus filming, pink lighting, Haley’s flowing locks, and the wind machine, the whole thing feels a little cheap 1980s. “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” anyone? Haley shows a lot of vocal restraint here, which works for parts of the song, though sometimes it felt like she was chickening out from the big parts and letting the backup singers do the really hard work. Yet if she really went for it, I feel like she would have crashed and burned so I suppose it could have been worse. Haley also carried herself well and mimicked the somber, spacey style of Stevie Nicks, but this wasn’t a game she could win. Bad call, Iovine.

Video Break! Beyonce – “Run The World (Girls)”

Diplo produced this song and it shows. It sounds like an early M.I.A. track and not one of the catchier ones. The video had an interesting apocalyptic savannah vibe to it, and Kathy caught one McQueen dress, but between the cold, monotonous beat and the awkward dancing, I was not a fan. Eh, Beyonce sang pretty well.

Scotty McCreery – “She Believes In Me”
We see a rare moment for Scotty: he cuts the crap. No Bush, no pied piper, no flubbing, just good emotional singing. He held the mic like a person is supposed to, he took the material seriously, and he delivered a good performance, maybe because he felt relaxed and less manic. Maybe these pop ballads aren’t so bad. Good call, judges.

Lauren Alaina – “I Hope You Dance”

I don’t like this song. Lauren is dressed in a cheesy pageant princess dress and it looks like the Tammy Faye eyelashes strike again. I don’t like this song. Her outfit is a good complement to what’s probably the soundtrack to loads of shitty saccharine inspirational graduation montages. I don’t like this song. Lauren tries her best with the material she has to work with, but there’s only so much one can do with the musical equivalent of Splenda. I don’t like this song. Bad call, judges.

Haley Reinhart – “You Oughta Know”

I’m surprised Haley didn’t have the band out on stage with her. It felt kind of empty with just her onstage. Haley does the Mush Mouth thing when the song starts to get going (though in fairness that first verse is really hard to learn), but by the chorus she uses her growl to the best of her ability. Her natural attitude is great for the vitriol and rage in the song. When the song goes to the bridge and Haley is just humming, it’s just the eye of the storm. Good call, judges.

I liked some performances (and performers) more than others. It would be cool if the two women faced off in the finale. Nonetheless, I still wouldn’t buy (or otherwise procure) music from any of these contestants. They fail in the most consistent ways. It’s gotten so that anything I have to ding them on is the same old claptrap. After more than ten weeks of recapping this competition, I am driven to the watch the end only for closure. I kinda feel bad for Kathy who repeats her mantra “I don’t give a shit about any of these people” and busies herself doing other things, relegating the show to boring background noise. Is it done yet?

Ranking

  1. Haley Reinhart (She had the most interesting performances and I just like her the most)
  2. Lauren Alaina (She did her best with the material she had to work with, but she’s still too young)
  3. Scotty McCreery (His songs were basically the same with marginal improvements)
  4. Jimmy Iovine (He had the worst picks of the night)
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Thoughts On The Voice: Sing-Off Part 2

May 17, 2011

The battle rounds continue! Two singers enter, one singer leaves, and there is not much else to say that wasn’t said last week.

  • See last week’s Voice post for an explanation of how it all works.
  • These rounds are set up to reward compliance. Since the coaches do the picking, mentoring and judging, the singers have a disincentive to take risks. Open voting in the audience a la America’s Funniest Home Videos would have been better.
  • Exactly what is the purpose of the “v-correspondent?”

Team Cee Lo (guest coach Monica)

Nakia vs. Tje Austin – “Closer”

As I said when this song came up on Idol a few weeks ago, this song can be challenging to sing competitively because of its vulnerability. Simply belting this song is missing the point. To do this song well is to be both a good singer and a good actor, as Cee Lo indicates during the coaching.

Tje’s tenor is thin and silky, so it’s naturally a better fit for this song. Early on it feels like the battle is his to lose. Nakia tries to make up for the rougher sound of his voice by turning up the emotion and going for deep-welled growls. He also stuck more of his notes. Both singers had good individual performances, but these guys do not sound good together! Yuck!

Winner: Nakia (Good for him! He tried harder.)

Team Blake (guest coach Reba McEntire)

Elenowen vs. Jared Blake – “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”

The newlywed couple has a special advantage, as he can be Marvin Gaye and she can be Tammi Terrell, and Jared knows it. Can he close the gap? Also, it’s weird to hear Blake try to falsetto. Stick you your drawl, dude.

Jared uses his grungy low range to the best of his ability, but he hams it up a lot with his arm movements (though as Adam points out, that may have been because he was missing his guitar.) At least he’s trying to play to the audience. Elenowen spend half the song facing each other. It’s cute and sweet and they sing well together, but at times their performance felt insular. Elenowen put on a show. Jared brought the audience into the show.

Winner: Jared (A bit corny, but he also tried harder)

Team Adam (guest coach Adam Blackstone)

Javier Colon vs. Angela Wolff – “Stand By Me”

This battle pits the early coaches’ favorite (4 turns in the auditions) against the second chance slide-in (1 turn in the leftovers round.) Adam emphasizes playing things straight and minimizing the vocal pyrotechnics. At the outset it feels like things could go either way.

Javier’s singing is solid as ever and he has this wailing wistfulness in his voice. You could see it in his face. Meanwhile Angela goes for more belting. With her laughing, smiling, and getting close to Javier, she just looks happy to be there. It’s very endearing, but Javier’s take fit the tone of the song better. He remains the clear favorite of the coaches too (who are not coy about it – thank you for not beating around the bush!)

Winner: Javier (Predictable, but fair)

Team Xtina (guest coach Sia)

Beverly McClellan vs. Justin Grennan – “Baba O’Riley”

Early into the rehearsal rounds, Beverly shows that fighting snarl that reminds me of Roger Daltrey’s original performance of the song. Justin takes Christina’s advice and plays with the range of the song, going super high like Half Baked.

The battle commences and both singers bring their A-games. Justin reigns in the nasal and Beverly hits a few highs on her own. What’s awesome is that they sound really great together! Justin gets an extra run in the end, but Beverly shows more range throughout her performance. It’s clear going forward that Xtina will push her team to its limits.

Winner: Beverly (Oh yeah! It was close, but she kicked ass!)

There just weren’t a ton of shockers tonight; I found myself agreeing with the coaches’ choices pretty much across the board. We have two more weeks of battle rounds to go and while the novelty of this show is wearing off, the substance of the performers should hopefully keep its audience coming back. I want to get angry and outraged, but there just isn’t reason to. Is this a good thing or a bad thing? Only time will tell.