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Thoughts On The Voice: Top 16 Part 2 – Team Adam vs. Team Cee Lo + Elimination

June 15, 2011

“Let’s get on with it,” says Carson Daly at the start of the show. We have a bit of a Time Crisis here, since the show has to cram a competition portion and a results portion into the same 2 hour block. Can everyone involved shoot through the filler to get everything in on time?

Team Xtina Bottom 3

  1. Lily Elise (No poise, no control, no fun)
  2. Raquel Castro (Needs to get a few more experiences and some vocal power)
  3. Frenchie Davis (She held her own against a Kelly Rowland song. Need I say more?)

Beverly wins the popular vote (good for her, she totally deserved it), while Frenchie takes Christina’s vote. Both winning women are proven performers with lots of experience. We’re off to a great start!

Tori and Taylor Thompson – “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”

The teen creepshow is up first. Also, did Cee Lo just find a song that’s too old for Idol? It’s Flag Day, so I guess that excuses the song choice (though you can hear the acid in Daly’s voice as he sarcastically yells “HAPPY FLAG DAY EVERYONE!” at the end of the song.) Jonathan Taylor Thomas sings almost entirely in harmony with rarely a solo moment for either sister. I suppose that plays to their strengths and the hooks of their audition, but frankly I wasn’t impressed with their harmonizing. The spectacle, as catchy as it was with its WWII aesthetics and troupe of dancing bugle boys, failed to cover up the mediocrity. Also, Christina rightly calls Cee Lo out for ripping off her “Candyman” video (which was a lot better both musically and stylistically).

Casey Weston – “Black Horse And The Cherry Tree”

Katherine McPhee rode this song to a runner-up spot in Season 5 of Idol, plus it’s damn catchy. As over the top as the arrangement was, Casey held her own and never got overshadowed up by the backup singers, trashcan drumline, or pushy harmonica. I say this because I feel like some of these contestants would have choked like LeBron James on a song like this. My only criticisms are that Casey should have been more at the forefront and that she brought out the belting way too early in the song. Otherwise it was pretty good.

Vicci Martinez – “Jolene”

Right at the start, Vicci uses her smoky voice to lend a dusty, emotional quality to this country heartbreaker. Even when the percussion kicks in and the performance gets closer to a Stevie Nicks parody, Vicci stays in control and maintains the tired desperation in the performance. When she finally goes for the power note, it feels earned because of her vocal buildup. Yes, there was an actual buildup! Overall the arrangement was herky-jerky, but Vicci’s singing was impeccable. Go Vicci!

Devon Barley – “Stop And Stare”

Fuck Ryan Tedder! I expected the performance to be boring before Devon sang a note and bless his heart he met my expectations. It’s not that his singing was shitty, it was mediocre. The very sound of his voice didn’t fit the big pop rock arrangement. The coaches say Devon has a strong vocal but to me it sounds heavy and awkward like a lead balloon. I don’t expect Adam to make Devon start singing slacker songs from bands like Dinosaur Jr, but fuck he was out of his league. Go back to med school, Dr. Dumpy.

Team Cee Lo – “Everyday People”

Remember, this is team Cee Lo, so the performance is a colorful retro spectacle. All of the contestants are playing instruments, there are hippie backup dancers, and Cee Lo is wearing a poncho and afro wig. It’s like Cirque du Soleil doing a Sly and the Family Stone show. The only downer is Curtis, whose drawl is a non-entity is this brassy bacchanal.

Nakia – “Sex On Fire”

Two straight weeks of Kings Of Leon? There’s a lot of empty space in the song, so Nakia has plenty of time to build up his voice for a series of concussive bursts of his signature blues wail. He really makes use of the stage and has great sense of showmanship, dropping to the floor like James Brown towards the end of the piece. The nature of the song may have been too easy for Nakia, and I get this feeling that he’s going to be in the producer-ordained top 4 regardless of actual talent, but he did a good job.

Jeff Jenkins – “Jesus Take The Wheel”

ZZZZZZZ. The verse of the song is equal parts Haley Reinhart mush mouth and Awkward Teen from The Simpsons. When the chorus kicks in and Jeff finally gets some power notes, he sounds as off key as an average congregant singing in a Catholic mass. In other words, Jesus Take the Autotune.

Team Adam – “With A Little Help From My Friends”

The church theme continues with the organ, high school gospel choir, and stained glass backdrop. The choir feels like cheating to me, as each singer, including Adam, gets maybe 3 seconds of solo time. Then Javier gets a second go at a solo and kicks his team’s collective ass with some vocal pyrotechnics. It was the highlight of a meh performance.

Curtis Grimes – “Addicted To Love”

Ah now we have some “risk-taking.” OMG he’s a country musician doing a rock song! Did your mind just get blown? Cee Lo’s gamble fails horribly as Curtis melts into a sloppy pile of baritone slush. The audience then has to listen to that slush for another 90 seconds. Scotty McCreery was 2/3rds this guy’s age and had 2/3rds more singing ability.

Javier Colon – “Angel”

This was a poor song choice, Adam. It was sweet and inspirational in the late 90s, but then there was that commercial with the dogs (oh man, the dogs.) So Javier has that against him going into the performance. It’s a good thing that he’s one of the better singers in the competition, as he nails most of the notes and adds about 200 more notes of vocal runs like they’re so much noodling. Objectively it was solid, but it was just no fun.

And for the conclusion of the elimination sandwich.

Team Blake Bottom 3

  1. Jared Blake (A good heart, a great spirit, a meh voice)
  2. Xenia (Too damn green)
  3. Patrick Thomas (Boring at best, shaky at worst)

Dia takes the popular vote, which rocks. Like Frenchie, Dia also has lots of experience from her days in Meg & Dia, and her “Heartless” cover had enough originality and emotion to make her mark on the show. Xenia takes Blake’s vote, which, what the fuck dude? I give the show props for having women make up at least half of the top 8, but Xenia is as stiff and awkward as a Michael Cera archetype played by Thia Megia.

I’m starting to get annoyed with this show. Most of the coaches’ song choices were stale, many of the contestants’ voices were wanting, the visuals were ridiculous (see: the very literal screen background for “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,”) and the coaches are still too damn nice when they should be doing actual coaching. I do appreciate that they cram the whole process into one episode, so it has not bloated to the point of the Idol dinosaur. I’m starting to come around to Carson Daly and the sheer contempt he has for the show and everyone involved. He’s much better sarcastic and bitter than wooden.

Top 3

  1. Vicci Martinez
  2. Casey Weston
  3. Javier Colon

Bottom 3

  1. Curtis Grimes
  2. Jeff Jenkins
  3. Devon Barley
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