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Thoughts On The Voice: Final Part 1 – Competition!

June 28, 2011

Voice Coaches – “Under Pressure”

That was the laziest Queen cover ever. Adam Levine chickened out on the high notes, Cee Lo was melodically talking, Christina did the same old cannon moves, and Blake seemed like the only one who was trying, so….not a good sign. If Freddie Mercury wasn’t cremated, he would be rolling over in his grave so fast he could provide power to all ofLondonfor the rest of the year.

 

After laying out the agenda of the show, Carson Daly proceeds to ask the contestants the most obvious and inane questions. “How will you perform an original song, Dia?” Not that Seacrest wouldn’t have done the same thing in that position, but Seacrest isn’t equal parts oak and contempt. The highlight of the opening Q&A round was Daly’s little dig at his TRL past.

 

An Aside

Oh v-correspondent Alison Haislip, I should question your role on the show, but in this economy everyone needs a job. Let’s get five v-correspondents next season, NBC! It’s not like the current administration is going to bring back the Works Progress Administration

 

Javier Colon – “Stitch By Stitch”

Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins is the producer for Javier’s original song. Dude has been all over the TV lately from Idol to Platinum Hit to The Voice. This track is yawn-inducing acoustic guitar-pop rock that wouldn’t sound out of place in the mid-to-late 2000s from Josh Kelly, Daniel Powter, and/or Ryan Cabrera. As for the singing Javier is competent, but his belting is bleary, unfocused, and maybe a little drunken. Javier seems like a decent singer and all-around dude, but the kind of music he makes does not interest me.

 

Dia Frampton and Blake Shelton – “I Won’t Back Down”

It’s pretty cool that both Dia and Blake are wearing matching suits and sunglasses. It’s a little dorky, but it’s cute. Musically I thought the performance was decent. The Tom Petty original is pretty catchy, the house band executed well, and both Dia and Blake sang competently, if maybe a little melodramatic. Then again, melodrama fits the song’s theme of defiance, so it’s all good.

 

Vicci Martinez – “Afraid To Sleep”

Butch Walker of Marvelous 3 is on the boards for Vicci’s original. Also it’s weird to see Cee Lo without sunglasses. Kathy says he has pretty eyes. For the performance Vicci goes full on Bonnie Tyler with the smoky floor and lilting piano intro. When the rock guitars, string section and backup singers kick in for the big chorus, I feel like Jon Bon Jovi could have sung this song in 1986. The power ballad format suits Vicci well though. The quiet-loud contour of the song gives Vicci great solo moments and allows her tiny spaces of subtlety before she unleashes her power yell. Again, it’s not my jam, but Vicci was true and fabulous. Respect.

 

Pitbull & Ne-Yo – “Give Me Everything”

I think I saw these guys perform this song on Dancing With The Stars, and they had sound problems then. This time both guys are at the right volume level, but I couldn’t hear the hot dance backing track. At least neither Pitbull nor Ne-Yo was lip-synching. I reiterate that Pitbull was born to rap hip-house, while Ne-Yo is the consummate cool professional right down to the hat.

 

Beverly McClellan and Christina Aguilera – “Beautiful”

So Linda Perry, who wrote what is arguably the most important Xtina song, is in the studio for the practice round and onstage for the performance. That has to be really cool for Beverly, to perform with both Perry and Aguilera on national TV. She rises to the occasionally, singing a few runs while remaining understated, knocking a good wail, and harmonizing beautifully with Christina. Ms. Aguilera in turn shares the spotlight graciously and backsBeverlyup surprisingly well, though she does get the last run. It is her song.

 

Dia Frampton – “Inventing Shadows”

For the original song practice montage, Dia makes a slight allusion to her Meg and Dia past, but then quickly moves away from it. Dia’s soft alto is solid and warm. She sings with moderate power and great passion, so I’m good with her. Musically I’m not surprised that the writer had written for Adele and Keane, as the music has piano-driven crescendos and Coldplay-esque smash drumming – hallmarks of ultra-successful British adult contemporary pop. Props to Dia, Blake and their support team for going with what will sell.

 

Javier Colon and Adam Levine – “Man In The Mirror”

I am so sick of this song. You guys couldn’t have done “Beat It?” Javier makes Adam pay for poor song choice by showing him up on the performance. This song is so heavy on the high twinkly keyboards that it swallows Adam’s falsetto on the verses. Javier goes for a lower key and actually sounds good. For the chorus the two guys sound pretty good together. Quite frankly the performance could have gone a lot worse and that speaks to the caliber of this show’s performers compared to their Idol counterparts (remember, this was performed twice on the other show.)

 

Brad Paisley – “Don’t Drink The Water”

Brad Paisley delivers a travel warning wrapped up in a cute, silly blues-country package. Blake Shelton suddenly gets up from his coach chair to sing the second verse. He even dorks it up by playing air guitar while Paisley kicks out a neat guitar solo. It’s a nice moment in an otherwise merely solid song.

 

Beverly McClellan – “Love Sick”

It’s probably best thatBeverlyis the last to perform her original, because she knocks out the catchiest of the four performances. The verses are Kiss/Van Halen stomp rock, the chorus is soaring Fountains Of Wayne power pop, and the piano bridge is more of that hot soul, complete with more Little Richard WOOOOOOOOOO!s It’s very clear why Beverly jived with Christina, because she does tons of vocal runs and power belts, and she just commands the stage without being cloying. In other words, this was pop singing as virtuosity. This was the best of the night.

 

Vicci Martinez and Cee Lo Green – “Love Is A Battlefield”

Of course Cee Lo closes things dressed like a WWE wrestler. Vicci sees Cee Lo’s WWE and raises him a “Tina Turner in Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome” ensemble. It was pretty fun performance. Both Vicci and Cee Lo have great and unique singing styles and they really get into the music. The childrens breaker ensemble was a nice homage to the video of the Pat Benatar original. It was a great way to end the night.

 

Tonight was very entertaining. Compared to the Idol final, tonight’s show left me feeling much less impatient about the proceedings. I attribute this feeling to several factors:

  • A diverse slate of contestants who all deserve props for their talents
  • A set of judges willing to put some skin in the game (and on the stage)
  • More fun song choices (at least for the covers)

I won’t be heading to the newly announced Voice tour (especially since the coaches won’t be on the bill), but I’m still pleased with how this show has turned out. It has been more engaging than annoying, which is as good a compliment as I can pay a music competition show.

 

Ranking

  1. Beverly McClellan
  2. Vicci Martinez
  3. Dia Frampton
  4. Javier Colon
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