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Thoughts on The Voice: Audition Round 1

February 6, 2012

Image from yi on Flickr, used under Creative Commons license

When The Voice premiered last April, I did not expect it to become a sensation since:
-It was on NBC, which has been a 4th place network for awhile and
-It was a music competition show when multiple other music competition shows were on, including America’s Got Talent, Platinum Hit, and the 800 lb gorilla that is American Idol (which I will be covering once it announces its top 24.)

However, The Voice quickly differentiated itself. It had gimmicks that were interesting or weird including the blind auditions with Bond-villain rotating chairs and duet elimination rounds in a boxing ring. It focused on current music trends more than its competition, to the point where Top 16 contestant Raquel Castro was singing Ke$ha’s “Blow,” complete with backup dancers. It had judges who were somewhat active in making pop music.

Ultimately a competition show is only as good as its contestants, and The Voice delivered. Its top tier contestants were both diverse and competent. Three of its top four singers (Beverly McClellan, Vicci Martinez, and Dia Frampton) were women and the one guy (Javier Colon) was a person of color. Of course he took the whole thing with his somewhat boring acoustic balladeering, but unlike American Idol’s last 4 winners, he seemed at least competent at performing.

Seven months later we’re at the start of a new season. All four coaches are back as is the host. What remains to be seen is whether the show can remain entertaining if the gimmicks are no longer new and whether the contestant slate can remain diverse and interesting or if it will fall into a bland mix of archetypes.

The last point is especially concerning since each coach must pick a team. It’s perfectly logical that since a high-voiced guy with an acoustic guitar won season one, a whole bunch would come out of the woodwork and each coach would want to have one on his or her roster.

Let’s get to it….

-With success comes a longer show run, so each coach gets 12 contestants instead of 8. Uh oh. I hope I don’t get tired of the show like I get with Idol. On the plus side, maybe the good contestants will get more time to really benefit from the coaches’ guidance.

-We’re off to an ominous start with RaeLynn, an aw shucks farm girl Lauren Alaina clone. She’s also singing a song by the spouse of a coach. As far as song choice goes, “Hell On Heels” is way more fun than “I Don’t Wanna Miss A Thing.” It’s a pity that Rae never learned to sing from her gut. She’s burned her throat out crashing that song and still got 2 chair turns. At least Blake Shelton had a sense of humor about the whole thing. Let’s just hope he doesn’t make RaeLynn this season’s Xenia – an underachieving teen who gets by on misguided patronage.

-Jesse Campbell does some high-voice plinky plinky piano ballad thing and within 3 notes he gets 3 chair turns. For once I agree with Blake in taking things slowly. Vocal-wise this contestant was soaring, but, eh, I was underwhelmed with his music choice. Hopefully Christina Aguilera can turn him into someone fun.

-During the weaker auditions, the entertainment becomes watching the coaches squirm and grimace like they have to go to the bathroom. Hold it in, Adam!

-Juliet Sims bleated like a sheep, but it was enough to turn two chairs. Adam called her voice gruff. She has some potential, but it may take some guidance to bring it out. Christina kept on interrupting Adam’s pitch by calling him a used car salesman with little feet. It was pretty funny. When Juliet went with Cee Lo Green, Adam gave her a look that said “I’ll have you killed.” It was pretty funny.

-Chris Mann’s audition was very impressive, going with the deeper operatic style, but I wonder how it will translate to the pop-oriented Voice. Once again I agreed with Blake’s hesitance. This is not a good sign. However, when Christina turned her chair it made sense. She totally sang that kind of heavy slow song in the late 90s – the kind that ended up in the credits to Disney animated movies. Too bad they make those anymore, Chris. Also, there can be only one Josh Groban.

-Tony Lucca: OK story, but I take one look at him and…bleh. I was tired of acoustic guitar guys like this on Idol. But sound wise he’s like Javier, and the arms race is on…. Oh well, at least by not mentioning their past, Christina may have tipped us off that the coaches aren’t fed contestant story info ahead of time, so they aren’t influenced by sob stories or other non-musical factors. It’s still cool that someone fed her the info afterward so they got to have a little moment afterward.

So to summarize the first round of contestants:
-Lauren Alaina MK II
-The first move in the Javier Colon clone wars (Co-lone Wars?)
-Bleaty bleat bleat
-You’re not Josh Groban
-Another acoustic guitar-playing white guy or a Mickey Mouse Club alum out for blood?

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