Thoughts on The Voice Top 16: Team Blake vs. Team Xtina

April 16, 2012

Image edited from the original by Obie Fernandez via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

We are to the top 16 or “quarter finals” as it were. After weeks of blind auditions and battle rounds, it feels good to get to this point. Last week quite a few contestants I was rooting for either disappointed in the performances or got robbed in the voting results. One twist to tonight’s show is that one artist on each team will go home right at the end, which could maybe remove one of the weaker performers before the voters mess things up. Let’s see who will keep their hot streaks going, who will redeem themselves, and who will crash and burn.

Here are the contestants and team performances in order of their appearance on the show:

1. RaeLynn (Team Blake) – “She’s Country” Remember early on Idol last season when Scotty McCreery seemed to only perform songs with the word “country” in the title? RaeLynn is bringing back those unpleasant memories. At least this song with its big crescendo sound is a much better fit for RaeLynn’s growly twang. She also demonstrates decent breath control and has far fewer vocal flubs. That doesn’t mean the performance is free of mistakes. I wish she would have played it cooler in the verses so her shouty, stompy bits at the chorus would have been more earned. Nonetheless, despite all the boos I have thrown her way this season, this was actually pretty good.

2. Jesse Campbell (Team Xtina) – “Halo” Props for gender flipping, but gahhh I think this song is boring (and guess who wrote and produced the original.) This performance was off key for the whole first verse and the first part of the chorus. Jesse eventually found his voice and unleashed a cathartic burst which I think was meant to be an expression of love for his family. That’s not a problem, but it’s a pity his runs came off as bleary and self-indulgent. The one bright spot was when he changed keys a little towards the end. At that moment he was super genuine and into things. JC is professional, low key, and executes well, but I wish he would be more exciting.

3. Jordis Unga (Team Blake) – “Little Bit Stronger” And here comes the forced country-boxing. Did you expect any less from Chez Shelton? Jordis doesn’t blow a note for most of the performance (she shouldn’t, her hand was on her stomach to control her projection for most of the song.) She also dials it back and doesn’t oversing the song. This was a big change for her. I think she was supposed to be vulnerable, but this song was way too bland for a veteran power player like Jordis. The song didn’t go anywhere and failed to captivate me. What a bad song choice, Blake! Props for trying to make the best of a bad situation, Jordis.

4. Team Xtina ft. Crenshaw High School Choir – “Fighter” Ashley sounded tough. Jesse sounded whiny. Lindsey sounded anemic. Chris sounded competent. Christina sounded a little worse for the wear but she’s been banging this song out for more than ten years so I can imagine she’s a little tired of it, no matter how much it rocks.

5. Ashley De La Rosa (Team Xtina) – “Foolish Games” This was a miss for me. Ashley has a subtle build to her singing, right up to where the vaguely nu-metal backing track kicked in. Her stage presence was grounded and into the tone of the song. She also busted out a killer super-long wail right before the end. On the downside, as soon as the backing track kicked in, she sounded thin to the point of being unintelligible. The arrangement sucked too, but the blame lies on Christina there. Ashley might as well have performed a melodic rendition of Limp Bizkit’s “Rollin’ (Air Raid Vehicle).” Come to think of it, that would have been more entertaining.

6. Maroon 5 ft. Wiz Khalifa – “Pay Phone” This sounded like a tarted-up Five For Fighting song. The band appears to be going through the motions. I fail to hear anything passionate, catchy, or engaging in this track. The one redeeming spot was Wiz Khalifa’s verse. WK shows great, fast, and consistent flow during his time onstage. It’s a pity that verse was wasted on such bland beats. I’ll be skipping this when it comes on the radio.

7. Erin Willett (Team Blake) – “Set Fire To The Rain” Did we learn nothing from Kim Yarbrough’s downfall last week? Stop doing Adele songs, or at least do some deep cuts! Erin gives a good effort, though. She tries to really make use of the stage, sings on key and passionately, and forms a solid emotional connection with the song as seen through her facial expressions. That bittersweet smile at the end was a nice endpoint to the song. The problem was that the arrangement was too damn close to the original (a trance or dubstep mix might have been better), so Erin came off as an Adele simulacrum at best.

8. Lindsey Pavao (Team Xtina) – “Part Of Me” I’m all for risk taking, but I feel like Lindsey and Christina took a very punchy and fun Katy Perry song and turned it into a sludgy, grungy mess. They took a risk the wrong way. I think they should have done it more minimally to make it more emotional, or gone for an arrangement with churn for a more triumphant tone. Lindsey’s singing was uneven and frequently buried in the mix, especially as it started to get louder and faster. I wish she would belt more. She’s not commanding the stage like she used to. Vocally she’s doing the quirky yelp thing that contributed to Erin Martin getting sent home. I’m becoming less of a backer every time she gets onstage,

9. Team Blake – “Heartache Tonight” Jordis redeemed herself like whoa. RaeLynn’s stock fell like a college QB after a bad draft combine workout. Erin looked like she was actually having fun. Jermaine stole the show. Blake hung in the chorus like a backup singer, which is ok by me since he’s supposed to teach, not outshine.

10. Jermaine Paul (Team Blake) – “Against All Odds” Jermaine really turned around from last week, and on an otherwise nearly boring ballad. His singing was understated and deliberate, like he really got the desperation and fatalism in the song’s lyrics. He also knew when to turn on the soul wailing as the song built to its climax. Even the few flubs just made sense amongst all the emotion in the performance. His stage presence was solid and smoldering – a slow burn. Against all odds, (ba dum bum) Jermaine pulled out a winner with this one!

11. Chris Mann (Team Xtina) – “Viva La Vida” Props to Chris for picking more uptempo material. His projection was a little weak on the low notes in the chorus, but he really belted on the high notes and took off in the chorus. By the time the performance got to his final third, Chris was emoting with power and bitterness. He seemed to have an idea about how the build in the song undercuts the lyrics of failure. The performance was engaging enough that I was bopping along by the end, and I cannot say that about the Coldplay original. Nice turnaround, dude.

My Performance Ranking
1. Jermaine Paul
2. Chris Mann
3. RaeLynn
4. Erin Willett
5. Ashley De La Rosa
6. Jordis Unga
7. Jesse Campbell
8. Lindsey Pavao

The Sudden Losers
-Jesse Campbell (Team Xtina): Wow, the show just got way the hell more interesting! Jesse gave his best and was by no means a dick during his time on the show. It’s just that his low key sincerity was a better fit for Idol than the more urgent Voice, that’s all. The former producer’s chosen one will be fine.

-Jordis Unga (Team Blake): She gave the weakest performance of Team Blake, but I feel that it wasn’t her fault. She got robbed in the voting and got dealt a boring song and arrangement by her coach.


One comment

  1. […] it, with Adam Levine pointing out phrasing as a possible weak spot. It would ultimately see Erin in the bottom 2 with […]

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