Posts Tagged ‘Kelly Clarkson’

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Thoughts on The Voice: Battle Rounds Part 2

March 12, 2012

Image edited from original by KellBailey via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Last week’s battle rounds had too many ballads and not enough excitement. Let’s see if this show can produce some real carnage!

Extra Mentors:
Team Adam: Alanis Morissette and Robin Thicke
Team Blake: Kelly Clarkson and Miranda Lambert
Team Cee Lo: Babyface and Ne-Yo
Team Xtina: Jewel and Lionel Richie

Team Xtina: Geoff McBride vs. Sera Hill – “Chain of Fools”
While I’m a little disappointed that this show is going to the more old school soul that is Idol’s stock and trade, at least it’s upbeat and has a good brassy quality to it. It might lend itself to a more fun battle. Both competitors have the vocal power moves, so this match could go either way. This show feels like it’s trending towards more of a conventional reality show mix, so I predict a win from the younger, more charismatic Sera (plus she got a duet with Aguilera.) Then Geoff will take off his sunglasses and blow a hole through the ceiling. Scott Summers isn’t the only guy with that superpower, Lionel Richie.
The battle turns out to be quite the event. The opening harmony hook is spot on! Geoff and Sera go so well together. They both bring the acting chops as well. Sera goes at Geoff like she has no time to suffer a fool like him (check the head turns and hand raises) while Geoff bears down on Sera like he has taken down punks like her for decades (check the lunges and the removal of the glasses.) Despite their different ranges, damn they play off each other well! Both demonstrated fabulous vocal runs, though Sera fell apart a little at the end. Still, what a great start!
Winner: Sera (Fair! She gave a great performance, though I was rooting for Geoff. Also: Called it!)

Team Blake: Charlotte Sometimes vs. Lex Land – “Pumped Up Kicks”
This song will be a challenge both for its controversy-baiting school shooting lyrics and annoyingly flat and whiny vocals in the original song. It’s your basic indie shit. Who will make this bad song sound good? I predict a Charlotte win, because she got four turns in her audition and Blake will want another vote-puller on his team, whereas Lex is more of an underachieving underdog. That said, Charlotte came across as a bit of a passive-aggressive tool on TV (though I appreciate her sense of spectacle) and Lex has Miranda Lambert as her mentor along with the Kia endorsement.
Charlotte came out low and flat. To her credit she developed a bit of a range to go with her attitude. Lex came out low and mumbly. To her credit she tried to do a few runs on top of the whispering and kind of succeeded. Really the problem is that this is the wrong song for both singers. Charlotte has the punchy, deep vocals that might be better suited to Fiona Apple’s music, whereas Lex can rock the sparse and quirky, like maybe a Yael Naim tune.
Winner: Charlotte (Fair! Though I don’t care for her schtick, I can understand how her singing style will better win over a voting audience. Called it!)

Team Cee Lo: Sarah Golden vs. Juliet Sims – “Stay With Me”
Who can best convey the drunken pathos that is Rod Stewart? I predict a Juliet win, because her attitude and off-key vocal styles will jive better with Cee Lo, based on his past pick history. That said, I think Sarah is just overall a better singer so maybe she can snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Her down to earth singing style reminds me a little of Paul McDonald, who was like Rod Stewart part 2 last season on Idol.
This battle is a hot mess. Sarah is off-key and quickly overwhelmed. She also melts in the wake of Juliet’s more aggressive stage presence. Juliet in turn sounds like one of the shaggier tertiary Jim Henson creations, maybe one of Jareth’s goblins singing “Magic Dance.” At least she projected better against the music, so it was like listening to garbage in high definition audio.
Winner: Juliet (Fair! Nobody won that battle, so either pick would have been wrong for Cee Lo. Called It!)

Team Adam: Whitney Myer vs. Kim Yarbrough – “No More Drama”
This could be good. Mary J.’s music is quite vocally challenging, though I haven’t been able to sit through this particular song (Blige’s “Family Affair” is so much catchier.) I feel like both contestants displayed a lot of vocal chops, though their song choices undercut my appreciation. This should be more of the same, but an even fight! I can’t make a prediction.
Throughout the song, I feel like Kim is more in control of her performance. Her steady notes and understated stage presence force Whitney to pull out her crazy moves and unearned attitude. Whitney’s no slouch, and she gets by with quite a few cool vocal tricks. She also had more energy. When Kim finally does pull out the power vibrato 80% into the song, it turns the tide like a Critical Edge in Soul Calibur V. My initial reaction was “aw shit, now she’s pulling ahead!”
Winner: Kim (Yay! Her understated blaster strategy carried the day.)

Team Xtina: Lee Koch vs. Lindsey Pavao – “Heart-Shapred Box”
Ooh! We have a battle of the quirky set to some depressing-ass In Utero-era Nirvana. I predict a Lindsey win. She seems to have more investment in the material and might better be able to pull of the emoting necessary to convey this alternative classic. Meanwhile Lee’s twang sounds more like Kurt Cobain, especially when Cobain sang acoustic. Also, who in ‘94 could have predicted that Lionel Richie would be teaching a competitive singing contestant how to sing Nirvana?
To Lee’s credit, he did a great job of playing the understated, put-upon, and decaying everyman in his emoting and his sonorous singing. In turn, Lindsey’s quiet-loud vocal dynamics and purposeful off-kilter stage presence reminded me of the great Tori Amos, who annihilated Nirvana’s material back in the 90s. Also, check that slow-burning piano + drums backing track and unrelenting blue+green lighting. You aren’t gonna see shit like that on Idol!
Winner: Lindsey (Yay! Both singers nailed the notes and emotions, so either pick would have been right for Xtina. That said, I expect way more fun material from Lindsay in the live shows. Called it!)

Team Cee Lo: Jamar Rogers vs. Jamie Lono – “I Want To Know What Love Is”
Here we have another case of two great singers with impressive auditions having to sing a ballad I don’t care for, partially because it seems to go on and on and on (was “Cold As Ice” taken?) Who can cut through the histrionics with genuine emotion? I predict Jamar. His story likely jives better with the producers and quite frankly I think he can strike the balance between fun and empathy. Jamie’s another low-key guy with an acoustic guitar. He’ll have a tough mountain to climb.
Jamie seems to get 75% of the lead vocal parts, and he chokes like someone who bit off more than he could chew. Just by looking at his facial expression you can see how scared he looks and hear how off-key he sounds. Jamar plays the hand he’s dealt and kicks those held notes’ asses! What a power wail! What a stage presence! What a blowout!
Winner: Jamar (Yay! That was no contest. Called it!)

Overall I think this week’s battle rounds were a huge improvement over last week’s. The songs were overall more upbeat or just more engaging and I either supported or respected all of the picks. This was quite the turnaround.

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Thoughts on The Voice: Battle Rounds Part 1

March 6, 2012

Image edited from the original by me’nthedogs at Flickr

I apologize for the delay in this post. Things have been a little rough at my job and when I get home I’m not always in the mood to recap. Accordingly, I DVRed yesterday’s episode and am recapping it today. So the auditions are finally done. Let’s have a battle!

Guest Mentors:
Team Adam: Alanis Morissette and Robin Thicke (Canadians in the house!)
Team Blake: Kelly Clarkson (American Idol? REALITY SHOW DEFECTAH!) and Miranda Lambert (Awww and Nashville Star? REALITY SHOW DEFECTAH!)
Teem Cee Lo: Babyface and Ne-Yo
Team Xtina: Jewel (Platinum Hit and Nashville Star? REALITY SHOW DEFECTAH!) and Lionel Richie

Note: I’m happy to see that the boxing ring set is back. I also like the WWE walk-ons. If only the contestants got to do poorly written banter beforehand. [“Do ya smell what the RaeLynn’s cookin’?!’]

Team Adam: Tony Lucca vs. Chris Cauley – “Beautiful Day”
From a pure story perspective, Tony will likely win this battle because of his ex-Mickey Mouse Club story. This U2 smash could be a challenge because of the understated quality of the verses and the big sustained, yet muted belting in the chorus. Who will be more messianic?
These two guys start out eerily alike until Tony compacts into itself like he’s desperately trying to stifle a yawn at church and Chris starts to foolishly emote like he’s singing alone in the car. You have to be open and cathartic with a song like this. I can relate to that. It turns out he can hit his notes a lot better than Tony. Tony flubbed his opening notes and belted quite abrasively, erasing what goodwill I had for him going into this episode.
Winner: Tony (Boo! Also: Called it!)

Team Blake: Adley Stump vs. RaeLynn – “Free Fallin’”
Based on past choices, I predict Blake will pick RaeLynn because of her upbeat personality and overall green quality (basically a twangy Xenia.) To me this Tom Petty classic seems to be more about evoking imagery in the singing than pure vocal prowess. Hopefully these contestants won’t overdo it on the chorus.
RaeLynn comes out the gate way too hard and ends up sounding off-key and forcibly twangy. By contrast, Adley does a quiet-loud thing that reminds me of Melissa Ethridge. Her approach sounds more like some saloon torch ballad, which works for me. I give both contestants props for not overdoing it on the chorus, but they harmonize like ass.
Winner: RaeLynn (Boo! Also: Called it!)

Team Xtina: Chris Mann vs. Monique Benabou – “The Power of Love”
I wish these contestants were singing Huey Lewis and the News, but nope, it’s Celine Dion. This has “recital” written all over it. Brace yourself for a lot of vocal pyrotechnics. This could be close. Supertechnical Chris could court the lite pop Josh Groban demographic whereas Monique has the better “a raw beginner can be a winner” story, which might be more palatable to a TV producer. The montage had them on equal talent footing.
I think Monique sounded a little buried in the mix. That or her naturally softer voice fit better into the backing music. Chris’s tenor cut more into the mix, which got my attention but felt somewhat annoying. Technically both singers were spot on and did a really good job harmonizing with one another. My only criticism outside of not liking the song was that for a song about the power and passion one feels with a lover, both singers seemed to be more about selling the song than conveying true heart-bursting emotion. Eh, if you’re gonna oversing, oversing to Celine.
Winner: Chris (Yay! Monique was good too. She would have gotten a yay as well.)

Team Cee Lo: Cheesa vs. Angie Johnson – “Total Eclipse of the Heart”
Cheesa and Angie each have the raw power, but Angie has the devil-may-care sense of fun that might better endear her to Cee Lo. While this song is also a schlockly ballad mess, it has the built-in theatricality that can win over curmudgeons like me (Kathy and I have this song in Rock Band.) It’s also written as a duet, so these contestants will really have to play their parts.
In the slow build into, Cheesa has the clear advantage with the lower key, but as the song builds in its intensity Angie gradually comes into her element. This was another even match as neither contestant seemed to really waver, be it on the harmonizing, the power belting, and the emotional low intro. It’s a fight to the end.
Winner: Cheesa (OK! Cheesa really brought her A-Game to the song and deserved to win, but honestly I was rooting for Angie.)

Team Blake: Jordis Unga vs. Brian Fuente – “Ironic”
So we’re seeing a lot of slower, quiet-loud songs today. “Ironic” is a good song, but come on, can’t we do some INXS? Oh wait, then Jordis might be a little too familiar with the material. Seriously, I would like to see something more uptempo in the battle rounds. At least this Alanis hit has a great singalong quality. Nail those lyrics, kids!
Jordis kicks things off faithfully, then one line in gets bored and starts doing vocal runs just to get in Brian’s head. When his verse comes up, he tries to match Jordis’s power belting, but his range is too limited. On the chorus, Jordis sings herself into a corner, but it’s an energetic corner of goodness. Brian has a little more contour in his singing, but he can only do so well. This was another song that called for domination and Jordis conquered!
Winner: Jordis (Yay! Brian got maybe 5 seconds in the audition episodes. He was cannon fodder from the start. Also, Jordis tried a lot harder.)

Team Xtina: Anthony Evans vs. Jesse Campbell – “If I Ain’t Got You”
I’m tired of this song, and that’s entirely because of its overexposure back in ’03 and for its status as Idol audition staple. This song is slow and has lots of emotional belty parts over sparse accompaniment. I predict a lot of hard charging. I predict a Jesse win because he got 4 turns in 4 seconds back in the audition rounds. It would be hard to turn that kind of in-demand singer down. Who will make the dogs howl?
How do they differentiate? Anthony goes for the playful approach, with lots of cute hand motions and understated singing. Jesse goes for the professional power approach, with effortless belting that slashes through the music like a katana. Vocally Jesse was tops, as his voice was naturally more commanding. However, you had a sense that Anthony was trying a lot harder. When he came forward on the second chorus, holding onto that note like it was a life preserver, I could feel the conviction and that really resonated with me.
Winner: Jesse (Boo! I mean, yeah, he sang better, but it was singing with natural effort. Anthony sang well too and he tried way, way harder.)

So this wasn’t the best start for this round of the show. There were too many ballads and I was ok with maybe half of the winners. Still, with 36 contestants still up in the air a lot can happen.

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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 8: Elimination

April 14, 2011

Steven Tyler is actually dressed as a real, adult human. Meanwhile Seacrest is splitting the difference between his signature mussed up hairstyle and his bad “mommy dressed me” comb-forward from a few weeks ago.

We’re back to “group” songs….

There are no medleys!

Lauren & Scotty – “They Can Only Duet Together”

Scotty kicks things off in an off-key fashion. It’s not the monitors’ fault, because Lauren sounds fine. Hey Scotty, you see how Lauren holds the microphone? Like a regular person? Hand gripped around the cylindrical part, below the meshy bit? Try to do that instead of holding it like a piccolo, so delicate it might break apart in your vice-like grip. It’s probably your most annoying tick, even more annoying than the George W. Bushisms.

Ford Music Video – “Animal”

Jacob has a great yelp. Like a mildly startled puppy. I wish zombie James would take a bite out of Paul.

Haley & Casey – “Moanin’”

Holy shit! I think we found a style for Haley. Her growly voice has the potential to really nail the classic jazz even more than she when she worked that Janis Joplin song. She just has to practice scatting a little bit and she could burn the house down! Meanwhile I have no problem with Casey. He’s in his comfort zone here. This was a good performance. It was a little rough and their voices don’t really go together, but individually they’re hot! Yes, both of them!

Rob Reiner’s Advice about Songs from Movies

Though I doubt most of the contestants have seen his movies (other than James with This Is Spinal Tap), Rob Reiner did his best under the circumstances. He even namedropped From Justin To Kelly.

Jason Aldean ft. Kelly Clarkson – “Don’t You Wanna Stay?”

I don’t know much about country music, but I found this song to be pretty nice. Aldean and Clarkson sound great together. Clarkson still sounds crazy powerful after 10 years in the game and Aldean plays it casual with some emotion. The performance was genuine, but everyone involved exuded effortless excellence.

James, Jacob, Stefano, and Paul – “Sounds of Silence/Mrs. Robinson”

Once again, the guys can’t harmonize with each other, even though Jacob is in the mix now. Too many power singers, not enough team players. Things get a little better when the song shifts to “Mrs. Robinson,” but only because they take turns instead of trying to sing together.

Rihanna – “California King Bed”

Wow! What a big set! Like week 1 casualty Ashthon Jones, Rihanna has all the diva trappings (right down to the big hair) without the diva pipes. This is ostensibly a power ballad and power ballads require vocal pyrotechnics. This kind of song would be better served by Kelly Rowland or Fergie, both of whom have proven their vocal prowess. Rihanna is much better as a dance diva. Pair her up with Kanye West or Max Martin and back her attitude and stage presence up with a little vocal processing and she delivers pop magic! Kathy and I are still Team Ri-Ri, but she does not do live performance that well.

Bottom 3 (Announced in 2 rounds)

  1. Haley Reinhart (Yeah, her performance last night was a disaster. Too bad she didn’t sing what she just sang last night.)
  2. Stefano Langone (They should call him Meh-fano because I’m always underwhelmed.)
  3. Paul McDonald (This is what happens when you pregame before you sing. Friends don’t let friends sing drunk.)

And Paul is out! He went first and delivered one of his worst performances this season, so it’s fair that he gets the boot, but after Naima’s elimination he was one of the two most interesting contestants left on the show. After the announcement Seacrest calls him “the life of the party,” probably because he was the booze and weed hookup backstage. Paul just seemed more comfortable with a band and a beer. I hope he finds success with his band and free from Jimmy Iovine’s assholery. Stefano needs to go home. Who is voting for this guy? Clones of Stefano kept in a secret government bunker somewhere, strategically deployed only in times of need; those times of need being keeping an entirely underwhelming performer on a televised singing competition? I think so, no wonder we’re four trillion in debt; those little Stefanos don’t come cheap, let me tell you.

Note: If I go missing under suspicious circumstances within the next week you’ll know why: I’ve uncovered the great conspiracy and forces greater than me want to keep this hushed up.