Posts Tagged ‘Mathai’

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Thoughts on The Voice Top 16: Team Adam vs. Team Cee-Lo Voting Results

April 24, 2012

Image edited from original by Mike Licht, Notionscapital.com via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Last night’s Voice was a disappointment. There were too many slow songs and underwhelming performances. Other than a few upset performances from contestants I was rooting against up until now, the bright spots were the sudden eliminations of Pip and James Massone. Let’s see who else has to stop appearing on my TV.

Here is the guest musical performance….

Florence and the Machine – “No Light No Light” I haven’t been too keen on the music from Ms. Welch and co. (too square and stuffy), but this sounds pretty cool. There’s darkness and urgency here and I can get behind that. Flo’s no slouch on the mic either. She rocks hot power belts all over the place and that note hold towards the end was killer! Nice booking, Voice!

Now for the vetted teams….

Team Adam
1. Tony Lucca: He won the vote because he’s starting to reconcile his crazy backstory and halfway decent singing ability. He shouldn’t take himself too seriously. Also, he shouldn’t preen. Preening dropped Pip and it will drop him.

2. Katrina Parker (Adam save): She’s hot in a sparse arrangement or crazy vocal run but cold when singing against the big sounds. I feel cooler with her than I do with Tony, but I wish her straight up singing was stronger.

Team Cee-Lo
1. Jamar Rogers: I’ve been cool with this guy up until now, but he must try to have more fun. If he’s the predicted winner for this season, then his march to victory should be as engaging and entertaining as possible.

2. Juliet Sims (Cee-Lo save): During her desperation song, her vibrato was bleaty like a goat. But other than that mistake, she was at her best this week. Juliet picks decent songs, but is only just now figuring out how to sing them. That makes me uneasy.

The One-Name Losers
– Mathai: I’ve been watching too many of these shows. I say this because this was the reaction I had to her desperation song: “She’s talented, but so inconsistent. She’s all over the place and can’t decide on a performance style.” It was even in the voice of Randy Jackson. By the end of Mathai’s run her performances were getting annoying.

– Cheesa: She demonstrated some of the strongest singing of the top 16 and she had the power stances down pat. If she won it would be a validation of the show’s emphasis on vocal abilities. So why didn’t she move forward? I respected her performances, but other than “Don’t Leave Me This Way” I didn’t like them. Perhaps the voting audience felt the same way? Regardless, I felt she got robbed in the Cee-Lo pick.

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Thoughts on The Voice Top 16: Team Adam vs. Team Cee-Lo

April 23, 2012

Image edited from the original by Scott Beale via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

The quarter finals continue tonight, Voice fans! On teams Blake and Xtina, some of the probable winners unexpectedly choked and were sent packing before the voters could save them, making the show way more interesting. Will we see similar upsets happen to the shoo-ins on Teams Adam and Cee-Lo? Let’s see….

Here are the contestants in order of their appearance on the show.

1. Jamar Rogers (Team Cee-Lo) – “It’s My Life” Whoever decided to run this song in half time made a bad call. The sludgy beats alone made the song feel plodding. Even though Jamar sang pretty well and with a surprising amount of restraint (for him,) the bad arrangement made me anxious. His stage presence was solid, blue collar emotion, but the bad arrangement undercut it. So far Jamar has been at his best on songs that rock hard and never let up. This could have been one of those songs, but it came out boring. It was good and Jamar executed well, but this early on in the show I just wasn’t feeling it. It’s not his fault.

2. Katrina Parker (Team Adam) – “Jar of Hearts” This song choice seemed fairly predictable for me. Katrina went for the time-honored practice of singing against a sparse piano in order to give her voice maximum wiggle room. As a result, I kind of felt like she was going though the motions. To me she started out strong but got lukewarm about halfway into the piece. It’s not that she was coasting, for she seemed committed to beaming the song out until the end, but the end result felt flat. It was a solid effort.

3. Team Cee-Lo – “Dancing In The Street” Juliet fell flat. Cheesa oversang. Jamar held his own. James sounds good on this kind of song (though Kathy noted that he gave off quite the Mickey Mouse Club vibe.) Cee-Lo dominated the proceedings in terms of execution and mic time. Carson Daly gave a “tribute” to Dick Clark that felt more like a poor-taste parody.

4. Mathai (Team Adam) – “I’m Like A Bird” Mathai actually had a solid performance with this song. She felt mostly on key and used her vibrato to fit the quirky tone of the song. However, after a few more neat vocal runs her voice did a weird vocal shift that was both too high and too low and by the end Mathai was singing like Danny Elfman on a bad day. Also I wasn’t quite feeling her hamming it up in the stiff way she did. I saw Nelly Furtado live at the peak of that song’s popularity (summer 2001), and when she hammed it up she bounced around like an athlete. It was fun instead of awkward like Mathai’s stage presence.

5. James Massone (Team Cee-Lo) – “Just The Way You Are” I don’t know where to begin. The musical arrangement was incredibly dated and cheesy with its anemic drumming and stale keyboards. The persistent saxophone just took it over the top. Meanwhile James tried to go for the teen idol thing with his varsity jacket and singing to some girl with a chaste distance. He wasn’t just singing on the Mickey Mouse Club, he took things right back to the Annette Funicello era. Billy Joel couldn’t have sounded this ersatz.

6. Goodie Mob – “Fight To Win” OK, where did these guys get their costumes – from Madonna’s halftime show this past Super Bowl or from The Black Eyed Peas halftime show from the Super Bowl the year before? Also, it’s clear that any group dynamic this group once had has been obliterated by Cee-Lo’s individual star power. The other guys in the barely got any mic time. I expected to hear some solid Southern hip-hop that had Cee-Lo’s voice as one part of the appeal. The beatless, indulgent classic rock arrangement felt like so much wankery from the Lady Killer. Hopefully this isn’t indicative of future material these guys come out with.

7. Tony Lucca (Team Adam) – “Baby One More Time” Hey! Speaking of the Mickey Mouse Club, Adam and Tony take the audience to Metatown on this Britney cover. It had kind of a bluesy feel, almost like if it were covered by Tracy Chapman or the Black Crowes. Tony performed rather well here. He had some good wailing that was on-key and tonally appropriate. He also dialed things back for the verses and amped things up on the build to the chorus, which is evidence of great control. In my opinion, the is the best performance Tony has given since the audition.

8. Cheesa (Team Cee-Lo) – “I Have Nothing” I thought that this might happen. To be fair, Cheesa carried this song way, way better than Shannon Magrane did back in Whitney/Stevie week on Idol. She had some fabulous power belting at quite a few key moments throughout the song. This song just feels so overdone that what little emotion Cheesa showed in the performance was quickly negated by the song’s depressing arrangement and trite nature. This was so much pageantry, and just because Cheesa comes from that background doesn’t mean she should do throwbacks to that era. Zzzzzz….

9. Pip (Team Adam) – “Somewhere Only We Know” On paper this is a good song choice for Pip. The original has a sweet, lilting, emotional quality that makes me well up inside even though it’s supposedly whiny wuss rock. It’s both soft and urgent. Pip’s performance was neither. His stage presence was preening like a Glee-era high school show choir, which is not how he should have conveyed the vulnerability in the lyrics. Meanwhile his singing was ass from beginning to end. On the soft intro he went low on each of his phrases way too early, resulting in an off-key sound. He blew a lot of the big notes in the middle and end which just annihilated any speck of emotion that was standing after those stage moves. What a waste!

10. Team Adam – “Instant Karma” Mathai redeemed herself quite nicely. Katrina seemed a little lost. Tony was a bit flat. Pip phoned his performance in and still managed to be the second best singer on the stage. Adam stuck to playing the drums and didn’t sing at all, which (like Blake last week) was pretty cool since it’s his job to coach and not dominate. Take note, Cee-Lo Green.

11. Juliet Sims (Team Cee-Lo) – “Cryin’” There have been too many ballad performances tonight. That said, Juliet managed to find that balance between her powerful growl and the musicality necessary to win a show like this. For once she found the notes and it was good. She still held on to her power and desperation from past performances. For a 90s-era Aerosmith song, you need to have a little bittersweet desperation to convey the song’s intent. The big solo note about two-thirds in was super flat, but otherwise this was her best performance this season. Way to turn things around!

My Performance Ranking
1. Tony Lucca
2. Juliet Sims
3. Jamar Rogers
4. Mathai
5. Cheesa
6. Katrina Parker
7. James Massone
8. Pip

The Sudden Losers
• James Massone (Team Cee-Lo): Poor little guy! He started off so promising with his R&B pop performances. Then he tried to go the slow song route and made musical Velveeta. If he stays with music, he should stick to what he likes and what he’s good at. The ladies will come later, bro.

• Pip (Team Adam): Pip had some potential with his sense of showmanship and dynamic raw singing ability. It’s just a shame that he displayed the charisma of an annoying theater kid (and this is coming from a former annoying theater kid) and couldn’t even keep his pipes in tune. Let’s give him three cheers: Pip! Pip! See Ya!

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Thoughts on The Voice Top 24: Team Adam vs. Team Cee-Lo Voting Results

April 10, 2012

Image edited from original by Mike Licht, Notionscapital.com via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Last night’s Voice was quite the scattershot show. One side was the steady Team Adam who delivered a range of fairly decent to below-average performances, with one contestant ending up in my bottom 3. One the other side was the all-over-the-place Team Cee-Lo, who had three contestants in my top 3 and two contestants in my bottom 3. Let’s see who moves on to the top 16.

Here is the guest musical performance:
– Jessie J – “Domino” So British Katy Perry is a coach on Voice U.K., huh? Well, at least she sings with real backup singers instead of a pre-recorded vocal track, unlike a lot of dance pop guests on shows like this. On the other hand, when Jessie J did sing solo she seemed either uncomfortable or uncommitted. Good thing she regained her composure when the chorus came on. Also, I think this song is pretty catchy. If her first radio single was this track instead of that horrendous “Price Tag” song, I might have given her a chance early on.

Now for the vetted teams….

Team Adam
1. Mathai: Her balladeering is like tissue paper. She should stick to the punchier tracks.
2. Tony Lucca: I admit this guy has a “story” and all, but yeesh, he should at least try to sing songs in his range (and try to sing fun songs,)
3. Pip: He has solid stage presence and pretty hot singing skills, but he treats every song like a middle school pageant.
4. Katrina Parker (Adam save): She gets better every time she gets onstage. With more experience she’ll improve her vocal stamina for better results. Good pick!

Team Cee-Lo
1. Juliet Sims: Now that her commitment to her performances is validated, she can focus on keeping up with the backing band and hitting her notes. Oversinging alone does not make a rock star.
2. Jamar Rogers: Once again, did anyone not see this coming? He’s the fire to Jesse Campbell’s ice. Of the probable chosen ones on this show, I’m most ok with him because he brings the rock signs every time.
3. James Massone: I’m ok with his success based only on past performances. He’s hot with contemporary R&B, but after last week I’m not sure he can get beyond that genre.
4. Cheesa (Cee-Lo save): First, she was breathing into the mic way too much during her desperation song. Second, if she goes back to ballads like she did tonight I’ll be bored to tears.

The Losers
– Kim Yarbrough: Aw man! Based on her desperation song and overall dance commander, she would have been a proper dance commander! A clunker of a song choice may have brought her down.
– Karla Davis: Karla’s performance style was a weird fusion of country and soul that seemed kind of cool, but her inability to project onstage effectively killed her run. Get thee to a studio!
– Tony Vincent: His range was like a rough Adam Lambert at best but his theatrical experience and willingness to pose himself like a supervillain made him endearing. It’s a shame to see him go (and a damn shame that Christina Aguilera forgot his name when he was right there.)
– Erin Martin: Her gnarled, raspy singing was hot for the slow songs and cold for everything else. Those vocal tics of hers may have been adorable on Idol, but not on the vocally rigorous The Voice.

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Thoughts on The Voice Top 24: Team Adam vs. Team Cee-Lo

April 9, 2012


Image by stacyjclinton via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Last week when Blake and Christina’s teams squared off, I ended up disappointed in a lot of contestants I was originally rooting for. Coming into this week I was rooting for fewer contestants on Adam and Cee-Lo’s teams, so I was expecting some better results. Let’s see how the teams performed.

For this week, contestants from Team Adam and Team Cee-Lo will square off. Here is the second group of contestants in order of their appearance on the show.

1. Katrina Parker (Team Adam) – “Tonight, Tonight” I wondered how Billy “King of the Nasal” Corgan’s singing would translate into a competition like this. At the start Katrina’s vocal sounds buried, kind of like a lot of contestants last week. But when the first chorus hit, her voice took off like a rocket. She was hitting those soaring “toniiiiiight” notes with comfort and poise. She kind of fizzled for the second buildup and chorus so the song ended anticlimactically in my opinion. I’ll concede that last note she hit was good, but I wished she did it during one of the big musical moments instead of waiting for things to fade out before striking out. The performance was a good start to the show, but not Katrina’s best work. Bonus from Carson Daly: “Christina, some tharts on Katrina.”

2. Cheesa (Team Cee-Lo) – “Don’t Leave Me This Way” Aw shit, I love this track! This arrangement wisely plays to Cheesa’s diva inclinations by opening with a sparse intro that allows her to do a few solid note holds before the dancefloor fire kicks in. Cheesa’s voice suffers a little during her walk down the stairs (and those dorky “second string at Disney World” backup dancers don’t held either) but she quickly commands the stage like a disco queen of old. Her belting was both raw and on point (even when her voice was starting to give out, she still sang in key.) Bonus points for the little disco dance at the end. I only wish she dialed back some of her ad-libbed belting in the middle of verses (it relied too much on the backup singers for cushioning) and tried to do more dancing onstage. Nice one!

3. Tony Lucca (Team Adam) – “In Your Eyes” This performance was rough for me. Tony was alternating between oversinging and running out for breath for most of the first verse and the main part of the chorus. He had a decent go in the buildup, where his power belting really matched the emotional crescendo of the piece, but he couldn’t quite sustain it. I give him points for trying to connect with the crowd. He was mad dashing all over the stage trying to hit seemingly every area of the front row, but when he came prancing back to the center he looked like a clown.

4. Kim Yarbrough (Team Adam) – “Rolling In The Deep” Kim has guts, because any reality show contestant knows that taking on a current artist as overcovered as Adele will bring them jeers of fury from all around unless they nail the piece. Kim also displays good knowledge of her abilities, because I was not disappointed with this. She wisely stuck to the center of the stage and emoted from there. She matched the Adele original pretty closely and conveyed the disappointment and dry anger in the song quite well. However, I think she should have taken more risks with the piece. I never thought I’d say this about a contestant, but Kim almost seems beyond this sort of song, and I don’t mean in terms of era. She seems to be one of the few modern singers I know of who could top rival Adele in her genre, so this feels almost safe.

5. James Massone (Team Cee-Lo) – “Don’t Know Why” This was a tough sell for me. On paper I see why Cee-Lo picked the song for James. In previous rounds he excelled at midtempo R&B bangers because of his youthful charisma and respect with which seems to approach the material, so he should try out a more mature-sounding ballad to widen his range. Vocally he was hit and miss. All too often I felt like he was backing away from notes that he should be sustaining. Plus his singing was just a little too shrill for me. At times it felt like he was whining instead of crooning. He also needs to drop that “judo chop” thing he was doing with his non-microphone hand. I gesticulate when I talk, but I know my hands do different things to emphasize my points. The chop was just one thing. I’ll concede that he did a good job hamming it up to work the crowd, but it just may have cost him his pipes.

6. Juliet Sims (Team Cee-Lo) – “Roxanne” I appreciate the risks that Juliet and Cee-Lo took with this arrangement. It played with space and tempo in a different way than the Police original and Juliet’s scenery-chewing growl reminded me of “El Tango de Roxanne” in Moulin Rouge. During the minimal opening and big musical crescendos, Juliet sounded really good…when she was on key and when she was keeping pace with the band. Sometimes she got to her lines faster than the house band and she got lost. Other times I was hearing more flubs than her competitors. Juliet gets tons of points for emotionally investing herself in the material and crumbling into herself at points in the song. She should work on hitting her notes.

7. Mathai (Team Adam) – “Ordinary People” I’ll admit my bias, I will tear up whenever I hear this song. To do it right, Mathai had to sing with headstrong optimism cut with world-weary dread of both her own frailties and of those around her. If you think that sounds tough, this is why John Legend has a career. Mathai sang quite in her range and nailed the optimism part, but didn’t sell the heft a song like this carries. She was more like Jesse Campbell last week, only this was tonally inappropriate. It made her come across as immature.

8. Tony Vincent (Team Cee-Lo) – “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” I normally think of Tears For Fears songs as so bassy, that it was a breath of fresh air when Tony stuck to this in his higher range. He also rose above the lower key nature of the original and added a few more vocal flourishes that stopped just short of oversinging. While I liked the dictator speech stage gimmick, I feel that the limiting space of the podium may have undercut his stage presence for 25% of the song. When Tony did finally come down for the joyous bridge he may have stalked around a little too much, but he stayed pretty engaging throughout the performance. Props for sustained vocal goodness (even on the staircase descent.)

9. Karla Davis (Team Adam) – “Airplanes” If Karla can do both the Hayley Williams and B.o.B. parts, then she could steal the show. To her credit, Karla displayed a surprisingly good flow for the verses and didn’t rely too much on the chorus. She also tried to inject some melody into the rapping parts, but it came at a great cost. She wasn’t off key and she didn’t lack for stage presence. I just couldn’t hear her, and in an aspirational song like this, where the performer is casting his or her hopes and dreams into the sky, she needed to PROJECT! Cheers for originality, jeers for execution.

10. Erin Martin (Team Cee-Lo) – “Walk Like An Egyptian” For such an uptempo rocker like this, Erin sure is taking things relaxed. This was a time where she needed to dork it up and really ping around the stage. Her theatrical costume and the performances spectacle with backup dancers (which she did get into at the end) downright demanded more vocal and physical abandon than Erin provided. I suspect she may have been afraid to belt because of the unique color of her voice, but that hasn’t stopped Nelly Furtado or Bjork and it shouldn’t have stopped Erin. She sounded anemic at best and coasting at work. This was a missed opportunity.

11. Pip (Team Adam) – “When You Were Young” This was quite an improvement for Pip. He really got into the material emotionally (check the facial expressions) and didn’t compromise his vocal abilities. He pulled out a few small vocal runs in the first verse and in the bridge that were subtle enough that I wasn’t as annoyed with him as I was with other oversingers. Still, it totally undercut the vocal fireworks at the end since there was less of a buildup. I think Pip was as least as engaging as Tony V., but this felt like less of a risk to me, so Tony rates better.

12. Jamar Rogers (Team Cee-Lo) – “Are You Gonna Go My Way” This reminded me of that captivating audition round that got me into Jamar in the first place, only with just….more. Jamar had a solid rock/soul foundation from which to work with, only he gave so much more energy, control, and (for lack of a better word) stuff to entertain the audience. It’s like the jump from Rock Band to Rock Band 2. He stayed on key and at the right volume the whole damn time. His “whoa whoa whoa” ad-libs with the music break downs somehow came across as appropriate. His ability to hold notes while engaging the crowd took James and Tony L. to school. Kudos aside, he needs to dial things back from time to time to earn those power runs and do some material with more emotional risk. He’s clearly a chosen one and I feel like a tool for rooting for him, but he actually has the talent to match the accolades.

My Top 3 Performers
1. Jamar Rogers
2. Cheesa
3. Tony Vincent

My Bottom 3 Performers (Remember, #3 is worst)
1. James Massone
2. Tony Lucca
3. Erin Martin

This was quite the improvement from last week’s performance show. Most of the performances I didn’t care for were for what I perceived to be missed opportunities instead of simply bad singing or poor song choices. Meanwhile the top tier performances were true kickass numbers, especially for Cheesa and Jamar.

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Thoughts on The Voice: Battle Rounds Part 4

March 27, 2012

Image edited from original by Mr. Fink’s Finest Photos via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

OK Voice fans, we are at part four and the hopeful conclusion of this round of battles. Once the show is done with this round it will have 24 contestants, which will still take a lot of time to get through. Will more battles follow or will another oddly effective gimmick take its place? Will the show make good on its promise of live shows next week? Sometimes I suspect this show keeps throwing in crazy gimmick rounds because it knows that as soon as the public voting starts, it’s basically Idol with a trimmed staff and more diverse contestant base. Anyways, let’s get this party started!

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 Cee Lo: James Massone vs. Wade – “True Colors”
Dammit Cee Lo, stop trying to do these gimmick battles. “What’s Love Got To Do With It” sucked last week because neither contestant could really touch it. Poppy James and Stax-y Wade are both way too fun for this inspiration-bait song. Creighton Fraker crashed and burned when he did this on Idol and I don’t have high hopes for these two guys. They’re both so good otherwise. Wade sounds a little better in his practice session while James sounds a little too shrill, so I predict a Wade win. Nonetheless, if James wins he could go pretty far with his very current R&B sensibilities.
The little vamping is kind of off. Throughout the performance James sounds like he’s about to teeter off the cliff. Wade just can’t those high belty notes when this should totally be his thing. I think the big problem is that this song doesn’t really go anywhere. Neither singer can really build to something so they’re left running in place. Wade especially wants to build to something so bad and he ends up in a crazy mess. James didn’t take as many risks, so he comes off better.
Winner: James (Yay! While I was rooting for Wade, I respect where James is coming from and expect good things from him. Also, the UN needs to haul Cee Lo Green’s ass to The Hague, because once again he’s been committing war crimes in a battle.)

Team Adam: Nicolle Galyon vs. Mathai – “Love Song”
Ooh! Shouting song! I associate this song with a bunch of drunken spontaneous singalongs from my second year of grad school. That may not translate well to on-pitch performances. Nicolle can really work the human connection thing, while Mathai can punch through the tension with her belting. The winner will be upbeat to the point of just shy of obnoxiousness. The song has a very deep, warm quality too it and the sound of Nicole’s voice might fit better, so I predict a Nicolle win.
Mathai’s having better luck with her runs but as predicted Nicole sounds better when she’s straight up singing. I wish Nicolle brought out more power, especially at the end. I wish Mathai would pace herself so that her big sing-off was more earned. The whole thing hits the skids when they try to harmonize, for it’s about as welcome as Rick Santorum at a Scissor Sisters concert. Wow that was horrendous! It wasn’t enough to kill the performance on its own, but that endeavor as a whole was fair to disappointing.
Winner: Mathai (Meh! She rocked in her audition round but the more I hear her singing the more I fear her voice will combine with Erin Martin’s to break all the glass in the world. If she dials her intensity back she’ll be great!)

Team Xtina: Moses Stone vs. The Line – “Satisfaction”
Oh snap! It’s the battle of the leftovers. If Christina really wanted to do something to challenge both country and hip hop artists, she could have picked something by Big and Rich, Cowboy Troy, or even Everlast. I’m nervous about both artists, since The Line is a duo and gets an unfair advantage, while Moses is novel for a show like this but sounded sloppy in his audition. I’m rooting for Moses, but I predict a Line win since their built-in harmonies will fill out the big loud show that is this song.
You know it’s a good sign of a performance when I can’t bring myself to type anything until the song is done. This has the potential to be one of the best performances this episode. The song was arranged in such a way that both sides got to vamp a little and play to their strengths: The Line got to harmonize a bunch while Moses got a reworked verse and drum break that was conducive to some moderate speed rapping. To their credit, both sides took a few risks and succeeded. Moses actually sang pretty damn well and took Christina’s belting lessons to heart. Both Line members struck out to sing on their own and showed that as they deserve to be here as individual talents, not just as a duo. I was nervous about this one, but props to all performers and Christina Aguilera for a fabulous show!
Winner: Moses (Yay! Again, both sides were great but I’ll take the individual act over the duo anytime. I also want Moses to be the gateway act that gets other rappers interested in competing in reality competitions.)

Team Adam: Karla Davis vs. Orlando Napier – “Easy”
Adam did kind of a cool thing in the practice rounds by acknowledging that his original pick “Rich Girl” by Hall and Oates didn’t work for either singer. Rather than letting the performance go on and subjecting us all to a possible shitshow, Adam changed the song to this Commodores number. Neither singer really impressed me in the auditions. Orlando had slurred delivery while Karla got so little time she seemed like cannon fodder. Based on producer screen time allotment, I predict an Orlando win.
At the start of the performance Orlando dominates the track for better or worse. His singing is about as good as Nicole’s this round. The performance gets interesting when Karla gets her moment. Her singing tone is soft and idiosyncratic without being annoying. At her best I want her to cut a few soul singles with Jamie Lidell. Then she tries to hit the high notes and all hopes are dashed. Orlando is worse at straight-up singing, but his belts aren’t cringe-inducing. I hate to come off like Randy Jackson, but I think that if Karla took fewer vocal risks she would have come across better.
Winner: Karla (Yay! She had lower lows, but she shows way more promise than conventional ol’ Orlando. She needs to get a better feel for her range if she wants to make it out of the top 24.)

Team Blake: Jordan Rager vs. Naia Kete – “I’m Yours”
“I’m Yours” is probably one of my least favorite Jason Mraz songs. It’s so damn mellow. Nonetheless, the syncopated singing built into the song might make for a good round. As the practice clips imply, this battle is Naia’s to lose. The hippie vibe in the Mraz original fits perfectly with Naia’s acoustic guitar street performer aesthetic. Jordan could make the song if he could put in a little menace and twang on it, kind of like RaeLynn only earned. Alternately, he could go supertenor, channel his inner “jerk with an acoustic guitar,” and surprise everyone. Nonetheless, I predict a Naia win. She’s like Dia Frampton Part II, and Dia was the top vote getter on Blake’s team last season.
First, props to both Naia and Jordan for some really effective harmonizing! The singers really knew when to push forward and when to support each other. Jordan had a more commanding vocal performance in the verses, as his singing style is richer overall. Still, Naia’s no slouch and where she slips a little on the vocal tip she makes up for on the scatting bridge. When it comes to the reggae folk action, she’s a pro doing her thing.
Winner: Naia (Yay! I was rooting for her, but I concede that Jordan totally got robbed. He tried his best under the circumstances, but based on his 5-second audition package he was probably cannon fodder. Poor guy.)

Team Cee Lo: Tony Vincent vs. Justin Hopkins – “Faithfully”
This could be a great battle. Both Tony and Justin are great belters, and Journey is a great band to belt to, whether it’s a ballad like this or a chugging rocker. Justin has a warmer quality to his singing, so he might be better at connecting with the audience. Tony has stronger pipes can project like whoa, so he’ll win by wowing the crowd and putting them in awe. Justin has fewer obstacles to victory, as it will be easier to Tony to go off the rails into the imaginary chasm of shrillness, so I predict Justin will be the last contestant to make it into the Top 24.
This was the other performance that was so good I couldn’t type anything until both contestants were done. Tony delivered on his potential by wowing the crowd with his passionate singing right before the big arrangement kicked in. What’s more, he made an emotional connection. You see that pained look in his face? That’s love so hard it hurts. I was welling up. Then Justin came on and kicked it like a pro. You could feel the warmth and earnestness in his movements and his belting. He looked so happy to be there singing this song. Fuck…they’re both so damn good! Not since Jessica Sanchez annihilated my expectations covering Whitney Houston on Idol have I been reduced to tears like this.
Winner: Tony (Yay! Hot damn I can’t wait to see what this theater supervillain can do! I really hope Justin goes on to some great things because he needs to keep at it and share his talents! You just may have redeemed yourself for earlier tonight, Cee Lo.)

While this episode wasn’t as good overall as last week’s, it had two superb performances that really engrossed me. As far as team mixes go, here is my ranking, along with whom I’m rooting for on each team.
1. Team Xtina: Ashley, Chris, Lindsey, Moses
2. Team Blake: Erin, Jermaine, Jordis, Naia
3. Team Adam: Katrina, Kim, Pip, Karla
4. Team Cee Lo: Jamar, James, Tony

The battles are over! The voting rounds begin! I’m sure excited, if only because the solo performances might bring with them the Unintentionally Funny Backup Dancer Group. See you next week!

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Thoughts on The Voice: Audition Round 4

February 20, 2012

Image from Mil on Flickr, used under Creative Commons

25 contestants picked, 23 to go! Will this be the last of the blind audition rounds.

Contestants’ Notes

-I wondered when I would hear a Black Keys song on a show like this. Ducky has the right kind of blues-rock swagger in his rendition of “Tighten Up.” He had a few vocal dips and dives in there as well. It’s too bad that he gets no turns (and the Sweeney Todd look isn’t helping either.) Keep at it, dude!

-Jonathas (wow, 2 one-named performers in a row!) does a pretty good Usher impression on “U Got It Bad.” His voice sounds just like him and he can do the power belting with no problem! He even does a few Ursh-inspired dance moves, which turned out to be a winning play. The coaches can’t see him, but the crowd can, and that burst of applause on his floor slides was just the right thing to get turns from Cee Lo and Christina. Both could be good fits for Jonathas, since they have treaded in R&B and dance pop, but ultimately Xtina is smoother and a better fit for that kind of style.

-I don’t go for midtempo rockers like “Mr. Know It All,” which is what Monique Benabou sings. She throws out lots vocal moves, especially the up and down runs, but for me it’s all show and little go. It’s enough to score a turn from Christina, but I won’t be rooting for her unless she does something more uptempo.

-When I first heard “The Lazy Song,” Bruno Mars was performing it on Idol. I recall that it sounded pleasant. Naia Kete kicks it out for audition and does a pretty good job of capturing its casual exuberance, in spite of her straining voice. Her hippie tip isn’t my bag, but she’ll fit well on Blake’s team. That folksy singer-songwriter thing reminds me of Dia Frampton at best or a more competent Xenia at worst. She ends up picking Blake and I predict that she’ll make it past the battle rounds.

-I give Erick Macek points for taking “Free Fallin’” in a slightly different direction, melody-wise. Unfortunately it feels way blander than the Tom Petty original. This is something your youth pastor busts out at a church retreat without being aware of the slightly druggy undertone in the song. To summarize, he brought no edge! See ya!

-When Charlotte Sometimes first hits the stage, she sounds so bland and mumbly she pulls a convincing Lana Del Rey impression. Eventually she picks herself up, but replaces the bluh-bluh-bluh mumbles with pitchy, snarly signing. I suppose you could tell that she was trying hard and I give her props for doing dynamic in that crummy song “Apologize,” (stupid Ryan Tedder) but I was shocked that she got four turns. Blake compared her to Xenia, which he meant as a compliment, but it’s more of an ominous sign to me. Will history repeat itself in a Naia vs. Charlotte rivalry on Team Blake?

-OK, Tony Vincent is off to a great start simply because he sang a Queen song and it wasn’t “Somebody To Love,” one of the most done-to-death audition pieces I have ever heard. Instead, he went the stadium route with “We Are The Champions.” His only problem was that his vocal reach exceeded his grasp and he couldn’t quite hit those Mercury highs. I hope that he will overcome his twitchiness and nerves and bring the pain on Team Cee Lo.

-Stop singing from your throat and start singing from your gut, Anthony Evans! Unless you’re singing The Bee Gees or Curtis Mayfield I need to hear at least a little low register from you. But if you’re doing “What’s Going On,” you have to fill the whole song, not just the high parts! It’s like Andy Samberg’s Shy Ronnie on the mic. Anthony did get a turn from Xtina, so maybe he’ll pick up a few tricks from her.

-Jamie Lono is a low-key, high-voiced guy with an acoustic guitar. Shit. Four notes into “Folsom Prison Blues,” he gets a turn from Adam, who probably needs a few more Javier Colon Clones on his team. However, Cee Lo wins him over. To his credit, Jamie kicks out more snarl and menace than last year’s winner ever did. He’s likable enough, but he’ll have to work really hard to avoid being just another chotch with a guitar.

-Dylan Chambers had some good opportunities to wow the coaches on the Mark Ronson/Amy Winehouse version of “Valerie,” but he was just too bleary and messy to really make an impression.

-Nathan Anderson sounded like he was mixed way too low. Project, dude!

-Luna Searles does Ethridge, which means immediate Beverly McClellan comparison. She’s no Beverly McClellan, so…adios!

-Adam Lasher lazily growls his way through Nickelback. How does he fare? As Jay-Z once rapped “So Poof! / Vamoose, sonofabitch!

-David Gray’s “Babylon” is a pretty neat song with its quiet-loud dynamic and shoutalong chorus. Justin Hopkins could have gone note-for-note, but he throws in a few little belting runs that might have come across as self-indulgent on a lesser performer. Justin’s moves make the piece feel more energetic in the live setting. Way to score the Cee Lo turn, dude!

-Nicolle Gaylon could stand to maybe tighten up her singing on “You Save Me,” but she still did pretty well. While I didn’t know the song, her performance reminded me of when someone does a slow-burning karaoke song really well. The end result is, for lack of a better word, human connection. If your nerves can fuck you up and you still come off as relatable, you are a good performer.

-Ashley De La Rosa got only a five-second clip, but she sang “Shark In The Water,” when it feels like maybe 500 people in America know who V. V.  Brown is. That takes guts! The few seconds the show featured sounded good, too. Christina gives a turn, so good for Ashley! I hope she doesn’t end up as cannon fodder during the battle rounds

-5-second clip victim Jordan Rager sounded like Scotty McCreery with the bass turned down. He had energy but he’ll be a human shield on Team Blake during the battle rounds.

-Karla Davis did “If I Die Young.” It sounded like your garden variety acoustic jam. She seemed ok, but she’ll be a human shield on Team Adam during the battle rounds.

-Alyx didn’t even get 5 seconds of show time for “Just Like A Pill” and Blake picked her. This show needs to work on its pacing.

-Eric Tipton kicks out “You Make My Dreams” and he sounds solid. His range isn’t as dynamic as some of the other contestants, nor is he packing the raw power that the other contestants have. He fails to earn any turns, and the coaches attribute it to sounding too close to the Hall and Oates original. I get where they are coming from.

-OK, we have another Adele performance, this time from Mathai. She takes on one of the livelier numbers from 21 – “Rumour Has It,” and she scores turns from Adam, Blake and Cee Lo. Adam gave it up 8 seconds in, before she turned on the power. To Mathai’s credit, she really conveyed both the righteous defiance and the playful vengeance in the song and nailed most of the runs too! You go, player!

And now a summary of tonight’s winners, in the order they were announced:
-Silky smooth R&B karaoke
-Lots of power, crummy music
-Hippie Dia Frampton
-Xenia Mk II, Now With More Lana Del Rey
-Rock Opera Man
-All Treble Gospel
-A Guitar Guy I Don’t Want To Yell At?
-Engaging Adult Contemporary
-Tell Me More About Piano Country….
-R&B Cannon Fodder With Good Music Taste
-Country Cannon Fodder
-Acoustic Cannon Fodder
-Pop Rock Cannon Fodder
-Fun Adele Impersonation!

And we have one more audition round to see 9 more picks! I can’t wait for this round to be over!