Posts Tagged ‘Ne-Yo’

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Thoughts On American Idol: Top 7 Results

April 12, 2012

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

While Idol’s 2010s theme night wasn’t a wall-to-wall barnburner, we’re getting to the point where even the bad contestants can make a case for staying on. Let’s see who the voters thought couldn’t keep up with the times….

First, here are the musical performances in order they were on the show.
1. Top 7 Contestants – “Raise Your Glass” You know if they gave that performance during the group rounds in Hollywood Week, none of them would be on that stage today. That song was wrong for everyone singing it, and I mean everyone. The one bright spot was Colton lying with his head in Phillip’s lap and Phillip caressing him. I can only imagine Colton’s thought process: “You people won’t leave me alone about supposedly dating Skylar? Well Phillip and I are gonna flirt it up! How ya like me now?”

2. Ford Music Video: Sometimes I wish Elise really would hop on a dragon and chase her competition around the stage with jets of fire.

3. James Durbin – “Higher Than Heaven” Well, maybe some singers do better when they leave the shadow of Idol. I thought this performance was actually pretty damn catchy. The pop metal track had a great groove to it and those guitar lines just chugged along like a doomsday engine. James himself seems like he’s in much better control of his voice. His vocal runs rose and fell like tidal waves, and they were even on key! He seems way more into this uptempo throwback metal than the histrionic stuff that I hated on during his Idol run last season. And he’s even still with his now-wife, even though we never saw her last season. Way to rock out, dude!

4. Jennifer Hudson ft. Ne-Yo – “Think Like A Man” Jennifer Hudson is totally jacking Janelle Monae’s look, with that future retro dress and lady pompadour. Meanwhile Ne-Yo looks like he could be in the Pet Shop Boys. Fashion razzing aside, this sounded pretty nice. Hudson and her backup singers laid down a nice vocal melody. Ne-Yo had some cool solo moments both with his singing and his footwork. Not to be upstaged, Jennifer Hudson laid down some fabulous vocal runs at the end. These two actually had some pretty good chemistry! This seems like a plug for that movie based on a Steve Harvey guidebook, but I’ll concede that this track was hot!

Bottom 3
1. Josh Ledet: I’ll concede that about half of his performances consisted of him messing around with vocal runs totally independent of the music, but when he focuses on fitting his talents into the groove he can deliver some amazing performances.

2. Elise Testone: Her performance style is also inconsistent. She crashes when she does the stale ballads. Her strength is in the rock numbers, those songs with some blue collar grit. When she’s gone for Gaga or Zep she’s been off the charts. Be consistent, Elise!

3. Jessica Sanchez: She’s probably the most consistently awesome performer on this show. There have been maybe two of her performances that I haven’t been keen on, and even those weren’t enough to put her in my bottom three. That she’s in the bottom when some of these other jerks made the top half shows just how out of line my taste is with the rest of this show’s audience.

The Loser
And there was a collective WHA?!!! heard from all over that audience as Jessica was revealed to be the bottom vote getter. It’s total bullshit and the judges agree as they storm the stage about 8 notes into her “don’t send me away” song. Randy goes on this righteous rant about America getting the vote wrong and calling Jessica one of the best singers to ever be on the show. While I wouldn’t go that far, I give Randy props for calling out the voting population on their taste. As Kathy said during the save, “When Randy Jackson is calling out your musical taste you have bad taste.” The audience is the loser.

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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 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