Posts Tagged ‘Sera Hill’

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Thoughts on The Voice: Season 2 Finale

May 8, 2012

Image edited from the original by Bill McIntyre via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

…And here we are. It took three months and a drawn out season to get here (hey, success will do that,) but we made it! Last night each of the contestants delivered at least one blammo rendition along with two sleepers and/or mehs. While I ranked Jermaine at the top of the heap, it wasn’t an enthusiastic pick. For last season’s results show, we got 4 performances, one montage, one results ramp-up, and then the coronation. I praised the show for its brevity. Clearly I was in the minority.

Musical Performances

1. Jermaine Paul ft. Jamar Rogers, James Massone, and Pip – “I Want You Back” James’s tenor is just a tad lower than 8 year old MJ’s alto, but he lacks the delivery of the young King of Pop. Pip sounds like a cloying lounge singer. He could take a lesson from Michael Buble in how to be chill. Jamar sings with conviction, but he still sounds WAY TOO SERIOUS. All Jermaine had to do was sing straight up. After a rough start, he delivered on his ability and threw in a few neat scat runs at the end.

2. Flo Rida and Juliet Simms – “Whistle/Wild Ones” Yeesh. That midtempo “Whistle” song sounded like a rip-off of B.O.B.’s “Nothing On You.” Luckily Flo pulled the plug on that trick real quick before starting into “Wild Ones.” Juliet sang Sia’s part on the hook and managed to sound less grating than the original. Unfortunately that was all she had to do. Flo Rida was leaping all over the stage, working the crowd and showing a general enthusiasm that covered any hint of a prerecorded vocal track. Poor Juliet was left with little to do. Couldn’t she have had a verse or an extended hook? As much as I complain, I still thought this was fun.

3. Chris Mann ft. Lindsey Pavao and Katrina Parker – “Bittersweet Symphony” Dammit, Chris! Don’t do the hand wave thing to this song. It’s tonally inappropriate and it makes you look like you’re trying too hard. The people he beat out? Lindsey did some cool vocal shifts halfway into the song that matched the emotion. It reminded me of why she was an appealing performer early on. Meanwhile Katrina was a straight-up better singer. Her naturally poised and understated singing style worked really well for the song’s mix of posh instrumentation and working class fatalism. Chris had the stage presence of a drunk, whiny college student.

4. Hall & Oates, Chris Mann, Jermaine Paul, and Tony Lucca – “Rich Girl” The three male finalists are relegated to backup singers for a song that Adam pulled away from making his team members sing. I don’t know the song, but it sounds pleasant albeit bland. Daryl Hall sang pretty well for a guy who’s been performing since the early 70s. John Oates came off the best with his solid background presence and neato guitar solos.

5. Naia Kete, Kim Yarbrough, Cheesa, and Sera Hill – “Superstition” Kim executed well enough, but I failed to see any enthusiasm. Cheesa had the power belting down pat, but she took awhile to really rock the cool. Rootsy Naia knocked out her part really well and demonstrated that she had versatility. Her coach just stuck her with a bad song. Sera came off the best in her singing and stage moves. She looked really happy to be back onstage and was really getting down! None of these contestants were in the running but the delivered the best performance of the first half of the night.

6. Juliet Simms ft. Erin Willett, RaeLynn, and Jamar Rogers – “With A Little Help From My Friends” Jamar and Erin did R&B runs like nobody’s business. With her soulfully raspy drawl, Juliet had the classic rock angle covered. That left poor RaeLynn with her aggressive twang and overenunciation on every note. She did have a moment with her growl, but Juliet quickly upstaged her. That’s what experience can do.

7. Lady Antebellum – “Wanted You More” I’m still not a fan of the band name. The song itself sounded decent enough. The dual lead singers harmonized pretty well together and played off each other like method actors overdoing it. The individual parts sounded ok as well. I bet a lot of people were digging this performance, but I wasn’t one of them. That’s not the band’s fault. It’s just not my thing.

8. Tony Lucca ft. Jordis Unga – “Go Your Own Way” Oh snap! The TV vets duet! The song started with a descent down a pair of long staircases, which must have been a lot harder for Jordis in those heels. Still, she kept up with Tony and proved to be a solid harmonizer with him. Tony had some fabulous runs in the song, and quite frankly I wish he did sing this earlier in the competition as it might have won me over to his cause. I wish Jordis got more mic time, but it’s not like Lindsey Buckingham let Stevie Nicks have a lot of mic time on the original.

9. Justin Bieber – “Boyfriend” Yeah, the Biebs has the old Justin Timberlake style down pretty well. He straddles that line between hard hip-hop swagger and teen heartthrob tenor without coming off like a total poser (even though he’s from Stratford, Ontario.) The dancer-heavy choreography was in keeping with the teen pop traditions as well. I thought the song was catchy. I mean, it’s not as though JT is around to watch the throne as he’s too busy with acting. Maybe Justin Bieber wants it more.

An Aside
I’m not normally one for network synergy, but NBC has some of the best comedy on network TV, so the Parks and Rec and SNL crossovers were actually kind of funny. First, I loved that Parks and Rec skit. I wouldn’t mind if Nick Offerman replaced Blake in the coach’s chair and mentored contestants as his Ron Swanson character. On the SNL tip, I thought Keenan Thompson’s Cee-Lo impression on the “Voice: Animals” skit was a little weak but I liked his line that Cee-Lo “looked like a villain in a James Bond movie directed by Tyler Perry.”

Much talking and stalling commences, before the show reveals its vote ranking.
4th place: Chris Mann
3rd place: Tony Lucca
2nd place: Juliet Simms
1st place: Jermaine Paul

The Winner
Yay! Jermaine Paul, the most consistently good performer this season, takes the prize! While I was tempted from time to time to dismiss him as a Javier Colon Clone, he was way the hell more intense! He had one, maybe two flubs for his entire run and he knew how to have fun. That performance acumen and sheer talent made him fun to root for, even if he was on Blake Shelton’s team. Plus those little bear growls he was doing when he was hugging his family was endearing. I’d like to think I’d be doing the same thing if I won the show. Seriously, congrats to Jermaine. I hope that he has a successful career of making fun music.

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Thoughts on The Voice Top 24: Team Blake vs. Team Xtina Voting Results

April 3, 2012

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

Last night’s Voice was underwhelming, so I’m interested to see who makes it through. Who deserves to be on the stage and who makes it through in spite of themselves?

Here is the guest musical performance:
– Gym Class Heroes ft. Neon Hitch – “Ass Back Home” This is pretty good. Travie McCoy and Neon Hitch carried their parts off fairly well (even if the song had a little pre-recorded vocal backing.) Otherwise the jam was lively and had a cool, solid quiet-loud dynamic.

Now for the vetted teams….

Team Blake
1. Erin Willett: First one in and first place from last night! Keep up the good work!

2. Jermaine Paul: Underwhelming turn on stage and can do so much better! I’m glad he gets another shot.

3. RaeLynn: What is the rest of this show’s audience hearing? She seems cloying and full of hot air.

4. Jordis Unga (Blake save): If Jordis has honed anything beyond her singing since her last reality show gig, it’s her politics. Way to play to Blake’s sensibilities (and thank you for knocking out Charlotte!)

Team Xtina
1. Jesse Campbell: Did anyone not see this coming? He’s a bit of a Javier Colon clone, but I can’t disrespect his success.

2. Lindsey Pavao: I applaud her risk taking, but she needs to execute better. Get up on that singing!

3. Chris Mann: Unless he makes livelier song choices, I guess I’ll get to take a 2-minute nap every Monday.

4. Ashley De La Rosa (Xtina save): This was a bit of a shocker for me. Ashley’s a little green, but if she can overcome her initial nerves she could kick proper ass.

The Losers
– Naia Kete: I wish she leaned on the roots reggae action earlier. Then her nerves wouldn’t have held her back vocally and sent her home.

– Charlotte Sometimes: She can’t be trying to mess with me every song choice she makes, can she? I’m not that special, but I’m happy I won’t have to find out.

– Moses Stone: The guy can’t quite balance his singing and rapping inclinations. I liked Moses’s run more as an idea than in actuality, since hopefully he’ll inspire more rappers to compete on this show.

– Sera Hill: Her talent was fairly conventional, but just because it’s trite doesn’t mean it isn’t true. She took most of the competition to school, so it’s a bit of a shame that she didn’t make it forward. Hopefully the show got her some good contacts.

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Thoughts on The Voice Top 24: Team Blake vs. Team Xtina

April 2, 2012

Image by hugovk via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

The gimmicks are done, the Top 24 contestants have been chosen, and at still feels like we’re quite a ways away from picking a winner. Now that we’re on the voting rounds, it’s time to see if The Voice can truly shine on a full season run or will it try my patience like its prime competitor does week after week. It all comes down to the performances.

For this week, contestants from Team Blake and Team Xtina will square off. Here is the first group of contestants in order of their appearance on the show.

1. Jermaine Paul (Team Blake) – “Living on a Prayer” Dual hi-rise percussionists, crazy light shows, and Jermaine coming up from a hole in the floor? Way to throw down the spectacle gauntlet, The Voice! That said, I wish the performance matched the spectacle. It’s not Jermaine’s fault. He tried his best under the circumstances and he stayed on key with the power belting and full use of the stage. His voice just wasn’t a fit for the big, full power rock anthem. “Living on a Prayer” works in part because it’s sung as a call-and-response song with lots of backup singers. It’s meant to be shouted as part of a crowd. Jermaine needed something uptempo but was just sparse enough to give his talent a chance to shine. I agree with Christina’s comment that this was just not the best song choice for Jermaine.

2. Chris Mann (Team Xtina) – “Bridge Over Troubled Water” If you thought that the last song was full of so much empty sound and fury, this should be right up your alley: super sparse piano and string arrangement, lots of vocal runs and vibrato, and slow as molasses. Chris sung ok though towards the end his vibrato had some choppy voop voop voop going on. He also had a little menace in his look, which was tonally inappropriate but probably the most engaging part of the performance. Overall Chris had a fair-to-good execution but the song didn’t go anywhere for me. Zzzzzz…….

3. RaeLynn (Team Blake) – “Wake Up Call” Now here’s a song that calls for some menace! Lauren Alaina Part II exuded the right amount of attitude that a violent, jilted lover should exhibit and she had the power stances down right! And then she started to sing. Oh no. RaeLynn’s voice was alternately anemic, off-key, and gravelly in all the wrong places. It didn’t help that she’s singing a song at least partially known for Adam Levine’s R&B/Rock chops. Skylar Laine could sing circles around this pretender.

4. Moses Stone (Team Xtina) – “Stronger” This was a bad situation to go into. “Stronger” works largely because of two things, of which this performance has neither: the blatant Daft Punk sample and the established brand of Kanye West. The song works because of who is sampled and who is rapping. It’s not that difficult a song to rap and the lyrical cadence is fairly plodding. Moses tried his best to inject some melody and volume into his rapping, but to me it felt overblown. His singing was a little off as well at the start, but at least he was taking a bit of a risk. He gets points for having a really energetic and emotive stage presence, though that may have put him out of breath shouting the words. As I said during the audition rounds, the rapping talent Moses has displayed is mediocre, but he’s a decent singer. If he could find a song where he could both sing well and sprinkle in rapping to set himself apart, he could clean up.

5. Naia Kete (Team Blake) – “Turning Tables” Naia’s mistake was doing what sounded like a fairly straightforward Adele cover. It makes the comparison between the original and performance that much more direct and going head to head with Adele is a dangerous game. Naia’s rendition was pretty good, though with every slight crack in her voice the lack of a good fit was clear. If she did put a more reggae spin on it like she alluded to in her preshow montage or even just went up onstage with her guitar she would have come across so much better! As such, I blame this performance’s failures on Blake. His decision to steer Naia away from her reggae hot zone shows his discomfort with musical diversity. As Kathy said during the performance, “It’s as if he thinks anything that isn’t mainstream pop, rock, or country is something less than, something to be boxed out, and that performers who specialize in a genre that isn’t one of those three is less of a performer and needs to be forcefully pushed outside their genre of choice.” Notice how he didn’t make RaeLynn do “Wake Up Call” in the style of Maroon 5? His limited music view is disappointing and infuriating.

6. Lindsey Pavao (Team Xtina) – “Somebody That I Used To Know” I really wanted this song to work. I really did. Lindsey’s musical outlook, while hardly unique, is still refreshing in competitive singing. Plus I kind of like this song and was looking forward to hearing the house band try to do dubstep (it wasn’t a total failure.) So I was disappointed when Lindsey failed to deliver the goods. Her voice was thin, cracking, and failed to rise above the punchy arrangement. Generally in dubstep the vocal styles that tend to work are “serious beacon of light who cuts through the ambience” (like Florence Welch or Elly Jackson of La Roux) or “swaggering asskicker who matches the violent drums” (like Robyn or Dev.) Lindsey’s singing was neither. Meanwhile there are all these Alice In Wonderland backup dancers writhing around like something big is going on. Frankly the whole thing reminded me of the time Katy Perry performed “E.T.” on Idol last season where she just walked around and crazy stuff happened around her. Too bad, so sad.

7. Jordis Unga (Team Blake) – “Alone” The Rock Star alumna does fairly well. She stayed in control through the quiet parts and turned on the power through the big chorus. She even tossed out a crazy super growl at the end and it felt mostly earned. The only things that worked against the performance were how low her vocal were in the mix and her super-trite “seemingly every classic rock-oriented female contestant sings this” song choice. Were “Barracuda” and “Magic Man” both taken?

8. Sera Hill (Team Xtina) – “Find Your Love” This song is a little dangerous since James made good work of it during his audition. Sera has no problem with it. She has a lot of great vocal moments, especially after the second verse and at the end, but like Jordis she knows when to back off and take it easy. She had a super charismatic stage presence, withstood the silly “Men In Black”-esque backup dancers, and seemed totally comfortable in her role. I love a confident professional.

9. Erin Willett (Team Blake) – “Living For The City” That was one of the best performances of the night! Even with a super punchy arrangement and a stage packed with people, Erin commanded that stage with her variety of vocal moves and killer projection abilities. So many of tonight’s contestants have sounded buried in the mix. Not Erin! She also really got into the music. From her expressions and slight gestures you could tell she was having a lot of fun. She really engaged me and I am happier for having seen her go to town on her opposition. You go, player!

10. Ashley De La Rosa (Team Xtina) – “Right Through You” Ashley gets off to a rough start, as she goes into the song with a bit of mush mouth, but she quickly finds her footing for the big, loud chorus. She displays attitude to rival that of RaeLynn, but also has the dreaded cannon. While she had lots of earned power in her performance, she did well to hold off the blast attack until the end. The abrupt jump from the lyrics to the belting felt a little forced, but otherwise hot damn she sounded good!

11. Charlotte Sometimes (Team Blake) – “Misery Business” Right. For me the appeal of Paramore’s “Misery Business” is that when it’s firing on all cylinders it feels like it’s about to go off the rails and careen into the stratosphere. It crackles with energy! Then Charlotte had to go and turn it into a bland old chump ballad. BO-RING! She also had to sing below her range, ending up like Lana Del Rey on SNL. Even when Charlotte didn’t sound bad, her performance felt forced and aggressively bland. Between this and “Apologize” I have no problem rooting against this contestant.

12. Jesse Campbell (Team Xtina) – “What A Wonderful World” Compared to many of the audition-fodder arrangements I hear of this song, this was actually pretty decent. I wouldn’t vote for this because it feels so damn safe, but I’ll concede Jesse did pretty well. Vocally he reminds me of a louder John Legend. His vocal build was quite steady and showed great control. The main thing to distract me from these qualities was his weird facial tics and hand gestures. The implicit message was “Can you believe I am up on this stage singing these words?” Again, it wasn’t bad. It was just weird.

My Top 3 Performers
1. Erin Willett
2. Sera Hill
3. Ashley De La Rosa

My Bottom 3 Performers
1. RaeLynn
2. Chris Mann
3. Charlotte Sometimes

I’m not gonna lie, Voice fans, this was a pretty disappointing night. A lot of contestants whom I was rooting for failed to perform to their potential (Jermaine, Moses, Lindsey.) Others just failed to sing (RaeLynn), failed to engage (Chris), or both (Charlotte.) The audio engineers weren’t helping much, either. Bottom line: it was very hard to pick a Top 3. See you for the results show!

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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: Audition Round 5

February 27, 2012

Image from &y at Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Alright people, I think the coaches have fewer than 10 picks to make, so hopefully they can wrap this up and we can get to the much more fun and very probably rigged battle rounds.

Contestants’ Notes

-Whitney Myer is giving off that Nikka Costa vibe, and it’s not because of just her curly red hair. It’s also that light, uptempo, janky R&B. She’s doing “No One,” which I think was originally by Alicia Keyes, and I quite light this bouncy rendition. She earns turns from all four coaches. Whitney goes with Adam, whose experience fusing pop-rock and R&B might help develop her overall brand with minimal genre clash. What a good start to the show!

-David Boreanaz lookalike David Dunn goes the lite-rock route on “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved.” When I heard the first few notes of this song, I thought this was going to be another jerk with an acoustic guitar, but I saw him with just a mic, which was a relief. David tried to make the bleh song lively with some walking around the stage, but he just didn’t have the emotion or charisma in his voice (and he just blew that falsetto section.) No turns for you!

-The Shields Brothers seem like some kind of rock n roll Coreys. At least their dual-tenor duet of “Dancing With Myself” is different than the usual schtick duo acts pull. Nonetheless, they have the same problem most of the duos on this show have – neither one of them is a very good singer individually. They skate by on their uptempo style and their harmonizing. They end up on Team Cee Lo.

-I must compliment Cheesa for taking on Beyonce, especially on the midtempo clunker “If I Were A Boy.” She starts off sounding way, way, way too low for her range at the start, but she pulls out the stops for the big, soaring chorus and knocks out most of the notes. I didn’t care for the performance because it felt like so much oversinging. Still, I respect her vocal prowess and she definitely has the charisma worthy of a Beyonce song. She gets a turn from Cee Lo.

-I think Preston Shannon could have used a sparser arrangement for “In The Midnight Hour.” singing was rough and solid, but it couldn’t quite stand out against the big, clean arrangement of the house band. While Preston seems to come from a blues background, he kept the soloing to the beginning and end. He was good on the axe, but it’s called The Voice, not The Guitarist. It’s too bad, and I hope this guy finds a good avenue for his art.

-OK, so the alliterative Lex Land lands two turns (Adam and Cee Lo) within the first 8 notes of the song, but damn she is undersinging the hell out “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” I heard serious mush mouth problems in her singing and the dulcet, plinky music didn’t help al all. Maybe if she did something with more menace and smokiness (Portishead, Goldfrapp, early-2000s Moby, etc.) she would have come across better. Then again I just want trip-hop to make a comeback. Eh, maybe Blake can help bring out her inner torch singer.

-Cameron Novack starts out strong, doing a weird Savage Garden-esque soft sell of Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.” Then he gets bogged down in the flow of the build up to the chorus (back off the freestyling, dude.) He then shifts to oversinging the chorus. Overall Cameron’s performance wasn’t too bad, but his abrupt shift in delivery style for each part of the song might have been too jarring. If he stuck to the restrained pop style or even charged in with aggressive oversinging I feel like he could have done better. Also, letting the coaches “cheat” and pick him after the turn would have set the worst precedent for the show, because then every hot contestant who walked up onstage would have a second shot, and that would be shitteous!

-At the start, Orlando Napier comes across as a low-key guy with a piano (which is still better than an acoustic guitar.) He got away from that once he got up from the piano, but he failed to win me over. The John Mayer song choice and Randy Newman singing style was a bad combination. Also…ENUNCIATE! Adam picks him has his final team member.

-Lee Koch has guts for taking on Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” which karaoke connoisseur Brian Rafferty called one of the worst songs to sing since the verses are so rambling and weird against the familiar chorus. Lee is trying his best with the material and doesn’t flub any of the lines, but he just could not hit those “how does it FEEL” lines in the chorus. He earned a turn from Christina through his harmonica playing, which in my opinion is a bad sign. I don’t like when competitive singers use instruments as crutches. It feels like cheating. I predict that he’ll get eaten alive in the battle rounds.

-WADE (is the all-capitalization really necessary?) tries something kind of cool with a warm Stax-ed out soul rendition of “Rehab.” Vocally WADE (and that’s the last time I’m all-caps-ing that) has bursts of greatness, especially in the verses, though he hit some rough spots in the other parts. He just needs a little practice. Otherwise he’s a good combination of traditionalism and risk-taking. Cee Lo should be able to work his voice out, as Wade becomes his concluding pick.

-Adley Stump takes on Carrie Underwood’s “Last Name” (uh-oh) and it’s a bit of a wreck. She wasn’t bad, just mediocre. You could walk into any karaoke bar, and someone singing that song would sound just as good. Frankly the performance felt like so much mediocre singing except for those few belts (which I concede gave me chills.) She really couldn’t sustain her run and stick the landing. Predictably, she heads for Team Blake, and I think he’ll have more faith in her. Maybe he’ll coach her on fashion as well (go-go boots, star bandana, and Victoria Jackson hair?) She is the last pick of Team Blake.

We get a brief montage of failed singers (the Beta lady who sang Jason DeRulo sounded kind of interesting to me.) Also, Danny Devito sings “Three Times A Lady” during a Lorax crossover commercial skit. I was just wishing he’d sing “Troll Toll” from The Nightman Cometh. Then….

-Sera Hill pulls out every trick in the traditional R&B singer book – up and down runs, extended holds, power belting – and she kills every one. I thought her song choice was super slow and boring (and way too Idol) but damn she was good! She was a pro doing her thing, and that’s just wonderful. She becomes the final pick of the show as the last contestant to join team Xtina.

And now a summary of tonight’s winners, in the order they were announced:
-Mark Ronson should pay attention
-“I can’t tell Corey Feldman from Corey Haim.
-Charisma without the power
-Will Beth Gibbons come on as a mentor?
-Bad meets icky
-Karaoke cannon fodder
-Tradition meets risk
-A lot of people could do that
-She could have a good run on Idol

And there we have it! We have our Top (shudder) 48! Tune in next week for the theatrical battle rounds and tune in tomorrow for the start of my recapping of American Idol’s Live Top 25 rounds. SO MUCH SINGING!!!