Posts Tagged ‘The Voice’

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State of the Auditorium

September 9, 2012

Image from IceNineJon via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Hi. It’s been awhile. Since the curtain fell on the last season of American Idol a few changes have happened in my life. I got a new job, which necessitated a move to the new location of the position. So Kathy and I packed our bags and moved from the suburbs of Washington, D.C. to Akron, Ohio. Honestly I am happy to be back in the Midwest. For the first 20+ years of my life I lived in Michigan, Illinois, and Indiana. While I had good experiences in Alabama, Colorado, and Maryland, they just weren’t as much of a match for me. Coming to Ohio feels like I’m coming back to my roots.

Although I am happy have a job and earn income in this age of uncertainty, my job change has increased my work responsibilities to a level that I feel less motivated to write as my “extra-curricular activity.” This is important because we’re coming up on the season premiere of The Voice.

I’ve recapped the past two seasons of The Voice on this blog and I’m just not feeling it this season. Don’t get me wrong, the show has had moments of awesomeness and it’s still a better program than Idol. Last season I was moved to tears after a battle round performance – that’s some kickass singing. I found at least a few contestants to be pretty likeable. And unlike the past season of Idol, I feel like the most talented contestant actually won the show. On the other hand, the show has also had its problems. While it doesn’t have quite the same retro-fetishistic sentimentality as Idol does, its ratio of clunkers to hits is getting closer to Idol’s. Also, while I like the music of most of the coaches (latest example: scoring “Moves Like Jagger” was a coup for Rock Band Blitz, as it’s one of the more challenging and fun songs in the game) as TV personalities I find them to be quite grating. I’m not sure I can take another season of Adam Levine’s douche-y machismo, Blake Shelton’s ham-fisted “eagle-shaped tears” musical conservatism, Christina Aguilera’s tired posturing, and Cee-Lo Green’s combo package of borderline sexual harassment and terrible taste in music. Not to mention it feels wrong when all too often the three male judges are ganging up on the one female judge; especially when she has valid points. Finally, Carson Daly is only entertaining as a host when his wooden façade cracks and we see his frustration with the contestants, coaches, guest performers, and program in general.

Basically, there comes a point in every season where recapping the show isn’t fun or cathartic for me. It starts to feel like a second job. For me, that moment seems like it’s coming sooner rather than later and it’s a bad sign. While I’m proud of what I have written these past few years and I’m pleased that people have read (and hopefully enjoyed) my posts, in truth the writing process doesn’t come easily to me. One reason why I shifted the focus of this site from reviewing songs and albums to recapping musical competition reality shows is that the pace of the TV season and the ephemeral nature of the medium forced me to stick to a schedule and meet deadlines. However, that has also meant pushing myself to come up with something to say about every performance on every episode and a lot of times the words aren’t there for me and I get frustrated.

I want to keep this site going with new posts because writing is the one hobby for me that produces a tangible output. I’m pleased with the results but I find the journey frustrating to the point where I’ve found myself going to bed angry. If I’m going to make this site work for me I will need to change the format of how I write recaps and possibly what I write about entirely. Still, I hope to make this work. You probably won’t see any posts from me this week, but you should see something from me soon.

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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: Final Four

May 7, 2012

Image edited from the original by Stuck In Customs via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Good evening, Voice fans! Tonight is the final performance night! For me, it’s been a roller coaster of a show. My favorites have been changing with every episode. At this point, I’m rooting for two of them. Will either deliver, or will their opponents surprise me once again?

Team Adam: Tony Lucca
Team Blake: Jermaine Paul
Team Cee-Lo: Juliet Simms
Team Xtina: Chris Mann

Each contestant performs three times: one solo, one with their coach, and one coach tribute.

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

1. Jermaine Paul – “I Believe I Can Fly” Damn. Of all the R. Kelly songs he could have picked from…. Before he sings a note it’s so much inspiration bait. Anyways, Jermaine kicked out run after run like they were so many motivational talking points, but he overdid it by the end. His vibrato/hold bit at the end was almost comedic. To his credit, he really tapped into the emotional potential of the song about a third of the way in. This could have been a pose-and-belt, but for the most part it wasn’t. He had a solid, humble presence and he almost sold me on the song. If he didn’t indulge himself in the runs quite so much and worked a little harder to connect with the audience, then he might have won me over. Oh well, two performances left.

2. Juliet Simms – “Crazy” Juliet wasn’t crazy enough. She stayed in her range, no complaints there, but there was no risk. She didn’t throw herself into the performance vocally or with her stage presence. She was stiff in her measured pacing around the stage when she could have jumped around the stage or stayed in one spot and gradually built up in menacing intensity. She showed out none of the power growls that have powered her recent success. She displayed no connection to the defiantly solo lyrics. All in all I found the performance underwhelming.

3. Chris Mann with Christina Aguilera – “A Prayer” Chris has to play Andrea Bocelli and Xtina has to play Celine Dion. I’ll say one thing, these two harmonize really well together. Chris’s lower range provides a solid foundation for Christina’s vocal acrobatics. However, poor Chris didn’t get nearly enough opportunities to shine on his own and it’s his ass on the line. Plus I think he was buried in the mix a little bit. Also, I was worried that poor Ms. Aguilera would have a bit of a dress malfunction as the song wore on. I think Chris should have worn a bow tie and a mankini to spread the risk.

4. Tony Lucca – “99 Problems” Tony smartly sang a set of lyrics which if they weren’t his own were at least more relatable to his onstage persona than Jay-Z’s trifecta of hatred for being famous, racial profiling, and revenge violence. If he played it straight he would have come off as insensitive at the very least. And I totally got why he censored himself on the chorus – his family is right there in the audience! I also get why Christina might have called him out on the song choice itself, since anyone familiar with the song knows what goes in that vocal rest. Still, while I found the instrumentation to be solid, I thought that Tony’s vocal performance was underwhelming and short of breath.

5. Chris Mann – “The Voice Within” I figure that Chris picked this song to match Jermaine’s inspiration bait choice, but calculated or not this fell flat for me. Chris’s singing just sounded off-key and ugly against the orchestral backdrop. His onstage persona seemed tonally appropriate, if a bit bland. Towards the bridge things got a bit rocking and Chris cut loose, but before he could take off he went right back to so-so hook. “Not Myself Tonight” would have been a more fun tribute.

6. Juliet Simms and Cee-Lo Green – “Born To Be Wild” Why isn’t Juliet belting? Every good vocal performance I have heard of this song features some vocal effort in the verses and she has shown she has that kind of vocal staying power. She just needs to try! Meanwhile Cee-Lo just kind walked around and stayed in key. When they tried to harmonize with each other, they did runs on different syllables so they ended up with messy results. Juliet and Cee-Lo can wear all the leather and spikes they want, they still sounded complacent. I was really hoping they would kick ass like how Cee-Lo and Vicci Martinez kicked ass on “Love Is A Battlefield” last season.

7. Tony Lucca and Adam Levine – “Yesterday” I think this was a choice for Tony and his “faded idol” back story. Both he and Adam had the matter-of-fact sadness emotional content down pretty well. Vocally they were better together than they were solo (both Tony and Adam flubbed a tad on their solos) but I was actually kind of happy with this performance. It was a good tonal fit with minimal overindulgence and a good balance of emotion and execution.

8. Jermaine Paul – “God Gave Me You” Another inspiration bait coach tribute? Yeesh. I know next to nothing about Blake’s catalog, but given his onstage persona he has to have some songs with more jamming power. Instead this felt plodding even with Jermaine hitting some cool falsetto notes at the end. Personally I think he did the best he could with that song.

9. Chris Mann – “You Raise Me Up” Don’t get me wrong, Josh Groban seems like a good guy. I’m just not a fan of this kind of music, though I’ll concede that a lot of people are. Also, I thought he totally nailed this performance with a level of execution and conviction that rose above mere bait. It looked like he believed in what he was singing. I also like the little teary bit towards the end. Dare I say it, that was one of the night’s better performances. Nice job, dude. Kathy says he has a future in Disney movies and I agree. If Zachary Levi didn’t already do his own singing, Chris could totally be his singing voice.

10. Jermaine Paul and Blake Shelton – “Soul Man” Jermaine and Blake sounded a little light in the mix, but otherwise this was a fun performance. Blake looked a little bit stiff onstage, but really it’s not his ass on the line. If he can make Jermaine look and sound good, then he has done his job. And he did do his job. Jermaine looked confident, cool, and in his element. He got to do some crazy R&B runs, some crowd vamping, and a little call and response with the band. I’d totally watch more of that.

11. Tony Lucca – “Harder To Breathe” Tony has Adam’s high-end vocals down early on, but he fizzles out earlier than I would have liked. He also forgets the lyrics at several points in the second verse, a sin that would have gotten him the boot on another show. When it comes to stage presence I think he was solid, but I wish he would have brought the house band to the forefront so he could have fed off their energy. I think it would have improved his rocker charisma.

12. Juliet Simms – “Freebird” This is what I was waiting to hear all damn night! Juliet was holding back for her first two performances. It turns out that she was saving her sawed-off shotgun of a voice for the song. She had a solid build during the verses, holding back a little but still sounding fuller than her other two numbers. When the big chorus with the monster guitar solo came in, she stepped up and fulfilled her potential. When she nails her lower range runs she can bring me to the verge of tears. I wish she had a more consistent body of performances, but within the boundaries of this song this was well-played.

My Performance Rankings (Based on all three performances. Everything counts, Carson Daly.)
1. Jermaine Paul (#2 in tribute, #1 in duet, #3 in solo)
2. Tony Lucca (#1 in tribute, #2 in duet, #4 in solo)
3. Juliet Simms (#3 in tribute, #4 in duet, #1 in solo)
4. Chris Mann (#4 in tribute, #3 in duet, #2 in solo)

I understand with a final round that I should expect to see a lot more saccharine garbage. Still, it doesn’t change that I’m not into it. Compared to the past few weeks of performances this felt like a bit of a letdown. I thought every contestant brought at least one top-shelf performance, but if they want to be successful artists then they will need to be able to sustain star power for more than three minutes. See you tomorrow for the results show!

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Thoughts on The Voice Top 8: Final Four Reveal

May 1, 2012

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

Ok, we have eight contestants in the semi finals. Six of them gave pretty good performances on Monday night. Plus there’s the return of the judges’ scoring gimmick (because it wouldn’t be The Voice without some kind of crazy gimmick), so we’ll see how this shakes out.

Here are the guest musical performances!
– Dia Frampton and Kid Cudi – “Don’t Kick The Chair” I didn’t know Dia had this kind of catchy indie-sounding dance pop thing in her. She didn’t do much in the way of vocal tricks back in Season 1 and she’s not about to right now, but she sounded really, really good (even if I detected a hint of prerecorded vocal track.) As for her performance, it was like a “Pumped Up Kicks” with, you know, good singing. Even Kid Cudi’s rap verse complemented things. Well done, Dia!

– Vicci Martinez and Cee-Lo Green – “Come Along” While this is more chill than I expected from Vicci, this performance had a classy blues swagger to it. It was like Joan Osborne meets Moby. Vicci and Cee-Lo harmonized really well together. They were also on their best behavior. She didn’t try to punch through every note and he didn’t hog the mic time like he did with the Goodie Mob performance from a few weeks ago.

– Beverly McClellan and Cyndi Lauper – “Money Changes Everything” I’ll concede that I don’t know this Cyndi Lauper song, but Beverly sounds a lot better singing it. Cyndi looked like she was having trouble with her earpiece, and she may have suffered for it. She did recover in time for her big note about 4/5ths, which was decent. Meanwhile Beverly was in the same top form she demonstrated on Season 1, complete with the wide-eyed hammy stage presence.

– Javier Colon – “A Drop In The Ocean” This has to be the most boring performance I have seen tonight. Javier’s only signs of growth and risk taking are ditching his acoustic guitar for a piano. He still failed to engage me with his empty and somewhat depressing singing style. While I respected his Season 1 win, now I’m not so sure. Zzzzzz….

The Final Four

1. Chris Mann (Xtina score 50, voter score 54): I didn’t see that coming. He pulled out ahead on a worship song that’s as old as it gets. The lesson: Never underestimate this show’s lite-pop demographic, which I never knew existed (or thought they all stayed with Idol.)

2. Tony Lucca (Adam score 60, voter score 48): That Adam score took him over the top despite losing the popular vote. I’m chalking this up to producer favoritism since he has that Mickey Mouse Club vengeance story. He’s been improving week to week, but he didn’t perform as well as Katrina did.

3. Jermaine Paul (Blake score 50, voter score 73): Note for note Jermaine has consistently been the best performer on the show this season. He had one flub in top 24 week, but otherwise he’s out on top. He’s been one of the few to balance raw power and genuine emotion on such a professional level. In my opinion, he’s the one to beat.

4. Juliet Sims (Cee-Lo score 60, voter score 61): Yay! We don’t have a four-man final! Juliet definitely gets the trophy for Most Improved. Her performance style was half attitude and half hot air, but she gradually replaced that hot air with melodic snarl. It was definitely enough to knock my predicted Chosen One out of the game. If she brings the soul like she did for the past two weeks, she’s got my vote.

The Losers
– Lindsey Pavao (Xtina score 50, voter score 46): She found her indie groove for her last performance, but it was too late. Weeks of awkward gimmicks and lazy singing obliterated any goodwill she earned in the early rounds.

– Katrina Parker (Adam score 40, voter score 52): Well, she won the popular vote on Team Adam so she can take that consolation. Her performance was catchy, graceful, and pleasant to hear. I guess it wasn’t as desperate.

– Erin Willett (Blake score 50, voter score 27): Ouch. I’ll concede that Erin didn’t bring her best last week, but she’s been one of the most dynamic and charismatic performers this show has had. It’s just a shame she had to go up against Jermaine.

– Jamar Rogers (Cee-Lo score 40, voter score 39): Wow! I won’t say I didn’t see this coming because as good as Jamar’s performance was, Juliet’s was way better. He got kind of cold in his last few performances, and maybe it was enough to swing enough voters to other contestants.

Finally, free Christina Milian! I want to see a “Dip It Low” performance next week!

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Thoughts on The Voice Top 8

April 30, 2012

Image edited from the original by Andrew Senay via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

All right, Voice fans! We have reached the semi finals! It’s been nearly three months, but the home stretch is in sight. We have a fairly decent Top 8 for the show, but it remains to be seen if they can deliver. Let’s do it!

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

1. Tony Lucca (Team Adam) – “How You Like Me Now?” This was a slow starter.
Tony was flat as a pancake during the stair descent (“but he had to balance those models hanging off of his shoulders!”) Then he found his inner dance dork and cut loose. He was a bit bleaty from time to time and his dancing was silly, but he managed to project over the big brassy sound and showed great vocal control. I appreciated his big buildup and sense of fun. Dare I say it, this guy is growing on me.

2. Erin Willett (Team Blake) – “Without You” She’s doing that thing where she purposely sings way off the beat. I think it was meant to show emotion, but it came off as messy. I should give her points for doing something different with a popular song, but she went the wrong way. I’ve liked Erin the best when she brings the uptempo power show. Instead she sang only the boring parts from this David Guetta hit. When this song comes on the radio, I’m willing to deal with the beatless Usher verses that sound like a crummy photocopy of “With Or Without You” for the sake of Guetta’s visceral Fuck Me I’m Famous beats. There was no payoff to this performance – not even her vocal runs, solid as they were.

3. Chris Mann (Team Xtina) – “Ave Maria” My knowledge of opera is limited to when I interned in the marketing department of an opera company in college, but this sounded ok. Straight-up worship/performance songs like this don’t lend themselves to the performance rubric beyond technical execution (as opposed to songs or arias that relate to the actual plot of an opera, where the emotion is key.) I think Chris sounded decent within the conventions of performing stuff like this, but those conventions made it kind of boring. And that piano was way too high in the mix. Its countermelodic playing was jarring.

4. Jamar Rogers (Team Cee-Lo) – “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” Does Cee-Lo wish he was a judge on Idol (or Jimmy Iovine?) Why is he picking such stodgy songs? Jamar’s retouched arrangement isn’t as radical as he thinks it is, but he sure can sing. He managed to stay grounded in his spot on the stage, but still made use of the space with the strength and variety of his vocal moves. The way he projected was intense without oversinging, and that crazy downshift at the end was pretty hot. To cap it off, he managed to have the emotion of last week’s performance with the solid singing of his early performances. Props for making the best out of a difficult situation.

5. Team Adam and Team Cee-Lo – “All These Things That I’ve Done” They have to pad this show out somehow. Juliet continues to sing on-key. Katrina was a crackly hot mess early on but righted herself quickly. Jamar tries to steal the show and succeeds for 15% of his mic time. Tony’s Bruce Springsteen impression was a tad anemic.

6. Jermaine Paul (Team Blake) – “Open Arms” Jermaine’s execution is flawless – seriously he missed not one note. I was a little nervous about this performance since this song in the wrong hands has the potential to be way too plodding and saccharine, and for the first verse it was. Then the rock parts kicked in and Jermaine found his emotional levels. His emotion matched the power of his belting. I felt passion. I felt commitment. I felt strength. I was almost at the crying level. Well played!

7. Katrina Parker (Team Adam) – “Killing Me Softly” I kind of wish Katrina would get into the performance a little and bop to the beat (the backup singers were getting into it more,) but we’ve established that swagger just isn’t her performance style. She prefers to stay grounded. That said, this is The Voice and that performance was really fun to listen to! It was crazy catchy and Katrina nailed the torchy sensuality that a proper vocal performance of this song demands. She was on key and unwavering, and her commitment as she hit note after note was quite charming. Way to bring the A-game!

8. Blake Shelton – “Over” Blake sounded buried in the mix, which really detracted from any vocal performance he brought. Not that his singing was that hot to begin with. It was bleary, off-key, and just a bit hunger-dunger-dang. Look at how the other coaches were reacting. Christina was doing that robotic head nod thing combined with a stare that looked like she wanted to set Blake on fire with heat vision. Meanwhile Cee-Lo looked confused and disconnected, the way I probably look upon seeing the controls to a Madden game or when someone tries to explain the concept of a “standard deviation” to me. Why is this guy a coach?

9. Lindsey Pavao (Team Xtina) – “Skinny Love” I should have seen this coming – the indie singer does the song from the whiny indie band. “Say Aah” this is not. At least she’s singing more coherently than Justin Vernon and his band of Civil War reenactors when they were on SNL. To her credit, Lindsey sang with a delicateness that was pleasant to hear and moderately engrossing. She managed to be dialed back and restrained and still execute with some coy emotion. She was a bit mushy on the mic, but I suppose that’s to be expected.

10. Team Blake and Team Xtina – “Edge of Glory” Jermaine sang too high. Lindsey sang too low. Erin sang too quietly. Chris oversang. There you have it, four ways to get to the same result: Wrong.

11. Juliet Sims (Team Cee-Lo) – “It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World” Even with all the negativity I’ve written about Juliet on this site, any doubts I had about her abilities were gone after that performance. Her snarly emoting gave Jamar a run for his money. In the past three weeks she developed the sheer stamina to sustain those growl holds, which seem difficult to nail in the first place. She also stayed on key despite all the soul power poses and vocal swan dives that would have turned a lesser performer (which was her in the Top 32 and earlier) into a scratchy trainwreck. She wins because she went for difficult material, avoided overindulgence, and came off as charismatic and entertaining. Way to stick her in the end, producers!

My Performance Ranking
1. Juliet Sims
2. Jermaine Paul
3. Jamar Rogers
4. Katrina Parker
5. Tony Lucca
6. Lindsey Pavao
7. Chris Mann
8. Erin Willett

Tonight was a pretty good night. There were maybe two performances that I didn’t care for. Otherwise we had a solid mix of standout performances. I kind of feel bad for having to rank Tony and Lindsey as low as I did, but it’s all relative. Here’s hoping for a smashing final four. See you for the results show!

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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!