Okay, I have to be honest here. I’m a New England Patriot fan. A serious, pout-and –potentially-throw-stuff-at-the-TV-when-I’m-watching-alone-and-they-lose sort of Patriots fan. So after enduring yet another another soul-sucking Super Bowl loss to the Giants, I was not in the best frame of mind to watch the premiere of “The Voice.” In fact, for the first few minutes of the second season of NBC’s music competition extravaganza, I sat on the couch listening to the show but staring blankly into space rather than staring at the screen.
Which, as it turns out, may be the most entertaining way to enjoy the series. The four returning coaches – Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, Cee Lo Green and Adam Levine – must judge the auditioning vocalists without seeing them so it kind of makes sense to review the show the same way. With that in mind, then, here are the evening’s Top Five Moments that convinced me to stop moping about the Patriots and turn around to see what was going on with “The Voice.”
1) As the show opened, all the coaches were talking about how competitive last season was, and how much they’re looking forward to going after each other again this year with whatever teams they end up with. Cee Lo started boasting about his chances, and because this is a guy who once wore a chicken outfit while performing at the Grammys, I had to see what he was wearing. The clothes were normal, but he had a cat in his lap. It made no sense, but then again, neither does a lot of what Cee Lo says. Which is precisely what makes “The Voice” so much more fun than “American Idol.” When was the last time Steven Tyler sat there looking like some sort of Vegas-ified Bond villain?
Watch Cee Lo’s Opening:
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2) The second singer up was Jesse Campbell, a single dad from Chicago. His story about living in his car with his young daughter sounded like the sort of perfectly sad stuff that makes people fan favorites in this type of reality competition. But then, the second he launched into a supremely soulful version of “A Song For You,” his voice sounded so much like last year’s winner Javier Colon’s that I had to make sure it wasn’t the same guy. I looked up at the same time that all four coaches turned their chairs to check him out as well. Sure this is only episode one of a very long season, but Jesse seems like a very serious contender already.
Watch Jesse’s Performance:
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3) It takes a lot of nerve to audition with a Beatles’ song, but there was Juliet Simms from Florida doing a very gritty, bluesy version of “Oh Darling.” I could hear the crowd completely getting into it and when she finished, Aguilera tried to convince her to join Team Christina by running down Levine. “He’ll say, ‘Hi, my name is Adam and I’ll see you a car right now,’” she explained, noting that he needs to be “the center of attention.” She would know, since she’s got plenty of experience in that category as well. Levine’s response: “She’s one of the best singers but not one of the best coaches.” I couldn’t resist turning to the screen in time to see Christina accuse a very angry-looking Levine of trying to be as cool as Justin Timberlake, and then rush over to him during a break to say, “I’m just kidding.” Another reason to love watching “The Voice”…it’s like watching some other dysfunctional family’s reunion.
Watch Juliet’s Performance:
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4) The second sad story of the night belonged to the classically trained Chris Mann from Wichita, who found out that his mom was suffering from cancer just as he was preparing to compete on the show. Despite the illness, she insisted he go on his audition. Good thing, too. You get so used to hearing the same pop/rock/soul songs in these shows, it was jarring (in a good way) to hear Chris demonstrate his opera chops with “Because We Believe.” I had to get a better look at this guy, who could be Bradley Cooper’s fraternal twin. His voice is unique and could make the competition very interesting, but the best part about his performance? The dazed and confused look he had after picking an overly giddy Aguilera and seeing her teeter out on her big heels to hug him and then teeter back to her chair.
Watch Chris’ Performance:
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5) The evening’s final singer was Tony Lucca, who as host Carson Daly kept telling us was a former co-star of Aguilera’s on the “Mickey Mouse Club.” This set-up was too good to pass up, so I was glued to the tube as he did a dead-on imitation of Ray Lamontagne with “Trouble.” The engaging spirit of the show was captured in the moment when an enthusiastic Levine jumped over to push Green’s button, making it a clean sweep as all the coaches turned to check Lucca out. As good as his performance was, it was much more entertaining to watch as Aguilera praised it without a glimmer of recognition. She did eventually manage to remember him, after he’d left the stage. Seeing her wander into Lucca’s dressing room to mention fellow Mouseketeer’s crush on him in front of his wife and young son was funny in that uncomfortable, exactly how unaware of other people is she way that only reality television can capture.
Watch Tony’s Performance:
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All in all, “The Voice” is picking up right where it left off last year. The singers are good. The banter between the coaches is amusing. And Paula Abdul should consider suing Christina Aguilera for stealing her act.