Before I go any further, I want you to know how much I care about you. You’re the most entertaining music competition show I’ve ever spent time with. And I hope we’re going to stay on good terms for a long, long time. Still, I can’t help but worry that things will change between us now that your blind auditions are over. I don’t want that to happen but I know that things can change. You’re going in a different direction now, getting harsher with the battle rounds starting next week. So I just wanted to send you this note to let you know that no matter what happens, here are the things I’ve learned to love about you these past five episodes.
No more blind auditions means no more watching the contestants spurning one famous singer not used to telling him/her “no” in favor of another singer who expects to always be told “yes.” Like when Whitney Myer, who sings with her family band (sort of like the von Trapps, only with more pop soul music and fewer Nazis) belted out a gritty version of “No One.” All four coaches turned around, and she had all the power and authority before choosing Adam Levine to guide her. It’s moments like these that make the show different and more fun than its competition. Seriously, could you imagine someone telling Randy Jackson they’re sick and tired of hearing the word “pitchy” so they’re only going to listen to Steven Tyler from now on?
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THE FAMILY DRAMA
I’m sure that in the battle rounds, we’ll still get to see the singers’ families exchanging hugs and high-fives backstage with what appears to be a highly-Red Bulled Carson Daly. Still, I’m going to really miss those first introductions to the parents, especially the ones who passive aggressively wonder why their kids insist on doing this silly music thing. Sometimes it doesn’t work out, like with Engineering honors student David Dunn, whose dad said he appreciated his son following his passion for music but “we’ll see how long that lasts.” (It was tough to see him do a decent version of “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” but turn no chairs. You just knew that was going to be a very quiet family dinner afterward….)
It’s nice to know, though, that the kids can succeed despite their folks sometimes. Like the goofy Shields Brothers, whose dad made if very clear he wants them to succeed so they can get on the road, get out of his house and start making their own money. Which they might actually do, though probably not because of their musical prowess. Their amped-up “Dancing With Myself” was sort of all over the place, with enough quirky charisma to get Cee Lo Green to hit his button. However, it’s their latter day Wayne’s World style and tendency to blurt out things like “America needs to be punched in the face by rock ‘n’ roll” that make them seem like a Disney Channel show waiting to happen.
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THE BUTTON TECHNIQUES
Please don’t take this the wrong way, “Voice.” You’ll still be fun once the chairs stop turning. But the buttons are your gimmick, your big hook. The show without those is like Survivor without the tribal council or Don Draper without his cigarettes. There’s always some button drama going on. Like when Hawaiian native Cheesa, whose shaky “If I Were A Boy” didn’t seem to grab any coach attention until the very end. Cee Lo seemed ready to push his button just as she finished, but he stopped, thinking the song was over. It took Adam egging him on to convince him there was still time, so he hit and spun just as Cheesa finished. (Maybe this is something to incorporate in next seasons audition rounds, some sort of tag team approach?)
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All the coaches have developed their own unique button style. Blake and Christina Aguilera both seem fond of the The Hover, holding their hands an inch or two above it like it was some spider they’re deciding to either crush or save. The best push of the night, though, belonged to Adam. As Orlando Napier eased his way through a bluesy version of “Waiting On the World To Change,” Adam had his head down on his chair like it was second grade naptime. With his hands cupped around the button, he gave it a quick swat and Orlando deservedly made the cut. (Adam does this head resting thing a lot, so for next season, I suggest pillows.)
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THE BANTER BATTLE
Moving on to the battle rounds doesn’t mean the end of the coaches’ bad boy (and girl)L bantering with each other. It does, however, mean we’ll get less of it since each of the four will be off with their teams now and spending less time in their chairs. That’s a shame because seriously, the heart of every episode is listening to the coaches creating new ways to put each other down to impress the singer they’re wooing.
Take Lex Land, for instance. The camp counselor/jazz singer started out strong with her sultry take on “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” but seemed to get the yips as soon as Adam and Cee Lo almost simultaneously turned around. When Blake (who also turned) tried to illustrate how he felt hearing Land’s voice by doing some oddly sexual heaving breathing, Adam shot back with, “Oh Blake, you’re so premature.” Okay, so it’s not exactly a Comedy Central Roast-worthy line, but still, he’s trying.
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They all did better with sorority girl Adley Stump (who I swear lifted that name from some “Green Acres” or “Petticoat Junction” rerun). Her “Flashdance” sense of style was a stark contrast to her strong country voice, and was enough to get Blake and Christina to battle for her. Blake would eventually win out, not just with Adley but with his ad libs. When Christina started saying something about the young singer’s “chops,” Blake stared at her and asked something we’ve all wanted to ask musicians forever – “What does ‘chops’ mean?”
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Later, when Christina admitted Blake was “a little more country than she was,” he dryly responded with “Ya think?” And after Adam assured Blake he was a great vocalist that he loved his fellow coach, Blake sent the love right back. Adam’s retort: “I mean that in a totally non-sexual way.” Blake’s reply: “I can’t say the same thing.” You heard it hear first. “Voice,” you’re doing so well in the ratings for NBC right now, I predict next year you’ll be spun off into a sit-com starring four mismatched musicians who are forced to move in together. And wacky hijinks ensue….
We certainly haven’t seen the end of people getting booted off the show. In the coming weeks, we’ll see 47 or the final 48 take a hike. But they’ll have at least won once, getting on the show. So no more seeing people like Cameron Novack, who never got past their audition. Ordinarily, it was kind of sad when that happened. For Novack, not so much. He matter-of-factly assured the world that “if a coach doesn’t turn around, I’ll be shocked.”
Well, he should have said “disgusted” rather than “shocked” because his oddball version of “You Oughta Know” didn’t get a single chair-turn. (The strange grunting-clicking sound he made during the song did sound like some sort of tribal language and get chuckles from Cee Lo and Adam.) Cee Lo did try, for the briefest of moments, to convince producers to bend the rules so he could add Novack to his team but it didn’t happen. So the singer glared angrily at, well, everyone and sulked off. And I was actually sad to see him go, not because I enjoyed his singing but because his cocky swagger made him seem like the perfect villain, kind of a musical version of Richard Hatch or Omarosa. It’s fun to root for singers but when it comes to reality shows, but it’s even more fun to root against someone.
Legend has it that on the old Tonight Show With Johnny Carson, comedians knew they’d hit the big time if Johnny beckoned them over to the couch after their set. In the blind auditions, the opposite phenomenon has been fun to watch. When a singer really wows his or her coach, they don’t have to walk over for a congratulatory hug. The coach comes to them. That’s why the Shields Brothers may be in trouble. They had to walk to Cee Lo. But then there are performers like professional baker Lee Koch, who did a wispy yet decent Bob Dylan impression and got a friendly embrace and back pat from his new coach, Christina.
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The most promising greeting, though? When Christina snagged her final team member, the extremely perky and powerful Sera Hill (her gutsy “I’m Going Down” was probably the night’s strongest performance), she didn’t just come over to say, “Good job.” She actually got up to sing with her new team member. It was a great moment. Just one tip for any coach who decides to welcome someone next season. If you’re going to sing, it’s good to know the words.
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First, as my daughter pointed out to me last week, the Cee Lo’s cat is named Purr-fect and I should start referring to it as such. And second, I don’t know if Purr-fect was simply visiting for the blind auditions but if it was, I’m going to miss him (or her…I have no idea) most of all. Cee Lo actually conversed with it after completing his team by picking 18-year-old Wade, whose Al Green-ized “Rehab” really started to grow on me the more he sang. I’m really hoping that Purr-fect returns for at least one more week, if for no other reason than to find out if it’s talking back to Cee Lo.
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And that’s it, “Voice.” You still mean the world to me. And if you happen to come over someday without calling first and see me watching “American Idol,” please don’t be jealous. I swear I’m only doing it to check for more Jennifer Lopez wardrobe malfunctions.
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