‘The Voice’ Quarterfinals, Week 2: Waking Up From a Teen Dream

Cee-Lo Green and James Massone on The Voice (Photo by: Lewis Jacobs/NBC)

In between watching the last round of live quarterfinals on “The Voice” and writing about the last round of live quarterfinals on “The Voice,” I slipped in a quick visit with my college roommate, who happened to be in town on business for the evening. I mention this not because it meant staying up to write this blog way past my bedtime, although that does give me a good excuse for any grammatical or spelling errors you might find ahead…I’m tired.

I mention it because our conversation revolved around all sorts of middle-aged man topics: bodies that move slower than they used to, how nobody seems to read books or newspapers anymore, the horrendous music that our kids choose to listen to. The theme of our chat: Old guys just can’t seem to get a break. And after realizing that, it dawned on me that this is exactly what we got with tonight’s “Voice.” The instant eliminations took out the two teen dream boys left in the competition – James Massone and Pip – and proved at least for one night that there is still something to be said for age and experience (but mostly age). As I will now demonstrate:

The Goodbye Guys

Whereas last week’s surprise introduction of the Instant Elimination gimmick brought some truly shocking results, this week was a totally different story. After watching James and Pip perform, there really wasn’t much doubt that this was not going to be their night. James opted to sing Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” and he seemed just the way he was last time, when he sang “Don’t Know Why” to all the screaming teen girls in the crowd. Then, it was kind of cool to hear his soft, soul sound spill over into an adult contemporary song that most of his young, adoring female fans have only heard when their parents sing along to it on the car radio. Doing it a second time, though, felt about as tired as I’m feeling writing about it now.

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To his credit, meanwhile, Pip did try to shake things up. A little, anyway. He tackled Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know,” another middle of the road tune that he was handling just fine at the beginning. When he pounded out the first few lines at the piano, all was well and felt like his most grown-up performance yet. Then he got up from the piano and channeled his inner Bieber, strolling into the crowd and going for a big finish by slipping into a crackling falsetto that seemed more like he’d just hit a second puberty.

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Hence, the lack of suspense when Cee Lo Green read a long farewell speech before eventually telling James he had to pack his bags and Adam Levine cutting pretty much to the chase and giving the heave-ho to Pip. Okay, sure there were a few young teen shrieks of despair upon hearing this news but the air remained in the building rather than getting sucked out as it was last week when Jesse Campbell and Jordis Unga got their walking papers.

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Life On the Edge

There are a lot of reasons why Jamar Rogers has become the favorite in the competition. There’s his powerhouse voice, of course. And his inspirational personal story, living with HIV against all odds. His boundless enthusiasm on stage doesn’t hurt, either. He proved all of this again tonight by applying his soulful, spiritual stylings on yet another classic rock song with appeal to us older folks, Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life.” However, the real reason he’s got so many fans is perhaps the same reason that NASCAR is so popular: there’s a hint of possible danger in his performances.

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Two weeks ago, he had to navigate in and around guitar-playing stilt walkers who could have toppled on him at any moment. And tonight, it was working around a gigantic vat of open flames. He made it through just fine, much to his relief and, no doubt, that of whoever insures “The Voice.” Apparently, at least Cee Lo had no doubt his protégé would make it through the fire hazard just fine.

“I guess he trusts me. I’m just extremely careful,” he explained after the show. “With the stilt walkers, I was making sure to help them up the stairs. With the fire tonight, I was watching out for the dancers. But you know, one week, I wouldn’t mind if he gave me a break and I got to just sit safely at a piano.

Katrina And the Raves

It can’t feel good when your own coach, Adam Levine, reminds everyone that you were never his favorite singer on the team. Yet that’s what happened – again – to Katrina Parker. After she delivered a spare but incredibly elegant “Jar Of Hearts” to the crowd and the coaches, Adam reminded her of how far down the totem pole she has been this season. But then, following suit with the other coaches who had just hailed her moving performance, he jumped in to praise how strong she’d become these past few weeks. Which was nice for Katrina to hear. It’s great to see one of the older and more experience singers live on, speaking as an older viewer. Still, despite the success and all this recent praise, Katrina’s confidence could still use a little boost.

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“I just assume it’s me going home every time,” she told me. “I believe in preparing for the worst. Adam admitted I hadn’t been a favorite from the beginning. It’s very honest and I appreciate that. I don’t want him to sugarcoat things. That shows how fair this competition is. He let his mind about me be completely changed. But that’s also why every time I stay, it’s very tenuous even if they say the wonderful things they say. I was ready to go home tonight. I was expecting to hear Katrina.”

The Fly Guy

There was certainly nothing wrong with Mathai’s performance of “Like A Bird” tonight. Nothing spectacular about it either, though. Still, it may be the most memorable performance of the evening thanks to the guy Blake Shelton has dubbed “Captain America.” As Mathai sang, the man used some hanging ribbons to fly back and forth in the air above her. Thus making it virtually impossible to focus on her. If you were at Cirque du Soleil, this would have been cool. On “The Voice,” it looked almost comic.

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Her coach, Adam, didn’t seem too pleased by the Fly Guy, mentioning several times that he had no idea this was going to happen. The person who had to share the stage with him, however, didn’t seem to mind at all. Mathai insisted later that “I have fun every time I’m on stage. It doesn’t matter that there’s a freakin’ guy flying over my head. I’m just jealous. I wanted to swing across the stage. He should have just grabbed me, and we’re in this romantic embrace flying off together. We could Tarzan it. Maybe if I make it through to next week.”

A Mickey Mouse Challenge

Two weeks ago, Christina Aguilera threw down an inadvertent challenge to her former “Mickey Mouse Club” co-star, Tony Lucca. After his performance, she chided him for being one-dimensional in what was clearly one of the more tense moments of this season. So how did Lucca respond? By getting mad and getting even, coming up with a rock and roll rendition of fellow Mickey Mouse Club-er Britney Spears’ “Hit Me Baby One More Time.”

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The performance was probably the night’s strongest and most fun, another victory for the older guys, and definitely earned Tony the loudest and longest applause in the building. After the show, the drained but grinning singer set the record straight on a couple of fronts. First, at the moment he has no plans to try performing “Genie In A Bottle” as a reggae tune if he survives into next week (“All rumors and speculation,” he said with a laugh.) And second, there’s no hard feelings between him and Christina. “She teed it up nicely for us. It was a chance for me to come in nice and strong. Her remarks weren’t lost on Adam. He was, like, ‘Hey dude, it’s a game. Play it!’”

Diva-ne Intervention

She may not win this whole thing, but I really have to give Cheesa some credit here for being by far the biggest personality on “The Voice” this season. She has enough nervous energy to power two other reality competition shows. And only someone with that kind of reckless abandon would attempt to take on a Whitney Houston song at this point. She tackled “I Have Nothing” with more power than she’s shown this season, which is saying something considering how much power she’s shown already.

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No wonder she talked on-air about her desire to be a diva. But how exactly does she define “diva”? Says Cheesa, suddenly and shockingly at a loss for words: “You have confidence….shoot…I don’t know…Fierceness….I’m not sure…” What about, say, helpers who follow her around with umbrellas to keep her out of the sun or assistants who can be yelled at for forgetting to supply her with the right bottled water? “No, I’m not that kind of diva,” she laughs. “How about if we just say I’m someone who is confident that this was by far my best performance and I finally got to show who I am and what I can do? I’m that kind of diva.”

Winging It

Mathia may have had a guy flying in the background during her time onstage, but it was Juliet Mills’ whose performance was really for the birds. For reasons that even she couldn’t completely explain (“I’m part Cherokee Indian” was her defense), she wore a pair of giant wings to perform Aerosmith’s “Crying.” Then, as she tore through the final lines of the song, she got hit by a steady storm of feathers falling from the ceiling. Lucky for her, her rough-as-year-old-razor vocals continue to make her one of most unique singers on the show (while her continued performances of classic rock tunes make her a favorite for older generations of rock fans). She’s able to keep you so mesmerized that it was possible to barely notice how fowl this appearance was.

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And just to make it clear, she did say after the show that the wings were the personal property of her coach. “I want them so bad, though. I guess if I keep doing well, maybe I’m earn them.” Believe it or not, she actually found that wearing wings less strange than other outfits she’s had to don for “The Voice.” “I’m wearing more dresses than I ever have in my entire life,” she admits. “My mom now is like, ‘You wore a dress. I’m soooo proud of you!’ So that’s a major change in my life from doing this show.”



The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.

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