‘The Voice’ Semifinals: How Ya Like Them Now?

The Voice (NBC)

You’ve heard of Stockholm Syndrome, right? That thing where, after you’ve been held captive for so long, you start sympathizing with the people who have been holding you hostage? Well, I never used to buy into that whole idea (except for that one “X Files” episode where it came up)…until I started covering “The Voice.” And now, after three months, I think I may have come down with a similar psychological condition. Let’s call it…I don’t know…Cee Lo Syndrome.

It finally hit me that I suffered from this while watching tonight’s semifinals. Instead of seeing it all objectively and reporting on the proceedings, I was pretty much rooting for everyone, not wanting the season to end. Now in theory, this should have been the most competitive week of the show yet, with each of the remaining eight singers battling to make it to next week’s finals. Instead, I didn’t see competitors out there. I just saw eight nice people I’ve gotten to know for the past three months putting on a great episode of a variety show that only four of them will be invited to next week. And instead of critiquing their performances, I’d prefer to explain (in order of who was most impressive tonight) what I’m going to miss about each of these people whether they exit tomorrow or next week.

Juliet Simms

First, I have to say that her passionate, scorched earth version of “It’s A Man’s World” was by far the highlight during a night full of highlights. She’s always had a gritty energy that powered her through every performance (even when she had wings on while playing in a pile of feathers last week), but as she said in her pre-song video package, this song inspired her more than usual because she’s fought so hard over the years to be heard in business dominated by men.

And second, I’m going to miss her continued amazement that coach Cee Lo Green manages to coax the inveterate tomboy into wearing dresses every week. “I’m actually starting to like them now…it’s weird,” she told me tonight. “It’s not torture anymore. Make no mistake. When I go out in public, it’ll still be pants. But I don’t know….tonight when my mom saw me, she just started crying. She was, like, ‘Oh my god! You were great…and that dress!”

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Lindsey Pavao

I have to confess yet again that I have a bias when it comes to talking about Lindsey. My daughter adopted her very early on as her favorite, to the point where she’s even written Lindsey fan mail. So as far as I’m concerned, she can do wrong. In the most unbiased way possible, however, I have to say her take on Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” tonight was probably her best performance since her blind audition. She finally seemed to be in her element, standing on stage strumming her guitar while surrounded by a bunch of extras as if this was a campfire sing-along.

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Even if she doesn’t move on to the finals (please vote for her, though, or you’re going to make my 10-year-old cry), it almost doesn’t matter. She figures confidence she showed on the stage tonight is reward enough for her “Voice” experience, largely because it’s come courtesy of her fellow singers. “I will miss these people,” she said after the show. “They’ve taught me so much about being an artist and loving myself. I came into this competition not liking myself as a singer. They’ve shown me how they see me as  an artist, and I think if they can accept me, why can’t I? I’ve started to take on this acceptance of myself, which is a big thing.”

Erin Willett

Sure I’ll miss Erin’s performances when “The Voice” is done. She’s someone who seems to have grown stronger every week, going from being “that woman whose father died as she was trying to get on the show” to “that woman with a voice that swings with the strength and speed of a wrecking ball.” And her downright spiritual singing on David Guetta’s “Without You” was pretty breathtaking to watch.

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What I’m going to miss even more than her music, though, is her dedication to all the reporters after the show. She’ll stay for as long as it takes to talk to everyone about anything and everything. (After all, she’s the one who told me a few weeks ago that to get herself ready for a big performance, she poops.) And even though it’s old news now, she’s still happy to pay tribute to her late father whenever the subject comes up. As she did last night, referring to her teary breakdown at the end of her song.

“It was really emotional, a realization moment of the year that’s really turned my life upside down,” she explained. “Sometimes you just get caught up in everything and you forget to see the journey. So this was that time when I was able to see how far I’ve come, that I’m successful. I’ve proven myself. It was a vulnerable moment that I just need to own.”

Chris Mann

I haven’t quite decided whether I’m going to miss Chris for his singing, his wardrobe or his incredibly good manners. From the first moments of his audition, he was like a bottle of expensive Port at a backyard barbecue, his opera leanings completely at odds with the current pop hit mentality of the show. Tonight, he completely succumbed to his classical side, doing a version of “Ave Maria” that was so intense and captivating that he should expect a call from the Vatican tomorrow asking him to come sing it at its next backyard barbecue.

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But like I’d mentioned above, I will probably miss him just as much for the suits that lent some class to the proceedings and for the way he never lets the stress of the moment get to him. As evidenced last night by his constant attempts to sneak into the background of all the cutaways to the Sprint Lounge. “We just like to have fun,” he said, laughing afterward. “Did you see when we had the cat? I guess that’s all good, though, right/ It shows we weren’t feeling nervous. If we go home tomorrow, at least we had a good time tonight. And that’s the way we are all the time. I can’t wait to watch and see how it turned out, although I’m pretty sure I totally embarrassed myself.”

Katrina Parker

You know that reluctant Katrina you’ve seen every week? The one who seems more surprised than anyone that she even made it onto “The Voice,” let alone made it to the Top 8? Well, trust me, that isn’t false modesty. Katrina really does seem somewhat bewildered that they still allow her onto the stage every week. Even after she out-Adele’ed Adele again with another elegant, soul stirring performance, this time singing “Killing Me Softly.”

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She could use a little more confidence, judging by the talent she continues to showcase, but I’m going to miss her absolute insistence that someone’s been making mistakes and not taking away her backstage pass. “I used to think, ‘Gosh, it’d be really nice to be in top 210. Then it was, ‘I just want to make it to the top 110. Then it was the top 48. Every time, it’s just been surreal that that’s then happened. And tonight was particularly bittersweet, because a lot more intensity was applied to the situation because there’s just two left and one has to go home.”

Jamar Rogers

Before you even ask the question, let me just say the answer is yes…Jamar really does have that much energy and he really is that humble. I’m sure that if you were to find his high school yearbook, you’d learn that he was voted Most Likely To Make Tony Robbins Sound Like Eeyore. He did try to tone done some his trademark fidgetiness onstage tonight, doing a more laidback, synthesized version of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now.” No stilt-walking guitarists this. No walls of flame. And he managed to pull it off, showcasing what a Jamar Rogers debut album would be like.

He’s clearly been the favorite in the competition for a few weeks now (although that title was probably handed over to Juliet tonight), but I’m going to miss the way you’d never know it by talking to him afterwards. Which was the case again last night. “I actually whispered to Juliet tonight onstage, ‘If I lose to you, I can’t think of a better person to be beaten by.’ I mean, did you see her tonight? She tore that stage up! She just put her foot on all out butts and just ground us all down. But you know….we’re all artists. How can I say I deserve to win more than anyone else here? “

Tony Lucca

Let’s set aside this former Mouseketeer’s ongoing difficulties with former Mouse-mate Christina Aguilera. For reasons that he can’t fathom, she’s been exceptionally harsh on him all season. Including tonight, where she hoped his coach, Adam Levine, wouldn’t treat him like “the obvious choice.” All of that has been a distraction from Tony’s newfound ability to provide clever twists on familiar songs. He did it again this week by slipping on a Robert Palmer suit and tie and rocking a bluesy “How Ya Like Me Now.” Where once stood a folkie singer/songwriter now stood a larger-than-life rock star.

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Whenever his time to leave arrives, though, I think I’ll most miss the good guy who genuinely seemed bummed every week that he was sequestered in a hotel away from his wife and kids.  That has never been more true than tonight, when the video package about him featured his wife talking about what a doting dad and sincere spouse he is nearly ruined his performance.

“In rehearsal, they don’t let us see those packages,” he said after the show. “So tonight, I’m looking up at screen, about to start my son, and I saw my wife talking about me while it meant a lot, it got me all misty. Coming down those stairs to start my song wasn’t easy. I just kept saying, ‘Get your head in the game! Get your head in the game!’ Which I think I was able to do. Hopefully.”

Jermaine Paul

At first, I couldn’t imagine that Jermaine and I had anything in common other than the fact that we both require oxygen to live. And yet, I’ve grown more fond of him each week because of his song choices. From Bon Jovi to Phil Collins to Journey, he’s been digging deeply into the adult contemporary catalog that I previously figured appealed only old suburban guys who used to drive Dodge Darts. And he’s killed it every time, as he did with a very straight-ahead take on “Open Arms” tonight.

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As it turns out, Jermaine and I actually do have a musical youth in common. We were fans of the same light suburban rock, but for very different reasons. “I grew up Pentecostal, with a very strong gospel music background. My parents didn’t let me listen to anything on the radio but light FM stations. So these songs are the songs I grew up with as a kid, the ones my dad said ‘Okay, you can listen to this.’ He protected me from a lot of the nonsense on the radio. And that’s the music that meant the most me, that had the greatest impact on my life. So that’s why I try to do those songs.”



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

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