‘The Voice’: Few Standouts in a Night Full of Changes

Sasha Allen performs on "The Voice" -- (Photo by: Tyler Golden/NBC)

There were some change-ups on Monday night’s “The Voice.” First, each contestant had to sing two songs—their own choice, and the choice of their coaches. Secondly, we got the news that only one contestant would be kicked off this week instead of the usual two. What does this mean? Does “The Voice” go on for an extra week, or will three people leave next week? Finally, this episode crossed over from being a pop/r&b show with a few country singers, to a completely country show. In round two tonight, even the non-Team Blake singers went country for a full sweep.

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About the show crossing over to country—it’s clear that’s what the powers-that-be are in favor of. That must explain why Blake Shelton’s team gets all of the production budget. Those sets! Swon Brothers got not only a brothel complete with burlesque saloon wenches, but a barn WITH a wheelbarrow. While Usher’s Michelle Chamuel had only the projection of a tree, Blake’s Danielle Bradbery got an actual tree, grassy knoll included. Amber Carrington, who is a country singer but on Adam Levine’s team, was privy only to a ring of fire—but a dangerous seeming one at that.

But there were also some things that did not change. The coaches’ criticisms were as bland, mindlessly positive and unhelpful as ever. (For instance, Usher on Holly Tucker: “I don’t have anything too critical.” Really?) Christina Milian asked inane questions as usual. And Carson Daly had some of the most incredible monotone reactions ever uttered, usually in response to Christina’s interludes: “Lots happened here,” and “Well, thank you, that was touching.” Once more, with no feeling whatsover.

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Contestants also just pushed further into their wheelhouses, so that there were few standouts. Everything felt just a little too familiar.

Team Blake:

Blake gave Holly Tucker another Martina McBride song, and another angry country song—“When God-Fearin’ Women Get the Blues.” What the coaches responded to the most here was her confidence, which was definitely improved. Her second song and personal choice, Rascal Flatts’ “My Wish” was as pageanty as ever. She sang it from a lighthouse, which didn’t make sense, either. And she had a bum note at the end. Adam felt that her choice, coupled with her first number, showed her range and scope. But all it showed me was that she just wants to sing big songs with big notes. ALSO: Christina Milian gave her a saxophone, because, in case you forgot, Holly was in marching band, and that was the only thing we ever really learned about her until today, when we found out she was in a family band. Anyway, she does some scales, and it’s sloppy. Some rageful band director somewhere is hanging his head in shame.

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Swon Brothers started off with Darius Rucker’s “Wagon Wheel,” which Big Swon described as “riding the charts.” What? Hootie & the Blowfish is still out there!?!? For this performance, they get this ridiculously huge bar set, with dancing whores/bartenders to go along with it. “Well that’s fun,” says Carson with absolutely no intonations at all. “I hope that bar is open after the show.” Seriously. Their second tune is “Okie from Muskogee,” which starts out as an invective against pot smoking and ends with a “yeehaw.” “This one proves you don’t have to smoke marijuana to have a good time,” Usher said. “Just go to Oklahoma.”

By the way, Little Swon? I figured out why he looks so familiar and why he always comes across as a mean little troublemaker. He’s the spitting image of Wayne Arnold, the mean brother from “The Wonder Years”!

All the coaches adore Danielle Bradbery, but this little child prodigy is so plain vanilla, it’s hard to take week after week. Blake gave her “Shake the Sugar Tree,” and in his commentary just compares Danielle to guess who—Miranda Lambert. “My wife was one of them, these young country females that come up, born with a little extra something.” Her own choice, Sara Evans’s “A Little Bit Stronger,” seemed to bore her as she whiled away most of her 90 seconds just waiting to kill a major note at the end. Of course that note was all anyone talked about in their commentaries, effectively ignoring the snoozefest that came before. The set was remarkably sparse for a Team Blake contestant, but Danielle did seem to score one of those wench outfits from earlier.

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Team Usher:

Usher assigns Michelle Chamuel “Somewhere Only We Know” to reflect his uncharted territories friendship with her. She started off small and sweet, but when she went more powerful, she also went pitchy. Michelle’s choice was Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble.” Perhaps being on a country dominant show, this was her way of reaching the majority of watchers now, and wisely so. And Usher tapped into that, by bringing in Taylor Swift to coach Michelle. “Oh my god that was so emotional,” exclaimed Taylor. “The way you doubled over with your hair in your face and everything.” Yup, that about sums up Michelle. The Taylor Swift effect: The audience was going crazy. They really liked Michelle, or they just really liked Taylor. “That’s like TRL, Backstreet Boys, NSYNC loud,” Carson said. He actually invoked TRL!!! Love that he hasn’t forgotten his roots.

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Team Adam:

The newly shrunken Team Adam had only Amber Carrington to hold out hope for. But rather than go full country with her to appeal to the new base, he had her sing a Skid Row song from 1990—“I Remember You.” Yeah, he told her it could be a little bluegrass and that helped her, but this was mostly hair band tradition here. Amber’s choice was Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” which is just a crazy idea, because it’s too famous and too done. Amber does a good job of staying true to the original at least, her only real change being the occasional hint of indie-girl accent that Adam probably trained her in. But the song never really went anywhere. Still, of the remaining country blondes, she has the richest voice. Adam tells her though that she still needs to show everyone her “firecracker side” that he loves so much. Which is why they put her in a ring of fire in her first song, right?

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Team Shakira:

For Sasha Allen’s first number, she wore a long gold gown that made her look like an Oscar. Her personal pick was Aretha Franklin’s “Ain’t Now Way,” which was torch song heaven. Guess what—Adam Levine talked about what an idiot he was for dropping her for Amber Carrington in their battle—again. Sasha closed the whole night with Shakira’s choice, “Before He Cheats.” “Taking this song from the country and moving it to the city,” Shaki explained. In their coaching session, she asked, “How would Sasha be pissed in NYC?” Followed by the best thing Shakira or anyone said all night: “I know how Shakira would be pissed in Colombia!” Sasha comes out in a red bedsheet that she promptly rips off to reveal a sparkly leather daddy outfit. In thigh highs, she does a squat that defeats anything Michelle Chamuel ever did. She had major attitude, and managed to transform the song just by giving it some different context. In his commentary, Blake of course only focuses on the fact that Sasha tore her dress off. Everyone else calls her Sasha Fierce—oh, because a powerful black woman with nice thighs sings loud, just call her Beyonce.

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Who should go home Tuesday? Holly. Team Blake can’t possibly go another week unscathed, not with so much blonde-country redundancy around here. Even if America still loves Holly’s voice, she’s gotta lose some votes for that terrible sax playing, right?

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

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