For me, Cee Lo Green is the most legitimate pick as both a capital-V Voice and mentor on this show. He’s a singer, but he’s also an artist, musician, and songwriter. He’s current, but he’s also been around for over 15 years. He’s mainstream, but he’s also a freaking weirdo. As Blake said, he might come out dressed as Batman. Or a Peacock.
And I would love it.
Cee Lo went all-in for pretty girls and intriguing voices, and the resulting team is pretty intriguing team. On the flip, his competition with Adam and lusting after ladies started to wear thin after only two episodes, and he battled Ms. Aguilera for the incoherency title (which is a pretty remarkable feat, as both of them could critique a circle around Randy Randy Randy).
Will Cee Lo’s solid gold instincts translate to reliable mentorship, or will he be all peacock feathers and obscure cover songs? It’s a pity he has to battle his team down to half, because they’re packed with potential.
Let’s take a peek at what Cee Lo has in store for us.
Team Cee Lo
- Kelsey Rey – “American Boy”
Was I influenced by being able to see her? It doesn’t matter. Her precision handling of the jazzy melody of the song was incredible. She made sure all of the rapid fire interval leaps were distinct. She does not need to be a belter (or a beauty) with that voice (and, as Cee Lo pointed out, great breath control!). Christina was right on with her “the kind of voice for radio” comment. It wasn’t the backhanded “we need to auto-tune you or bury you in reverb” that the comment usually means on Idol. More like, “wow, we can put you on anything and push your voice to the forefront.” Her reedy tone makes me want to hear some Michael Jackson out of her immediately. I would have rung in for her and fought hard.Did she make the right pick with Cee Lo? I say Adam would have been better for her (Her fronting his band? Hot.), but he didn’t make a very strong case. Christina was genuine, but I can see Kelsey wanting to steer clear of being turned into a screamer. See, Cee Lo it is.
(Fun facts about Kelsey Rey: She was a member of a tween group called “Funn Club.” She used to be blonde. She made it all the way to the top 50 of Idol but lost her voice before her final audition. The less said about the awful club track on her homepage, the better.)
- Vicci Martinez – “Rolling in the Deep”
Here is a Voice. Was “Rolling” the right song to show off her beautiful, husky vibrato and rock belting? I remain unsure. She did amazing things with it, and with that sort of unusual voice she’s probably spent her recent life getting lumped into the Duffy/Adele bucket. In reality, she’s a lot more unique than that, and one of the few truly remarkable people that has been featured. Christina should have fought Cee Lo harder for her, but I passed … she needs careful direction, and she might not connect with audiences in the voting rounds. She’ll need the help of both Cee Lo and the show’s editors to make it to the final four.(Vicci has had a prolific indie career. Check out her website to hook up with her existing social media identity, or download one of her six existing albums on Bandcamp.)
- Niki Dawson – “Teenage Dream”
Hello, secret weapon. Based on a brief snippet she’s a charismatic belter that may be able to stand up against Christina’s fierce Tarralyn/Frenchie spot. Even with one of them on my team already I probably would have rang in for this voice relatively late in the game. Not sure why the editors gave her short-shrift. I suppose only Cee Lo chose her, and the multi-judge picks made for better television. I’m very interested to hear more of her in the next round.
- Tje Austin – “Just the Way You Are”
Going blind made this interesting. I think watching him you can immediately pick up not only his passion, but that there is seriously a lot of raw awesome to work with. Until we could see him I think I focused a little too much on some lackluster support on his higher notes – he was pushing them out rather than rooting them and letting them bloom into something larger. Even with that minor critique, he’s one of the only pop-oriented male voices we heard. Cee Lo’s comment was right on, “I heard myself listening to you … but I also heard you too.” I think there is a terrific voice here, and Cee Lo is the one to tease it out (although, Adam would work wonders, too).(Tje Austin is another indie artist, with two albums already to his credit. I really like his produced voice – it makes me want to bump him up to #3! If you can’t get enough of Tje, there are a slew of videos on his YouTube channel.)
- Curtis Grimes – “Hillbilly Bone”
I agree with Blake that Curtis needed to lose the good-natured chuckle and bring some balls to this performance. That said, this man is a sure performer with an uncannily perfect country voice. He excites me a lot more than the more technically perfect Patrick – I almost think I would have buzzed in to get a country element on my team! I think Cee Lo is going to push him to do something excellent.(Curtis’s homepage features links to his music and some extremely attractive merch.)
- Nakia – “Forget You”
I have a feeling I’m fighting public opinion on this ranking. This guy is a sweetheart, but I’m skeptical of him as The Voice. Yeah, he thrashed through “Forget You.” I thrashed it last weekend in the original key, and it also wasn’t pretty. The great thing about Cee Lo’s song that made me want to cover it a second after I first heard it is that it leaves room for impressive singing and ad lib runs, which is rare for a male pop song. If you’re smart, you adjust the key to get there (I sing it in A rather than C). On a blind listen, Nakia just brought a lot of shouting and over-shot falsetto. Blake was right, though – he riled up the audience like crazy. I think Cee Lo will make him work for a win, because there is definitely something of himself in there.(Nakia has a pretty robust social media presence, and he’s actually good at it. He’s snapped up his name on the major social networks like FB and Twitter, and he’s very active in responding to fans – even since he was on the show last week!)
- Emily Valentine – “Sober”
Vocally, was hers the worst audition that got picked? Perhaps. All the lows on the first verse slipped out of tune, and the screamed notes on each chorus never quite got in tune. (Yes, that was an appropriate use of the dreaded “pitchy” from Christina!). Yet, Emily is a smart cookie. She couldn’t rely on her looks with a blind audition, so she did the next best thing: selected a Pink song and sang it as raw and real as Pink would. She hit a lot of bum notes and should have been in a different key. However, her version of Voice wasn’t selling perfection, it was was selling whiskey and and cigarettes. Cee Lo went for it, and I’m sure he’s excited by the Betty Page package. He might be able to do a lot with it.
- Tori & Taylor Thompson – “Stuck Like Glue”
If you’re a novelty sister act you better sing some incredible harmony. Tori and Taylor did not. Their solo vocals were middling, their unison singing was sloppy, and the few smatterings of harmony did not prove they have the sort of genetically perfect sister-blend that makes family acts stand out (see: Eisley). I can’t blame Cee Lo for grabbing a gimmick for his last spot, though. He’s going to test their limits pretty quickly. Maybe they can do more than they showed this week.
Team Cee Lo – Battle Round Predictions
Cee Lo has a peculiar genius, as well as the instincts to produce two of the most massive hits of the past decade. I’m expecting some incongruous match-ups out of him that will be more about finding The Voice than obvious battles. I think he’d ditch anyone – even Kelsey – if it meant finding out something interesting about another competitor.
The battles? For some reason I’m really feeling the Thompsons against Curtis to see who breaks out of their box first. Also, some combination of Vicci, Nakia, and Emily to see who can reign it in faster. Niki is unfortunately going to get sacrificed to Kelsey or Tje. I would die of shock if he put Tje against Vicci, because I think they’re his favorites at the moment.
Cee Lo will pick: Kelsey, Vicci, Tje, Nakia
Cee Lo should pick: Kelsey, Vicci, Tje, and Curtis or Niki.
On Team Peter: Dia, Julia, Tarralyn, Kelsey, Niki, Curtis
Check back tomorrow for the mentor that assembled what might be the best team of them all – Adam Levine.