Alright, I’m wiped out beyond recognition right now (more on that tomorrow), but I promised reactions to the full episode of The Voice to accompany my Battle Round post.
The introductory recappery and previewing things that will happen in five minutes seemed crazily over-indulgent, but I guess if your new show is posting week-over-week ratings increases you have to catch up new fans. Your show is a commercial for your show.
There were voices, there were chairs, we had seasons in the sun. Et cetera. It’s very interesting that Emily Valentine got face time twice in the brief montage alongside top picks Jeff, Javier, and Kelsey. In a sneak peak at Team Christina’s room, Tarralyn gives great face – a crazy bitch face when X-Tina says “[only one singer] …survives.” It’s the first of many terrific faces she pulls this episode.
We’re introduced the advisors. These are some of the favorite technicians of the judges – the people they rely on for singing advice.
Adam Levine brings Maroon 5’s musical director Adam Blackstone. This is sort of a weak sauce move when it comes to the star power department – you know his kids are jealous of Blake bringing Reba). However, an MD is probably going to give the best advice out of all the advisors, because he is used to giving direction. A musical director effectively captains the arrangements of a band. He’s probably necessary for Maroon 5 because they do so much layering in the studio that they have to plot out live.
Cee Lo brings Monica, who I only know as the girl who spent a song arguing with Brandy. That’s mostly because I eschew R&B. She’s got some legit R&B cred as a real vocalist before the auto-tuning took over.
Christina brings Sia. Everyone does an interesting dance of referring to her as a “singer-songwriter” and “Australian Recording Artist” instead of reminding us she wrote some songs for X-Tina (don’t draw back the “artist” curtain! Don’t worry, no one reads liner notes), or more accurately labeling her as “batshit insane super-genius of pop music,” which is her correct title. Seriously, did you hear her album from last year? It was in my Top 10 of 2010 list. I hope this exposure helps her break through in the US a little further; Christina is doing her a solid (especially when she later calls herself a big fan) (and how could you not be?).
(Not on that list: Records by the actual judges.)
Blake brings Reba as his assistant-mentor, because he is such a show-off. Actually, I’m willing to bet they asked her to judge first, but she turned down the offer and suggested Blake but promised she’d make an appearance. Whether it’s my imagination or not, she is definitely a Voice, so no arguments here.
Team Christina: Tarralyn Ramsey v. Frenchie Davis on “Single Ladies”
Christina walks in to possibly unforced cheers from her team in a super-staged edgy warehouse with edge crates filled with make-pretend musical gear arranged in edgy stacks. I always wonder, how much face time are the contestants really getting with the judges? I have to think she spent some intro time with each of them to get to know them and their voices a little. If it was me, I’d be like, “Adam [because I would have clearly chosen Adam], I have 256 songs to play for you. Get comfortable.”
Christina wastes no time in picking Tarralyn, a gospel singer with a truly beautiful head voice, and Frenchie, who got her walking papers from Idol and took them straight to Broadway. Tarralyn volunteers, “I knew she was going to say Frenchie. It was the obvious choice. She’s a great singer. I’m a great singer.”
How did this lady wind up on my team? Between the bitch faces and the things that come out of her face between bitch faces I soured on her very quickly this episode. Especially because Frenchie is nothing but tongue-in-cheek poise, as a proper diva ought to be. (Although it was cute that Tarralyn pointed out she went to see Frenchie in RENT).
The pick of “Single Ladies” is a little misguided. Christina makes it out as if she chose it because it’s so challenging, but come on – this is a Beyonce song that relies almost exclusively on single-step ascents and descents for melody. You know what these two singers deserved? A muthereffing En Vogue song. That is what I’m talking about. But X-Tina understandably lives in a post-X-Tina world where the only pre-X-Tina female singers who will be acknowledged are Aretha and Whitney, or Madonna (if we’re not actually talking about singing).
We get more recappery of the two contestants, which we’ll keep getting. Consider yourself told.
Editing suggests that Christina and Sia shook hands with the ladies and then commanded the woman to start singing. You will note that even on her first “All the single ladies!” Tarralyn chokes back her breath support in the middle of the word “ladies,” because she is pushing or squeezing or doing some other bad thing to get the note out. Be prepared to hear this repeatedly in the battle. Also, the unison “put your hands up” is ear-splitting (maybe the cause of Frenchie’s sharpness) (oh, snap, I just spoiled something that happens two minutes from now). Tarralyn gives another crazy face, this time possibly auditioning to be a Batman villain.
Then, the first (only?) magic of the episode happens, as Christina begins singing Beyonce’s song to acoustic piano accompaniment. One thing The Voice gets so right is that we want to see famous people being famous. Idol never really understood this except for that one time Paula Abdul pretended to sing live one television.
You know Christina is a fourth (okay: more than a fourth) of the initial draw for this show. Ten seconds of her singing solo at a piano is freaking electrifying. It’s better than Idol has been in two years. They need to squeeze in as many of these judge moments as they can in the early rounds – judges crushing on favorite music, judges singing, judges kinda talking trash on other artists – because it adds to the fun.
Also hilarious? This:
Frenchie: That’s a lot of words!
X-Tina (possibly slurring): “Don’t worry about the words … I never worry about the words.
Basically, Christina just wants them to attack at all times, which is part of the problem the both of them have to begin with, so I’m sure this is going to go just swimmingly.
Frenchie balks at that in her interview, advising that she focuses on “tone, pitch, and face” while making one of those awesome lifting-invisible-martini-glass hand gestures she makes as punctuation. Later she sits down on a white couch to absorb carefully scripted, intimate, personalized comments from Christina and Sia. I don’t know how to take Frenchie’s “I never heard that!” to Sia’s point that she sings a little sharp. Was it honest surprise for the camera? Or, does she know this and is patronizing us a bit?
Oh, Frenchie, that air of mystery.
Tarralyn has her intimate parent-teacher conference. There is another ridiculous Tarralyn face at this juncture. I think she really ought to be a contestant on The Face, as long as it’s a contest to find the next sketch comedy star.
Meanwhile, Tarralyn puts the final nail in her coffin for me, saying “Obviously you can’t let your competition know every little trick you’re gonna pull out of your pocket, so I’m never gonna give a great, great, great rehearsal.”
Seriously? If I am battling for a chance to advance in this show I am giving a great, great, great rehearsal EVERY SINGLE TIME. Not only because I want the practice, and not only because cameras are everywhere and that makes good B-roll fodder, but because in this round Christina picks the winner, which has apparently escaped Tarralyn. It’s probably a really crap idea to not show your mentor what you plan to do in the actual singing round.
Seriously, this constant cattiness makes her out to be completely unprofessional. If I had seen the whole episode prior to the battle I would have been rooting against her.
To wit, in rehearsal, after a particularly painful “put your hands UP!” Christina waves her team to a halt to recognize some tension in the air. Tarralyn is quick to dismiss it (catty and fake) while Frenchie just wordlessly tells the whole story with her face.
See, Tarralyn, that’s The Face of a Broadway Star at work over there. Take some notes.
Then it’s time for the big fight, which I covered in my grading post yesterday. It’s even less of a surprise to me that Christina picked Frenchie now that I’ve seen the background. Knowing all the background, I think Tarralyn comes off as a hot, awful mess in the fight.
Team Blake: Patrick Johnson vs. Tyler Robinson on “Burnin’ Love”
Much as I soured to Tarralyn in her fifteen minutes of fame, I have a feeling Blake is going to turn into a real heel in the behind the scenes stuff where he can’t just be pithy all the time. To whit, the first thing he does in his edgy room of artistry is holler out that Patrick is his first competitor.
I know the other contestants hadn’t seen a cut of the first show at this point, but they have to know that a cute country singer on Blake’s team is his top pick. For Blake to walk in and immediately announce him for a battle proves, (a) Blake doesn’t care about any of the rest of them, and (b) the person against Patrick is fucked.
Tyler, congratulations, you’re about to be fucked on national television. Tyler clearly knows it the second he hears it, observing later, “Patrick is a strong singer, really cute, all American – people are going to love him. I just have to make people love me more.”
On a related note, I keep fantasizing that next year I audition for The Voice and they have replaced Adam Levine with Rob Thomas, and he is the only one who picks me, and I have to pretend that I don’t find him totally laughable while also trying to convince him to keep me.
Do you think that’s what Tyler is going through? I suppose the difference is that I’m right in the middle of Thomas’s wheelhouse – I’m a white dude who loves pop music and has a small range. Pop-singing, runs-loving, range-y, gay Mormons, not so much in Blake’s wheelhouse. More like outhouse.
It honestly makes Tyler even more awesome to me, because he has no illusions about this process. He just wants to sing well, even if all odds are against him.
By contrast, apparently Patrick does not grant interviews.
In the piano room, Blake wheels out Reba. Tyler looks like he might start making squeaky R2D2 sounds when he shakes her hand. By contrast, Patrick lowers his voice an octave and says, “I don’t usually get starstruck.” (Tyler eventually squeezes out, “You’re so pretty!” at Reba, who is probably used to people shouting stuff like that at her. God, I love him).
Blake begins singing his Elvis song for the boys rather badly, and Reba jumps in with some harmony to salvage it for the camera. Tyler has a vague familiarity with the song, while Patrick (surprise!) practically offers to done a sequin jumpsuit and perform an all-Elvis revue for them.
To get back at him, Tyler peals off an overenthusiastic run on his intro vocal. Reba kindly volunteers, “it’s good,” maybe seeing the potential through the mess (you know, being an actual vocalist), while Blake’s response is to remind Tyler not to sing while Patrick is singing or show off a flashy run that doesn’t fit in with the limitations of Patrick.
I’m not entirely kidding, and Patrick is a great singer, but COME ON Blake! Gee, I wonder how this one is going to pan out. Reba, against, uses her honed sitcom timing to interject, “pick your places,” which is the kind of advice I was hoping Tyler would receive. Advantage (since 1984) Reba.
We don’t get any more of the rehearsal, instead cutting directly to the white couches of intimacy, where Blake is warning Patrick about how good of a singer Tyler is. It’s a weird transition. Did some scenes of Tyler rocking Reba’s world in the run-through wind up on the cutting room floor? To his credit, Patrick takes it seriously, and asks a totally legit question.
Patrick: What’s the most important thing for you when you’re on stage? What are you thinking about when you’re singing a song?
Reba McAwesomeTyre: I’m thinking about every word – I have a little video in my mind about what I’m going through. And, I’m in that moment. I’m in that story. When I say, “girl girl girl I feel my temperature rising” … you got a girlfriend? You have a girl you like?
Blake (clearly has not starred on a sitcom, as he is stepping on Reba’s lines): He had about 300 of them the night of the blind audition.
Reba: Pick one of those girls and just sing it to them.
Blake: … You have to make me. Believe. That you truly are. A hunka. Hunka. Burnin’ love.
To the battle! (Yes, still no 1:1 camera interview with Patrick.) Do I see it a little differently now? Hell yes. I thought Tyler was oversinging a little when I watched it on Tuesday. In the context of how heavily Blake was against him, two of the other judges voting for him, and even Blake admitting Tyler did exactly what was asked of him, now I feel like he was robbed.
Except, on my blind listen I thought Patrick sang better. This is The Voice, not the “The Funny Hip Guy Who Was Maybe a Little Wronged By The Judges and Oversang but Has Awesome Potential.” So, while Tyler may be destined for great things, Patrick is destined to rock the voting rounds of this show.
(People who are also awesome: Tyler’s mom.)
Team Adam – Tim Mahoney vs. Casey Weston on “Leather and Lace”
Back in the edgy artistry room, Adam picks Tim and Casey with no preamble, leaving the four people who aren’t Javier and Jeff looking around thinking, “WTF, there is only a single spot for the four of us!” Because, let’s be crushingly frank here, any one of the foursome of Rebecca, Devon, Angela, and other-Casey can probably sing a circle around Tim and Casey.
Adam comes off incredibly likeable here. He picked a duet that is possibly the most perfect song in the universe for their two voices, and he builds up Tim by saying they have similar ranges and challenges.
Casey turns out to have a tiny, squeaky speaking voice that has nothing to do with her singing voice. She manages to give Tim his props as a longtime performer without coming right out and saying that he’s old. She also points out she has never sang harmony before, which makes what she’s about to do even more impressive.
Then Tim joins team Tarralyn, by which I mean, “the group of people I want to lose.” To whit: “I’ve got a ton of records out, I’ve done a millions shows – I live on stage. Could that be an asset? I think, possibly.” Yes, I know the editors get to pick whatever they want, but right there he turned off half the people who were maybe going to vote for him as “The King of Almost” if he made it to the next round.
Who knows – would I be humble? Or would I be like, “I invented the podcast, bitches. I write more songs a year than you download illegally. Y’all can suck on my teat of artistry.”
Both Tim and Casey manipulate Adam and Adam in the piano room. Tim volunteers to help an unsure Casey with the melody, and then she nails it in the first go. Touché. Tim offers some of his verse in a quavering voice that lacks support. Musical Director Adam (hereforth referred to as Adam MD) kindly inquires “How was that for you?” You see, he’s used to hearing thin, quavering, duck-like vocals from other Adam, so he knows just how to couch this question.
Adam proceeds to win even more of my respect by talking about actual phrasing on a reality show. I kid you not. He wants Tim to connect the words more. He even sings a little (and well). And then Adam MD says, “the homework for you is phrasing.”
(Note how the artist tries to articulate a thing, sings it by way of example, and then the helper/technician puts words to the thing the artist explained. That’s exactly how this process should be working.)
In the practice ring, Tim has the phrasing down better, but is not selling any of the top notes of his song. Adam, speaking from experience, suggests that Tim can take the top note into falsetto (cutely singing it badly) – which Tim declines in the most evasive douche bag STFU manner possible.
And here Tim reaches his nadir, pointing out in interview that he is resisting some of Adam’s advice so he can “show the other coaches why they should have pushed the button.” Wow. Hubris much? This is even worse than Tarralyn not wanting to rehearse her actual vocals in front of anyone. Adam’s trying to help you with that very same goal, dude.
Adam’s note for Casey? To “be a bad bitch,” just like Stevie Nicks. Casey responds in her squeak, “I’ll be a bad brat.”
Seriously, can’t we kick off both of them? Adam vows that he’ll pick the winner of the battle based on the battle alone, and not anything leading up to it. Which theoretically opens the door for Tim to blow him away.
Then the battle happens. It’s awesome – definitely my favorite of the night. It sounds like the Nicks/Henley original, but with a little more momentum and edge. Note that in my original battle dissection I pick on the same sorts of problems lines from Tim that Adam did. He might have improved from rehearsal, but clearly he hadn’t mastered them yet.
Casey deservedly walks away with the win (into the arms of her ridiculously overenthusiastic dad), and she should be praying she pulls some of Patrick and Jeff’s country voting audience, or else she’s a goner in the next round – no matter how amazing of a Stevie Nicks impersonator she is.
Team Cee Lo – Vicci Martinez vs. Niki Dawson
Cee Lo wastes no time in
tapping fingering selecting Vicci as his first contestant, which should put the fear into whoever else he picks. He goes with Niki, who is maybe the only person on the team equipped to go toe-to-toe with the passionate, raspy voice of Vicci.
Niki gives by far the best interviews of the entire night. She’s articulate, positive, and has nothing but good things to say about Vicci. She effectively says the same thing Tarralyn did about being equals with Frenchie, yet it does not come off as self-aggrandizing at all. Maybe it’s the lack of crazy face.
The ladies spend a late night in the piano room with Cee Lo and Monica. Niki and Vicci both sound incredible and need very little coaching. Niki actually sounds much better in this environment than she does later with the full force of the band behind her.
We head directly to rehearsal, where we hear a snippet of Vicci singing top harmony that sounds incredible (though I don’t think it happens at all in the actual battle; maybe just on the final chorus).
And now it’s time to battle! No white couches of intimacy! Why is Cee Lo drawing such a short edit? Is he that uninteresting on his own? Is it all bawdy sex jokes at the women with Monica as his sort of HR-appointed civil treatment representative? We’ll never know.
I really love Niki – enough that I picked her for my personal team. However, as I pointed out on Tuesday, her performance is a little too much push. It’s an Idol style performance. Her voice is too gorgeous for that, and while she is slightly off-balance Vicci goes in for the kill with a largely unassailable performance with just enough pushing (notably less than in her audition).
Again, this show’s format goes positive instead of negative. Even if Niki had some minor issues, she was still pretty incredible, and the judges build her up rather than nit pick. They all applaud both women and call Cee Lo out for being an idiot by pitting this pair against each other (Blake calls it one of the worst mistakes of Cee Lo’s life! His comment on Cee Lo’s impending choice is “I ain’t saying crap.”)
Blake makes a sports metaphor! Christina sings more! It’s everything we’ve ever wanted in a televised reality show about singing. Cee Lo picks Vicci and there is much celebrating, but then he calls Niki out from backstage for a monster hug and promises to stay in touch.
Seriously, Cee Lo, girl needs to be your backup singer. Get on it.
On the whole this round was entertaining, but not as electric as the auditions.
The Battle Rounds are a terrific concept – head-to-head singing done right. Yet, without the judge interactions and with the quick cookie-cutter edit of each battle it came off a little disconnected.
I think these episodes could have stood to garner 90-minutes each so we could spend some more time with the singers and judges. Though, that’s not the MO of The Voice, is it? They want us to get a sample of the singing, and then hear more singing.
To their credit they held up that side of the bargain admirably.
Next week? Cee Lo pits Tje against Nakia so he can have an easy out to ditch Nakia, but it backfires horribly. Adam dooms Angela against breakout star Javier (but, they didn’t know that yet at the time!) (and that means Rebecca vs. Devon!). And, Beverly crushes the window installer guy to a fine powder and then snorts him.