Right off the bat, Monday and Tuesday’s episodes of The Voice kept me riveted – so much better than last week! Not only were there some great performances worthy of any of the previous seasons, but there was probably one of the worst I can remember. Captivating television. More on that later.
TEAM BLAKE: TSoul vs Josh Hoyer SONG: “In the Midnight Hour”
Nothing better to start the week than classic Wilson Pickett. Perfect song choice. Josh is excellent, but there is something about TSoul that I love. TSoul and Josh are matched beautifully, and it is absolutely clear they take this seriously and appreciate each other’s talent. TSoul rightfully won for various reasons, but I don’t know if I have ever heard coaches encourage two battle round “fighters” to sing together again off the show. The two artists shook on it, and I sincerely hope it happens.
TEAM ALICIA: Vanessa Ferguson vs Autumn Turner SONG: “Killing Me Softly”
Wait – what did I say about nothing better? THERE IS! This rendition of the Roberta Flack classic killed me – pun intended. They did some things different, but in no way was it jarring to the ear or nostalgic sensibilities. Vanessa did an almost soft rap; it was great. It reminded me a bit “Glory”, the Oscar winning song John Legend and Common wrote and performed for the movie Selma. Autumn’s vocals were as fantastic as well. Alicia kept Vanessa, more for the “unique” factor than anything else. I don’t know if her vocals were as good as Autumn’s. Adam quickly snatched up Autumn using one of his steals, making me one happy camper.
TEAM GWEN: Stephanie Rice vs Caroline Sky SONG: “First Cut is the Deepest”
This was a song that I sang a lot in college and student teaching. OK, not the Sheryl Crowe version. I’m not that young. In my failing memory banks, I thought it was Bryan Adams, but it was Rod Stewart in his Unplugged… and Seated album for MTV, back when MTV was serious about music. These two took Rod and Sheryl and mashed them up perfectly. Caroline’s voice is pure and refreshing, like a tall glass of milk when your meal is a PB AND J with a cookie. Stephanie is like a straight shot of good whiskey that you sip on while in a retro bar, with a faint scent of pipe tobacco in the air. Both awesome, very different, but they definitely made it work together amazingly well. Gwen selected Stephanie, which is a great fit, and Caroline went to Team Blake. Blake is perhaps a better coach for her than Gwen.
TEAM ADAM: Jesse Larson vs. Taylor Alexander Song: “Shameless”
I’m surprised I didn’t jump up in absolute glee hearing this song choice. Jesse is very much blues/contemporary, and Taylor is old fashioned country circuit style. He could have been a background performer in the “country tour circuit” scenes in Walk the Line (without any costume changes) This may be one of the ONLY songs they could do together. They didn’t disappoint. I get why Adam ended up picking Jesse over Taylor – Jesse has more potential diversity. I have concerns Jesse will go the distance though, considering he’d NEVER heard of the song. Seriously dude? Never heard of Billy Joel OR Garth Brooks singing it? Wow.
THE OH SHIT MOMENT OF THE WEEK GOES TO…
TEAM ADAM: Malik Davage vs. Kawan DeBose SONG: “Love Me Now”
In a clusterfuck unlike I’ve ever seen on The Voice, Malik Davage and Kawan Debose made a mess of their song from start to finish. What added to the cluster, they were singing THEIR MENTOR’S SONG. At first rehearsal, one look at John Legend’s and Adam Levine’s beautiful faces tells you things aren’t good. There was no enthusiasm… and John Legend said “it was like they weren’t prepared.
The next day with the band, John said “it was almost like they regressed” in his talking head interview. Oh shit. Is this a Housewives show? Then Adam said they weren’t prepared… then to their faces “That upsets me”. You might as well line up their mothers saying quietly, in a lovingly sad voice, “I’m so disappointed” with all the related grandmothers in the back shaking their heads with a tear in their eye. I’ve never heard a coach talking about how they were “upset” with an artist.
Their performance wasn’t much better. Even the other coaches mentioned it wasn’t together. Being a solo artist is no freaking excuse. At the top level, NOTHING is solo. Even if you are the only vocalist, every song is a collaboration. Oh, I better not hear of any excuses about singing a John Legend song to John Legend making them nervous. “I Drove All Night” duo were shaking in their shoes singing it to Celine, and rose to the occasion to the point they had her proclaiming she loved it and was going to buy it.
COACHES, MENTORS, AND SPECULATION
I don’t know if the coaches had two different song catalogues to choose from this week versus last, but they made me happy this week with the choices. Even the songs I wasn’t familiar with, I understood why the coach picked it. Some pairings and song choices were clearly not for the audience, but as a test.
Although Alicia said it in jest to Blake, a theme throughout the Battles was “know your lane”. The coaches wanted to know if artists knew what worked for their voices, and if they had control. More than one artist was told to dial back their vocal runs by 10 or 15 percent. The ones who listened to that advice generally did well.
The coaching has been amazing during the battles. In the past, there have been mentors that I really had no interest in. Not this season! Luke Bryan has been fine, and fun to watch with Blake. But with the other three, I’ve really gotten a sense of what a music producer does and how much he – or she – can influence a song or album. John Legend’s collaborations are well noted outside of this venue. The man won an Oscar for a damn reason. Enough said there.
As for the other two mentor/coach match ups, there was a point where Alicia was singing an intro line to her duo and DJ Khaled stated he wanted to produce this song. Alicia pointed out that she wouldn’t be on the stage with them, and he was all “I don’t care, this is a moment”. You just know he went back to his day job invigorated about his industry. There was another point where Alicia worked with the band, changing a beat with the drummer, or an octave with the guitar player. It was amazingly clear how the subtle changes make a standard rendition of a song into an amazing rendition of a song. These moments are why I watch this show.
Finally, there is Celine and Gwen. I still think Gwen is the weakest coach this season. Considering what high caliber talents the other three are AND that Gwen may have had the foresight of getting Celine Dion as the mentor for her team, she is not without talent! As for Celine, I know I gushed over her a bit last week, but I have loved her on this show so much I’m going to gush again. She is an amazingly talented vocalist AND stage performer. Having seen her in concert, I’m not surprised that her advice is peppered with tips on how to grab the audience’s attention. She’s a master at that. I think her humbleness and gratitude are genuine. I also think (and have already tweeted) that if Celine hasn’t already acted as a producer for someone, she’s missing a calling. She clearly has a talent for bringing out the best in performers.
NEXT UP: THE KNOCKOUTS!
Here is my concern and “speculation”. I’m a bit worried that they don’t have a Knock Out mentor. Why the change? If they decided this is better, why not announce that they were changing things up a bit on the initial press releases? Did they have someone picked out who backed out last minute? If that happened, why not call on someone like Miley or Christina to help them out? They’ve been completely silent on this. I’ve been trying to figure out who it would be. No gossip, no speculations anywhere. I’m an optimist, so I thought it was because they were getting someone amazing, like Cher or Barbra Streisand.
Now I’m worried that after 12 seasons, the thought is that The Voice has jumped the shark higher than Fonzi did in his leather jacket and swimming shorts. After all, American Idol only lasted 15 seasons, and some argue it jumped that damn shark well before that final season.