Wow. What a show on The Voice this week, on and off stage. It showed every reason why this is my new favorite show on television.
I thought I liked this show before, but my new vantage point live as it all happened (awesome, right?) gave me an even greater appreciation for The Voice, the people involved, and what really goes into making the show millions of viewers have embraced. I walked in a fan of the show; I walked out saying there’s nothing on TV right now that’s got me as excited as this.
NBC announced one set of eliminations at the beginning of the show and another at the end of the show. At least they didn’t make us wait until the last five minutes! Team Christina saw Beverly McClellan saved by America, while coach Christina Aguilera unsurprisingly chose Frenchie Davis. Neither was a shocker, though I’m glad that Bev was America’s vote – I was worried that she might fall victim to her age and/or unconventional looks. I know I’ve never been quite as high on Bev’s music as others, but let me say, having met her, I find her to be one of my favorite people on the show. I understand now why everyone adores her; even in just a few minutes, I appreciated how positive, humble and loving she is. She made me feel like I belonged there. Bev and Frenchie might not be my favorite artists musically, but I embrace them for the fact that they’re not the same thing we see over and over again.
The night opened with a performance by Tori & Taylor Thompson. It’s not personal, but I didn’t think these two should have advanced past the battle rounds, and their cutesy version of “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” only confirmed my belief that I’m ready for them to exit. I know talk often about how his opinion and mine often intertwine, but Adam Levine‘s reaction (or lack thereof) during the song mirrored mine. It might have been good entertainment, but as with any art form, what is entertaining is not necessary quality. I don’t see Tori and Taylor lasting beyond next week.
Casey Weston led things off for Team Adam, and I admit that I had very high expectations for her. Not only did she knock off one of my favorites (Tim Mahoney), but she was performing KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” which I’ve never liked. It was a pleasant surprise when I enjoyed her rendition; I agreed completely with Adam’s advice that she had to bring a certain bite to it, and I think that made it click for me. Casey’s rehearsal footage was a small but significant example of how this show is really helping to shape the talent. The way she started performing the song wasn’t bad at all – but she took that one piece of advice from Adam and it came out even better. At least, even I downloaded her single on iTunes.
Following Casey was Team Cee Lo’s Vicci Martinez, and let me say, this girl has really grown on me. I didn’t know what to make of her in her battle round, but if it’s possible to come out roaring with a Dolly Parton song, she absolutely did. I remember hearing Dolly’s original version of “Jolene” only once and it really wasn’t my thing, so my first thought was, “Not this song.” Vicci made it her own, however, putting a growling authority into it that sold me. When she was on that stage, she owned it. And I give her bonus points for manuevering around several setups of candles – once I saw her stage setup, all I could think of was the dancing-with-candles scene from the Robert Redford version of The Great Gatsby, and how it was a wonder no one set themselves on fire. At least Vicci had her eyes open.
Devon Barley popped on my radar when he nailed Radiohead’s “Creep,” and he continued to impress me with his rendition of OneRepublic’s “Stop and Stare.” His voice was a good fit for the song, and it was great to see him venture out from behind the mic stand, finding that confidence he’s been working on over the course of the show. He’s another person who has markedly improved in the short period of time we’ve been rolling, and it’s smile-inducing to see artists like Devon grow and flourish, win or lose. I said I might not have taken him last time out, but I’m going to publicly eat those words right now, because I’m glad I got to hear him this week.
Devon’s performance also started some shenanigans amongst the coaches’ panel (you knew they were coming). I have no idea what Christina was rambling on about, and she made Cee Lo Green lose his train of thought. And then we had Carson Daly asking Adam about his comments on Monday’s Tonight Show, phrasing it in a way that made the quotes seem worse than they were. ” Adam was not thrilled. Carson Daly, what are you doing? You’re starting fires,” he replied. He repeated himself to make it clear that he appreciated the big productions of the previous week, but didn’t feel that they were appropriate for his team, before steering the conversation back to Devon. I applaud him for that, because so many other people might have walked right into that open door to more drama, and taken the attention off a very deserving Devon (not unlike what happened to Patrick Thomas last week). It goes to show that as much as we love the coaches of The Voice, the show is not and should not be all about them. Stay classy, Adam Levine.
Past that mildly uncomfortable part, though, we got to meet Team Cee Lo. Not at his house like everyone else, but at a day spa, which was worth a few chuckles backstage. Even funnier was Team Cee Lo performing the 70’s hit “Everyday People,” complete with the big man sporting an afro. With the retro wardrobe (and Curtis Grimes without his cowboy hat!), it was almost as if the Partridge Family had made a comeback, causing Blake, Adam and me to lose it in a good way. I thought Adam would fall out of that big red chair of his. I think the getup actually distracted me from the music to an extent, but everyone certainly had a good time, if nothing else.
Then things got weird again. Backstage, Alison Haislip passed on a question to Jeff Jenkins from a fan: was he getting more attention from the ladies of recent? Jeff replied (complete with a wink!) that “I’m still waiting on that legal Thompson sister.” Cue Carson, who admitted, “I can’t believe he just said that.” I laughed, but at the same time I have to feel for Carson, who’s got to handle all the crazy things that come out of other people’s mouths.
So of course, after that, Nakia came out with Kings of Leon’s “Sex on Fire.” I have to admit that this was the first time I’d ever heard the song, period; it always seems to come on the radio when I’m driving with my parents, so I find myself switching stations before things get awkward. I’m still not sure I like the song, but I couldn’t help but grin as Nakia arrived on stage with plenty of swagger that lasted through his whole performance. He’s better than David Caruso when it comes to the “epic taking off the sunglasses” moment. I’m torn on the dancers behind him; they weren’t necessary, but I suppose you can’t perform a song with the word “fire” in it and not have something on fire. Regardless, Nakia has this larger-than-life personality that I can’t help but love.
Jeff came back to take on Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take The Wheel.” Like Patrick before him, he chose the song because it was personally significant to him; he dedicated it to his late mother. And like Patrick before him, I felt that come through in the music. It’s easy to see why Jeff was one of the two artists that everyone wanted. Adam proposed that Jeff raise the key of the song, which pushed Jeff out of his comfort zone, but like Casey before him, taking that chance raised his performance from good to great. It was a beautiful rendition that had me completely lost in it for the few minutes he was on the stage.
Then came more quirks around the coaches: Christina apparently wasn’t paying attention to Jeff’s rehearsal video, or she’d have heard him explain therein why the song was important, and probably not have asked him to explain the story behind it. And Adam was visibly thrown off-guard when Carson skipped over comments from Blake and Cee Lo and went directly to him. Welcome to the pitfalls of live TV, everybody!
Then we got a feature on my team, in which we learned that Adam has a really awesome house, and considers all of his team members friends he doesn’t want to lose touch with. Oh, I just melted. And Team Adam’s group performance? Pretty much as fantastic as I expected it to be. The song – The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends” – was a perfect choice for a team that is so close-knit. It was a great representation of what they all stand for as people: that they’re there for one another, win or lose. And I certainly never would have put the terms “Adam Levine” and “choir” in the same sentence. But watching them, I remembered how much I love each and every one of them, and really bought them as a vocal group, rather than an assembling of solo artists. My one issue was that said choir drowned out the harmony of Team Adam at points, leaving me straining to hear my people…but beyond that, what a great, straightforward, and uplifting outing. I said it last week, but why can’t we get these team songs (and the coaches’ as well) on iTunes? I’d buy them in a heartbeat. And then force-feed them to other people.
Curtis, hat back in place, put a country spin on Robert Palmer’s “Addicted To Love.” This is another song that I actually disliked, not to mention that I had no idea how he’d make it fit his musical style. (Cee Lo suggested he “sprinkle some country on it.”) It wasn’t a bad version, but it wasn’t outstanding. As much as I didn’t care for the original, Palmer’s vocals had a certain attitude to them that I didn’t hear from Curtis. Blake gave him coolness points for “slamming” his guitar down, but from my view it didn’t look very emphatic and therefore not that cool. I really think Cee Lo picked a bad song with this one. On top of that, Curtis had to get Christina started by referencing her inappropriate comments to Patrick, which eventually led her to a joke about him making out with Carson. Our host awkwardly replied, “No, thank you,” before he reminded Christina to focus on Curtis. At least Adam made me giggle when he said “I’d look like an idiot if I wore a cowboy hat.” I would actually love to see that.
I was totally not surprised to learn that Javier Colon was finishing out the performances, given how everyone loves Javier. What threw me was his decision to perform “Angel” by Sarah McLachlan, because that song always makes me cry and I didn’t want to be sniffling backstage. In rehearsal, Adam cautioned Javier to throttle back a bit, and he mostly listened; he went on one brief vocal run that I felt was unnecessary in an otherwise impressive performance. Javier’s been installed as the favorite by a lot of people – including his fellow contestants and an audience that gave him a huge smattering of cheers and applause – and I do love hearing him. My worry with him is that as numbers dwindle and it all comes down to America’s vote, his consistency might be bumped off by someone who has one really great night, like Dia did last week.
We capped the show finding out that Dia Frampton and Xenia would be the two members of Team Blake to advance to next week’s quarterfinals. Given how well Dia performed last week, it didn’t surprise me that she was America’s pick; I voted for her, and if she can continue on that upward trend, she could really become a dark horse. At first, Blake saving Xenia surprised me, if only because I had Patrick Thomas as a close-to-sure thing, but fifteen minutes later I realized it made perfect sense. Blake’s logic was sound: big picture-wise, Xenia is more unique than Jared or Patrick, and we’re trying to break molds with this show. I would have picked Patrick, but I understand why it wasn’t his night. (Also? Patrick is the most gracious loser I have ever met. Ever.)
What really stuck with me, though, was Blake. I know we talk a lot about how hilarious Blake Shelton is, but I could see the pain in his eyes as he struggled with the idea of having to eliminate two of his team members. It was obvious how difficult the decision was for him. At home, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that we’re not strictly talking about the competition – what happens also affects people’s lives and breaks quite a few hearts along the way. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: these coaches really don’t get enough praise for the fact that they really do work with these artists, and really care about what happens to them.
It’s that element that’s made me truly passionate about The Voice. Yes, I enjoy what we see every Tuesday night, but especially now that I’ve actually gotten to meet many of the people, I love the heart that’s in this show. From the coaches on down, everyone honestly cares about everyone else and wants the best for them, never mind that it’s a competition. These were people who talked to me like a friend, despite barely knowing me. I’ve done a lot of interviews with many different people from The Voice, and every person I have talked to has been so positive, humble and with plenty of goodwill toward their colleagues. And it’s all genuine. One of the most-repeated phrases I heard Tuesday night was the belief that anyone could win; all the artists had love and respect for one another. I’ve been on my soapbox a long time about how media can be a positive influence; The Voice is a prime example of television that’s unbelievably good, not just in quality but in spirit. I feel incredibly lucky to be involved with this show.
In fact, I know I’m here to stay: I’ve caught myself referring to Adam as “my coach” and Team Adam as “my team,” and so it’s about time I start calling this “my show.”
And my show is winding down. Half the semifinals are set – do you agree with the choices of the first four? And who do you think will join them? Join me next Tuesday as we head into the final two weeks of The Voice!