Yet again, this week "The Voice" set itself apart from its biggest competition, "American Idol," with results that made it clear that this show attracts an entirely different, perhaps more enlightened audience. Last week, America voted through soft-spoken singer-songwriter girl Dia Frampton (from Team Blake) and bald, neck-tattooed rocker Beverly McClellan (from Team Xtina), and this week viewers voted for another rock chick with raw style, Vicci Martinez (from Team Cee Lo), along with smooth soulman Javier Colon (from Team Adam). Additionally, this week Cee Lo Green's own pick for his team was bear-like bluesman Nakia, while Adam Levine went with another guitar-strumming songstress, Casey Weston, for his pick.
The above-mentioned singers, combined with Blake Shelton's sweet teen crooner Xenia and Christina Aguilera's fierce diva Frenchie Davis, now comprise "The Voice" semifinals' top eight. And these are the types of contestants who, frankly, rarely stand a chance on "Idol." Three of them (Beverly, Vicci, and Nakia) are openly gay, for instance. And let's face it, people of color, or R&B singers of any color, haven't done all that well on "Idol," either, at least not since at least "AI" Season 6. And Season 9 of "Idol" made it clear that quirky coffeehouse girls are usually disadvantaged on that show; Dia, Xenia, and Casey probably wouldn't have fared so well. Girls in general don't do so well on "Idol," actually, but of "The Voice's" final eight hopefuls, a whopping six of them are female.
So yes, the diverse mix of artists on "The Voice"--across ethnicities, genders, age groups, sexual orientations, and, most importantly, musical styles--is truly refreshing to behold. Maybe a great voice really IS all that matters in the end. Who'd a thunk?
This is a very solid top eight, obviously, and on Tuesday night, they all sang again for a shot in next week's big final showdown. Which four will prevail? Read on...
Frenchie Davis - Frenchie is a big girl with a big voice and big aspirations. Everything she does is on a major scale. So Christina's song pick for her, Madonna's "Like A Prayer," complete with a grand entrance down a grand stairwell and the accompaniment of a full white-robed choir, was totally on point. No matter what happens to Miss Davis after this, she finally had her big TV moment that she never got on "Idol" Season 2 (after her controversial disqualification back in the day), and therefore she is a winner no matter what.
Beverly McClellan - Beverly, Christina's other bald powerhouse, sang B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone," but man, the thrill was quite intact during her magical performance. What a voice! Beverly is what this competition is supposed to be all about: TALENT, plain and simple, even if the contestant seems "unmarketable" (too old, too bald, too gay, too this, too that). She is a phenomenon. Frenchie is fab, sure, but Beverly is better, and if she is not in the final four, I'll shave my OWN head!
TEAM CEE LO
Nakia - On the surface, Nakia and Adam Lambert could not be ANY more different. But they do have a few things in common: They are both passionate performers who give their all when they're onstage, they both like King Of Leon's "Sex On Fire" and Christina Aguilera, and Lambert is one of the few "Idol" alums who would, hypothetically, appeal to "The Voice's" less conservative fanbase. So maybe Cee Lo was onto something when he chose "Whataya Want From Me," Lambert's biggest hit, for Nakia. This could have backfired in a big way--Glamberts do NOT like their glam god's songs to be messed with--but personally, I really appreciated Nakia's performance. He brought his own bluesy Texan style to it, starting off belting it out at his piano, then ending it by rocking out in the middle of the audience while everyone around him went nuts. "That felt great!" he hollered happily afterwards. He sounded great, too. Rival judge Adam Levine then totally tried to screw Nakia over with the sneaky, snarky comment, "I've never heard that song before, but I bet you sang it better than the person who sang it originally." Oh snap! That was a shrewd move from "The Voice's" dirtiest player--it seemed obvious that Levine's plan was to tick off the Glamberts and thus kick off a Nakia backlash--but chances are any Glambertian wrath will be directed at Levine, not innocent bystander Nakia (who performed Lambert's song with respect). So Levine's remark might end up costing his own team votes instead, in the long run.
Vicci Martinez - I actually thought Nakia had a lock on this...until Vicci sang Florence + The Machine's "Dog Days Are Over." Now I think Vicci may advance instead of Nakia...and could even win this thing, stealing the title from presumed shoo-in Javier Colon, if she plays this game right next week. She flaunted a whole new awesome side of her persona, banging on tribal drums while glammed up in a white suit and pompadour fauxhawk; her performance was just hip and edgy and current. Even Blake and Adam admitted that it was the coolest performance of the night.
Dia Frampton - After breaking out two weeks ago with her stunning piano cover of Kanye West's "Heartless," this shy girl who'd apparently rather be known for her children's books than her tenure with Warped Tour band Meg & Dia tried to make lightning strike twice with a performance of R.E.M.'s "Losing My Religion." It was a good fit for her lovely voice, and it allowed her to showcase her guitar-playing skills, but it wasn't quite the "moment" that "Heartless" had been--mainly because it wasn't a radical reworking of the song, but just a faithful, competent cover. Dia set the bar high for herself in the quarterfinals, but up against other powerhouses who sang this evening, this was not enough to set her apart. Luckily, at this point in the game, she only has to worry about beating her unassuming Blake teammate, Xenia.
Xenia - This painfully shy teen makes Dia look like Nakia, she's such a wallflower. She also has a bad habit of letting her vocals disappointingly trail off at the end of each line. But doing "The Man Who Can't Be Moved," her second Script cover of the season (she initially auditioned with "Breakeven"), Xenia sounded better than she ever had before. But still, I do think at this stage in the competition, it is time for her to go; her onstage maturity simply hasn't quite caught up with her vocal maturity, and she needs a little more time to develop. However, I see a stellar career ahead of her, and I hope that Blake Shelton, who has sort of become a father figure to her, continues to give her advice and guidance after this season is over. ("I'm glad that I knew you when," he told her proudly tonight.) Xenia has SO much potential, but she is only 17, and she needn't be in a rush.
Casey Weston - At first when I learned that Adam had picked "I Will Always Love You" for Casey, I was certain that her was sabotaging her, too. Let's face it, Whitney Houston ain't easy to sing (just ask Whitney herself nowadays). But then I remembered...duh, this is a Dolly Parton song. And Casey's sweet version owed much more to Dolly's original, not Whitney's showboaty Bodyguard movie theme, with its sweet, subtle country twang. Casey is still not my favorite, but I think I underestimated her singing ability. I bet the iTunes recording of this song will sound great.
Javier Colon - Javier first wowed America with his tender cover of Cyndi Lauper's "Time After Time," a performance that inspired all four judges to spin their chairs around at whiplash-inducing speed. This week, with his rendition of Coldplay's weeper "Fix You," he experienced a similar watershed moment. And the song didn't just showcase his softer side: Towards the end, he actually rocked out, amping up his electric guitar and tossing off his trademark hat to reveal his own chrome-domed skull. (Bald heads rule on this show!) I dug his mix of rock 'n' soul, and I am SO hoping I'll get to hear him duet with fellow soul belters Nakia, Vicci, or Beverly next week, when he inevitably ends up on "The Voice's" finale.
So now it is predictions/picks time. With only one singer per team advancing--via a combination of America's votes and the judges' secret scores--it is going to be a tough race. As my tallies above already indicate, I believe Christina's Beverly, Blake's Dia, and Adam's Javier are shoo-ins, for the most part. But the stiffest competition will for sure come down to Cee Lo's Nakia and Vicci, two of the show's most standout contestants. I wish just the four overall best singers, regardless of team affiliation, could make it through, because if that were the case then I'd want it to come down to Beverly, Javier, AND Nakia and Vicci.
But I have a feeling, however America votes, it's going to be a very strong final four, because America has pretty much been getting it right so far. So tune in Wednesday to see who makes it through!