Once again, this week "The Voice" differentiated itself from its chief competition, "American Idol," in many welcome ways. The main way it did so? This week's RESULTS! See, on "Idol," females always seem at a disadvantage, but so far on "The Voice," girls rule. Of the four contestants who made it through on Tuesday--two voters' picks, and two judges' picks--from last week's competing Team Xtina and Team Blake singers, all of them were female. (Yes, Christina Aguilera's team was an all-girl team anyway, so that was a given...but still, reason to celebrate.)
And while "Idol" is typically a very family-oriented show with an extremely conservative voter base, "The Voice" seems different: Of these four aforementioned ladies, the Team Xtina contestant that AMERICA actually voted through was an out-and-proud, fortysomething lesbian with neck tattoos and a shaved head, the type of contestant who'd normally scare innocent "Idol" viewers: Beverly McClellan. This was pretty damn refreshing. And one that Christina picked was another fierce bald diva, the type of contestant with a shady past that "Idol" wouldn't even let compete at all back in "AI" Season 2: Frenchie Davis.
The other two contestants that quite deservedly made it, from Blake Shelton's team, were Dia Frampton, who was voted through by America after her stunning "Heartless" cover, and Xenia, who Blake somewhat surprisingly picked to save over bar-band rocker Jared Blake and country boy Patrick Thomas. Both Dia and Xenia are soft-spoken songstresses, the type of girls "Idol" tried to so hard, and so ultimately unsuccessfully, to champion in Season 9. On "The Voice," contestants like them seem to have a real chance. Really, people, this is a whole 'nuther type of singing show.
But then eight new hopefuls, from Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green's teams, got their
chance to compete. They sure were entertaining when they sang with their mentors (another element that differentiated "The Voice" from "Idol," since on that show the closest we ever got to seeing any contestant perform alongside a judge was Lauren Alaina's audition-room duet with Steven Tyler way back in, like, week 2). I was particularly a fan of Team Cee Lo's "Everyday People" jam, with Mr. Green of course upstaging all his protégés by performing in a hippie caftan, bug-eyed shades, and giant Afro wig. So unsurprisingly, it was when these singers rocked the mic on their own that they really got to show what they could do.
That was also when the men finally struck back, to borrow a lame old slogan from VH1, because there were a couple of excellent male contestants this week who just might give Beverly, Frenchie, Dia, and Xenia some serious competition in the "Voice" finals.
Here's how everyone did this week...
TEAM CEE LO
Tori & Taylor Thompson - Okay, I'm not really sure what Cee Lo was thinking here, unless he was throwing these "American Juniors" rejects under the bus just to make sure his stronger, less cannon-foddery hopefuls Nakia and Vicci Martinez would have better shots. How else to explain why he'd put these young girls in Andrews Sisters uniforms and make them do a hokey novelty cover of "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy"? (No, the fact that it was Flag Day was no excuse.) Only Christina Aguilera could get away with that (she actually mentioned that T&T looked like they'd stepped off the set of her "Candyman" video), and her Back To Basics is a five-year-old album by now. The Thompsons seemed pretty bummed about their song assignment--it was obvious that they would have preferred a more current tune, not to mention a more current wardrobe--but they had a decent attitude about the whole under-bus-throwing-ness of it all and gamely sang with their hair in pinup pincurls and probably their stomachs in knots. I think they knew they were doomed. They looked cute as military buttons in their little '40s frocks, but let's face it, no one's going to vote for this mess.
Vicci Martinez - All right, here was the real girl power of the night. The sassy, sandpaper-voiced Seattleite totally killed it on "Jolene," with a passionate rendition that owed as much to the White Stripes' version as it did to the Dolly Parton original. The near-a cappella intro really showcased Vicci's distinctive raspy tone, and when she set down her guitar and started strutting the stage, she flaunted her performance chops too. This woman, to borrow a catchphrase from another popular reality show, has the X factor.
Nakia - This was my overall favorite performance of the night. Kings Of Leon's "Sex On Fire" might have seemed like an odd song choice for the burly, bearded, bear-like soulman, but in this case Cee Lo knew exactly what he was doing. Nakia is one fiery man who was clearly born to perform. He was so charismatic I barely even noticed the bizarre and unnecessary backup flame-jugglers who seemed like they'd wandered in from the "America's Got Talent" set. Nakia was on fire this evening!
Curtis Grimes - I didn't quite understand at first why Cee Lo picked Curtis, a dyed-in-the-denim, straightahead country singer that seemed more Blake's type, but this week it made a little more sense. Cee Lo chose the Robert Palmer classic "Addicted To Love" for Curtis, and I was pleasantly surprised with the results. I could have done without the boot-scootin' cowgirls shimmying behind Curtis (old-style Palmer fembots in black Lycra and slicked-back hair, maybe playing banjos instead of guitars, would have been more awesome), but Curtis sure seemed to enjoy their company, and I must give him credit for countrifying such an iconic '80s song so fearlessly. This was addictive fun.
Casey Weston - This was one of the more forgettable performances of the night: Casey Weston was to this week as Lily Elise was to last week. There was nothing wrong with her cover of KT Tunstall's "Black Horse & The Cherry Tree" (complete with bucket-banging percussionists that Blake Shelton accused of being Blue Man Group musicians sans cobalt facepaint), and she looked lovely and poised...but nothing here really grabbed me. I suspect America's voters will feel equally apathetic.
Devon Barley - There was a time when I thought Adam Levine had the strongest team on "The Voice." But after two so-so performances from his team members, I started to seriously doubt this. Devon should have NEVER been picked over his superior Battle Rounds rival Rebecca Loebe, a fact that was never more apparent than after his pitchy struggle through OneRepublic's "Stop And Stare" this week. He had zero charisma, and he didn't quite handle the song's biggest notes. Time to go back to medical school, Devon.
Jeff Jenkins - Jeff has always seemed like a frontrunner on this show--he was one of the few contestants who inspired all four judges to turn their chairs around during the Blind Auditions--but this week I think he faltered a bit. In rehearsal he struggled so Adam decided to change the key of his song, a fix that I'm not quite sure did the trick. I remember Jeff sounding better than he did this week, and I know he is capable of more. But he showed all the ways in which "The Voice" IS like "American Idol": He milked his universally heartstring-tugging sob story (by dedicating his performance to his recently deceased mother) and sang a huge, God-fearing hit by one of the biggest Idols ever, Carrie Underwood's "Jesus Take The Wheel." This guy may not have the same fanbase as, say, Beverly McClellan, but he's going to get votes for sure.
Javier Colon - Clearly, Adam waited till the end to pull out the big guns. Placing this season's biggest breakout star in the "pimp spot" was a wise move, even though a contestant with momentum like Javier's probably didn't need the help. Javier delivered a soulful, tender, gospel-tinged piano performance of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel," and for once I could hear that song without images of shelter mutts and abandoned kitties playing through my sad brain. Instead, my emotional reaction could be traced directly to the amazing Javier himself. This was the performance of a true star. How did this guy not tell tons of records back when he was signed to Capitol years ago? "The one that got away," indeed.
So now it is prediction/picks time. It seems a no-brainer that Nakia and Vicci would advance from Cee Lo's team, with America probably voting for Nakia and Cee Lo then saving Vicci. But after Curtis's fun leftfield performance, I wouldn't rule him out just yet. As for Adam's team, Javier is a shoo-in for the votes, and I'm pretty sure Adam would go with Jeff as his own pick. Jeff may have not been at his best this week, but he has much more potential than Casey or Devon.
Tune in next Tuesday to find out if I'm right--and to see the remaining eight compete in the next round! Reason to flash your V, for sure.
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