Season 2's Dez Duron returnsEveryone knows that the "The Voice" is all about second (or third, or fourth, or 17th) chances. In fact, now that we're well into Season 3, it's literally easy to lose count of how many "Voice" contestants have had previous major-label record deals, or have even competed on rival talent shows. And this Monday's Blind Auditions episode was no different. Among the singers who tried out were a former Disney teen starlet, a runner-up from Rolling Stone's "Choose The Cover" contest...and even a memorable castoff from "The Voice" Season 2.
Dez Duron - Since his unsuccessful first "Voice" audition in February of this year, this comeback kid has become sort of a cult Internet darling--so much so that I almost wonder if his Season 2 rejection and Season 3 triumphant return was some sort of staged master plan by producer Mark Burnett all along. This ultimate all-American boy (Yale student, football player, Southern charmer) failed to impress the judges with his cover of the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way" last season, although once the judges got a look at him, they were of course crestfallen that they'd missed a golden opportunity to score a (female-vote-garnering) heartthrob for their respective teams. Encouraged by the judges' kind words (he actually later claimed his Season 2 audition was the "best 90 seconds of his life," which almost sounded a little naughty), Dez went off to work on his craft, his social media presence, and his dimples. And he returned to the show this Monday to sing Hall & Oates's "Sara Smile." I didn't think this audition was a vast improvement over "I Want It That Way" (which I recall being good, if not great), but either the judges heard something I did not (possible) or they were tipped off by producers (probable). Or maybe they just love Hall & Oates--which is an acceptable explanation, since Hall & Oates are national heroes, and one of these damn singing shows really needs to have a Hall & Oates Night already. But I digress. Anyhoo, three of the judges--Blake Shelton, Christina Aguilera, and Cee Lo Green--all spun around this time, and Blake seemed the happiest to see Dez, supposedly recognizing him right away, describing him as the second coming of Elvis Presley and "Saved By The Bell's" A.C. Slater, and declaring, "This dude is good-looking! I'm secure enough to say that to you. Man to man, you are hot." Christina then babbled some revisionist history and claimed she totally meant to hit her button for Dez last season, which seemed like B.S. to me, but Dez fell for that line and signed right up with Team Xtina. Personally, I think he would have been best off with Adam Levine, the one coach who didn't buzz in, but I have a feeling Dez will go far no matter what this season, since he's already a fan favorite. Now we just have to see, when it comes to the Battle Rounds and possibly the live shows, if he will keep sounding as good as he looks. His pretty face will only get him so far.
MEMBER OF: Team Xtina
Jordan Pruitt - This too was a familiar face, not necessarily to "Voice" viewers, but to viewers of, say, the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon. Jordan, now age 21, was a teen star in late '00s and had some moderate success (her debut album sold around 187,000 copies, and she charted a couple songs in the lower rungs of the Billboard Hot 100), before supposedly parting with Disney over artistic differences when she wanted to make more "mature" music. Jordan was just the latest ex-Disney teen sensation attempting a total career reinvention via the reality-show circuit (there was last season's "Voice" finalist Tony Lucca, a veteran of "The Mickey Mouse Club," and "The X Factor" Season 1's Christa Collins, aka the "Minnie 'N' Me" girl of the early '90s)--although Jordan's Disney career was much more recent, as her second (and final) album only came out in 2008. Her "Voice" audition of Katy Perry's "The One That Got Away" was a tad too precocious and theater-y (I don't think she's shaken the whole Disney shtick entirely, just yet), and three of the judges therefore abstained from hitting their buttons...but perhaps another ex-Disney girl, Christina, heard in Jordan some sort of kindred soul, because she was the one judge who turned around. "I have been waiting for you, Jordan!" Christina declared. If Jordan has any chance at reinventing herself as a grown-up pop star, Xtina--the singer who famously went from Disney girl to "Dirrty" girl--is probably the best coach she could hope for anyway.
MEMBER OF: Team Xtina
Lelia Broussard - Lelia was another familiar face, although even her most diehard fans may have missed her audition if they'd looked away from their TV screens for so much as a nanosecond. It was interesting that NBC editors stuck Lelia in the middle of one of those dreaded audition montages--along with Team Adam recruit Sam James and Team Xtina also-ran Laura Vivas--considering that Lelia already has her own cult following online, and she came close to winning Rolling Stone's contest to put an unsigned artist on the iconic magazine's cover. (She lost out to hirsute rockers/future "Project Runway" guinea pigs the Sheepdogs.) Although Lelia's screentime was puzzlingly brief, it was promising when the coach she eventually ended up with, Blake, compared her to his talented wifey, Miranda Lambert. However, contestants whose auditions are not shown in full and are instead relegated to multi-contestant medleys historically do not fare well on "The Voice"...so being on this show may not get Lelia any closer to her goal of one day being the subject of a Rolling Stone cover story. We shall see.
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
VJ - This guy did not make it through at all, but his audition was so entertaining, I wouldn't be surprised if he pulls a Dez Duron and ends up triumphantly returning in Season 4. I really liked VJ's whole vibe--the Pip-style bowtie, the fact that he works at Flea's awesome Silver Lake Conservatory Of Music, the way he worked the stage during his high-energy audition of his personal idol Cee Lo's "Forget You." But of course, the judges couldn't see VJ's natty neckwear or rubber-legged dance moves, and his voice was definitely a little weak in parts, so no one chose him. "I just can't think of an odder song for your voice," said a confused Blake. But naturally, Cee Lo appreciated hearing his signature song being covered on a talent competition for like, the 512th time--so he thanked VJ for the additional television royalties by teaming with him for a spontaneous "Forget You" duet. VJ seemed so thrilled ("I just sang with Cee Lo Green! Yesssss!!"), I don't think he minded, or even noticed, that he didn't actually make it onto Cee Lo's team. But maybe, as was the case with Dez, we will see VJ again someday.
MEMBER OF: Team No One (for now)
Jeffrey James - Another auditioner who was surprisingly passed over was this Nashville hopeful, a valet parker by day with big (and, judging from his talent, not entirely unrealistic) dreams of making it in Music City. I actually thought his rockin', propulsive, downright sassy cover of "A Little Less Conversation" was pretty cool, but it generated a lot less action from the coaches, none of whom turned around. Really? Jeffrey seemed as surprised as I was. "Dude, I know you're shocked, because you're really good," said Adam, which made no sense, since Adam had, you know, just rejected Jeffrey. "I can tell you're a little bit pissed off," remarked Christina. I think Jeffrey was more sad than pissed, and I couldn't really blame him. The coaches really blew it here, especially considering some of the fodder contestants (Beat Frequency, anyone?) they've already let through this season.
MEMBER OF: Team No One (for now)
Lauren Brooke - Lauren was another Nashville contestant who didn't get picked, but I wasn't as disappointed or surprised by this outcome. (Only Lauren's mother--yelling, "Are you kidding me?" in the backstage viewing area--seemed shocked.) Lauren's voice was passable, but her cover of "Cowboy Casanova" was overly breathy and affected, and in no way Underwood-esque; at best, it was just Carrie-oke. Even this girl's double-sob story (she had dyslexia as a kid; her uncle just died) wasn't enough to get me to root for her. Adam nicely cited "some pitchy things" that caused him to pass her over. Christina even more nicely told her that these pitchy things were "fixable"; I guess Christina just didn't want to take on the responsibility, as Lauren's coach, of having to fix them herself. Cee Lo simply sighed a disappointed "Dammmmmnnnn" when he got a look at Lauren, who was admittedly easier on the eyes than she was on the ears. Like Dez Duron in Season 2, Lauren learned that on "The Voice," a pretty face means nothing when the judges' backs are turned. Unlike Dez, however, Lauren probably won't be auditioning again.
MEMBER OF: Team No One
Michelle Brooks-Thompson - Unless my Internet sleuthing was a bit too lazy/hasty, it seems like Michelle is one "Voice" contestant without any storied professional past, unless you count the fact that her husband David was a player for the NFL's St. Louis Rams before getting released from his contract after a very brief run. Now this would-be football wife is a regular old bank teller and mom-of-two, hoping her dreams won't end as disappointingly as her husband's did. I didn't think this diva's "Proud Mary" cover was very original or current-sounding, but there was no denying that she had a mighty set of lungs, and she did bring the fire at the end, which prompted Christina to hit her button at the last minute. Cee Lo and Adam buzzed in earlier, however, and while I thought Cee Lo and Michelle would have been a more natural fit, Michelle surprisingly went with Adam, who called her vocal ability "supernatural." Will Michelle have more success with Team Adam than her husband did with the Rams? She and Adam seem like an odd mismatch, but we'll see.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam
Diego Val - Mark my words, Diego will definitely be one to watch in this competition. The 24-year-old Peru native/Miami resident had so much going for him during his audition: swarthy yet slightly androgynous good looks; a solid sob story (he suffered from a rare childhood disease that kept him bedridden or on crutches for years); a nice-guy side career playing music for sick kids at local Miami hospitals; an interestingly raspy voice; and an apparent David Cook/Kris Allen-esque knack for "making songs his own." And with "The Voice" now airing on Spanish-language networks, it certainly helped that Diego crooned part of his audition song, Neon Trees' "Animal," en Español. A couple weeks ago when Team Blake's Julio Cesar Castillo, another bilingual contestant, auditioned with the very obvious song choice "La Bamba," I'd wished he had more adventurously "Latin-ified" an English-language pop song instead--and that is exactly what Diego did here. Only Cee Lo hit his button for Diego, which shocked me, but with a new "Steal" function coming up in the Battle Rounds, in which coaches can poach rival teams' contestants, Xtina was already planning ahead, telling Diego: "I may be able to snatch you up later." Personally, I hope Diego sticks with Cee Lo. Sure, Xtina may have recorded a Spanish-language album a million years ago, but I still don't think she'd really know what to do with Diego.
MEMBER OF: Team Cee Lo
Suzanna Choffel - This Austin music teacher was probably my favorite contestant of the night. How come I never had teachers this cool when I was kid? My music teachers taught my class how to play "Hot Cross Buns" on the recorder and strummed an accidentally detuned autoharp during story hour; Suzanna, on the other hand, performed an ethereal cover of Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide," one of my all-time favorite ballads, and actually did it justice. Adam was instantly smitten with Suzanna, hitting his button during the first verse and then watching the remainder of her lovely performance with giant, moony eyes. Blake, who in the past has shown great fondness for soft-spoken, guitar-strumming songstresses, swiveled around soon after. I thought Suzanna was going to go with Adam, but when Blake told her, "I think that could be the finale of this show, in my opinion," he sealed the deal, and he seemed thrilled to bits when Suzanna joined Team Blake instead. I'm not sure if Suzanna is a finale shoo-in just yet, obviously, but the idea isn't so far-fetched. And Blake might be able to work with Suzanna's pleasing vocal twang to help her win that finale, too, if she secures some of the country-audience vote.
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
Alexis Marceaux - My other favorite girl of the night was this New Orleans indie-rocker, who, serendipitously, also performed a Fleetwood Mac song, "Go Your Own Way." I really liked her vocal tone--how she started off all deep and rough-sounding, then kept building to those big, belty notes as the song went on. When Cee Lo finally buzzed in for her, I was so relieved that Alexis didn't slip through the cracks. Cee Lo lately only seems to pick up contestants by default, when no other coach spins around, but so far this is somehow working out for him, because he takes risks the other coaches don't and therefore ends up with a posse of quirky mavericks. And mavericks Alexis and Cee Lo certainly seemed well-matched here. "Rocker chicks turn me on," Cee Lo purred. "You are beautiful," Alexis purred back. "You are smart-girl chic," said Cee Lo. "We are gonna be good together," Alexis flirted back. Hey, get a room, guys! A rehearsal room, that is. Because I can't wait to see what these two come up with for the Battle Rounds.
MEMBER OF: Team Cee Lo
Brandon Mahone - This 17-year-old was another standout of the night, and possibly of the season, combining all-American likability with a fantastic, pure, God-given voice. He put a youthful spin on the Temptations' "I Wish It Would Rain" that probably appealed to young and old viewers alike, and there was just something special about him. Brandon later explained that he grew up listening to his grandparents' records--smooth jazz, Motown, classic soul--but he didn't sound stuffy or fuddy-duddy here. Cee Lo, who said he dug the "lived-in quality" of Brandon's voice, turned his chair, as did Christina, and also Adam, who told Brandon: "It didn't sound like you were imitating anyone. It just sounded like you were the next in line." With high praise like that, it's no wonder Brandon chose to go with Adam, although I personally would have loved to see how Brandon and Cee Lo would have meshed.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam
Terisa Griffin - This 42-year-old soul balladeer stumbled with her hackneyed song choice, when she covered an Adele song--and not just any Adele song, but "Someone Like You." (Seriously. I love me some Adele, but it is time for Mark Burnett, Nigel Lythgoe, and Simon Cowell to all sign a joint pact to ban all Adele covers from all singing shows, forever and ever.) However, Terisa did nail all those big notes, and once she was done singing, this Diva-with-a-capital-D probably intimidated/threatened even Xtina, she had such a big presence and big attitude. As Xtina and Blake fought to snag her for their teams, Terisa interrogated them like a world-class prosecutor, barking, "What will you do, as a coach, for me?" Blake seemed stumped and flustered and didn't really have a good answer, but apparently Terisa appreciated the feisty way he talked back to Christina, so she went with Blake anyway. I suppose that's as good a reason as any.
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
Michaela Page, Ryan Jirovec - Blake also scored these montage contestants, a 16-year-old Internet DJ and a hunky professional demo singer. Both of them seemed slightly promising--particularly the badass Michaela, who covered Pink and rocked a gravity-resistant fauxhawk--but they received maybe about 11 seconds of screentime combined, so I'm not going to get too emotionally invested in either of them just yet. They may not be sticking around for long.
MEMBERS OF: Team Blake
It feels like the Blind Auditions have dragging on forever now, so it's getting harder to keep track of the teams, and honestly, harder to remember/care about everyone who's gotten through so far. So in case you need a refresher...
Team Cee Lo consists of Diego Val, Alexis Marceaux, Mycle Wastman, Todd Kessler, Ben Taub, Emily Earle, J.R. Aquino, Nicholas David, Avery Wilson, Domo, Mackenzie Bourg, Trevin Hunte, and Daniel Rosa. I'd say Cee Lo's strongest team members are Diego, Alexis, Mycle, Avery, Mackenzie, and Trevin. He has three more spots to fill.
Team Adam has Michelle Brooks-Thompson, Sam James, Brandon Mahone, Collin McLoughlin, Benji, Melanie Martinez, Alessandra Guercio, Adana Duru, Brian Scartocci, Samuel Moulton, Loren Allred, Nicolle Nelson, Bryan Keith, and Joe Kirkland. Adam's strongest singers, in my opinion, are Brandon, Benji, Melanie, Bryan, and Joe. He has only two spots left.
Team Xtina has Dez Duron, Laura Vivas, Jordan Pruitt, Joselyn Rivera, Beat Frequency, Paulina, Nelly's Echo, Lisa Scinta, MarissaAnn, Aquile, Adriana Louise, De'Borah, and Devyn DeLoera. Christina's best bet is Beat Frequency...just kidding! I'd say the Team Xtina candidates with the best chances of winning, so far, are Dez, Aquile, and De'Borah. Christina has three spots left, and she better fill those spots wisely.
And finally, Team Blake has Suzanna Choffel, Michaela Page, Ryan Jirovec, Lelia Broussard, Terisa Griffin, Liz Davis, Kelly Crapa, 2Steel Girls, Casey Muessigmann, Julio Cesar Castillo, Terry McDermott, and Gracia Harrison. Blake's biggest hopes seem to be Suzanna, Liz, Julio, and Terry. He has four spots left, which is a good thing for him, because so far he's built the weakest team, and he really needs to recruit a few more great singers to stay in this game.
So on Tuesday, Blake and his co-stars will return to NBC for yet another round of Blind Auditions. Seriously. When will this end??? Can we just get to the Battle Rounds already? Well, hopefully there will be some solid talent Tuesday, to keep us all entertained and not reaching for the remote as the judges reach for their red buttons. See you then.
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