The first two winners of "The Voice" may have been men, but if the final Blind Auditions episode of "The Voice" Season 3, which aired Monday, is any indication, then the show very well may crown a female champion this season. Monday's episode was all about the ladies, with the male auditioners (even a very promising one with real heartthrob appeal) getting passed over in favor of one talented girl after another. Well before the episode was even over, lone female coach Christina Aguilera had completed her team with a whopping 12 of her 16 contestants being pop females, and I'd personally developed at least three serious girl-crushes of my own.
In fact, it was only towards the very end of Monday's show--as Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, and the constantly snubbed Cee Lo Green solidified their own team lineups--than any male contestants even got a shot. But the two talented men who did get picked, in the episode's down-to-the-wire final minutes, were definitely worth the wait.
Here's how Xtina, Adam, Blake, and Cee Lo's teams shaped up after this week's final auditions...with some final analysis about each team's odds moving into next week's Battle Rounds...
Nathalie Hernandez - This charming 15-year-old came to the show with, refreshingly, no over-the-top sob story (seriously, NBC, you've been laying on the melodrama way too thick this season), other than the fact that her she missed her prom and her brother's graduation to attend her "Voice" audition. I think her brother and rejected prom date will forgive her once they see her lovely audition of Taylor Swift's "White Horse," which inspired Blake, Christina, and Adam to all turn their chairs. While Nathalie was not a powerhouse belter (which is why I was slightly surprised that Christina showed interest), there was natural talent there, an unforced quality to Nathalie's voice that I appreciated (especially in a talent-show era when so many contestants think the only way to impress is to practically SHOUT a song as if its lyrics were in all caps). "You can actually believe and hear what you're singing, and you sold the song," said Blake. "You have a lot of what people don't have, which is the ability to connect," said Adam, already shifting into hypercompetitive mode. But surprisingly, Nathalie chose Christina as her coach. I'm not sure this was the best match, genre-wise, but as a former teen singer herself, it's possible that Christina can offer Nathalie insight that Blake and Adam couldn't.
MEMBER OF: Team Xtina
MEMBER OF: Team No One
Caitlin Michele - GIRL-CRUSH ALERT! Oh, there were so, so many things to cosmically love about Caitlin. The Allison Iraheta-esque tie-dyed hair. Her adorably proud and supportive father. Her gutsy cover of the not-at-all-easy-to-sing "Cosmic Love" by Florence + The Machine. Not even her sob story (she suffers from extreme panic disorder) could turn me off, and she certainly didn't seem panicked as she performed naturally and gracefully onstage. I was panicked for a moment when it seemed like no coach was going to turn around for Caitlin, but then finally Blake and Adam came to their senses. (Side note: Since Caitlin described herself as "the farthest thing from normal," I'm a little saddened/surprised that resident weirdo Cee Lo didn't turn around too.) Caitlin eventually went with Adam, which means Team Adam could become my favorite team of Season 3, because it now features both Caitlin and my gurl Melanie Martinez. The downside? I'm already prematurely bummed out realizing that, because of the way this show's rules are structured, Caitlin and Melanie can't both make it to this season's finale.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam
Nicole Johnson - This 18-year-old moved two years ago to Nashville with her parents, who uprooted their entire lives in Louisiana to help their little girl pursue her musical dream. Apparently they knew what they were doing, since Nicole didn't just get Blake to turn around with her interestingly countrified cover of Kelly Clarkson's "Mr. Know-It-All," but she got Cee Lo to hit his button as well. Cee Lo actually buzzed in first, but he didn't even recognize the song, while name-dropping Blake pointed out that he is, like, totally Kelly's BFF...so Nicole naturally went with Blake. "Cee Lo is empty-handed," Carson Daly intoned. (Side note: I still believe that Cee Lo's difficulty recruiting anyone for his team this season was karmic payback for dumping his old feline mascot Purrfect The Cat for some silly pink parakeet. Didn't anyone at the network tell him CATS > BIRDS?)
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
MEMBER OF: Team No One
Chevonne - This Lady Gaga backup vocalist with the wild Frieda-from-Peanuts hair learned from the best, or at least from the freakiest. "I think every backup singer has it in them to one day be their own star," Chevonne proudly declared in her "Born This Way" positive-affirmation voice, and once she hit the stage covering "Brass In Pocket," I believed her. (Chrissie Hynde is my ultimate girl-crush of all time.) At first no one spun for Chevonne, and as the song went on, lines like "I'm gonna make you notice" and "I gotta have some of your attention--give it to me!" started to sound almost like begging. Thankfully, Blake and Cee Lo finally gave her some of their attention, and they both hit their buttons at the very last minute. Blake pointed out his past success with background singers (his Team Blake winner from Season 2, Jermaine Paul, used to sing for Alicia Keys), but Chevonne and Cee Lo seemed to have some sort of instant connection, with Chevonne even tearfully revealing her own sob story--a history of eating disorders--after Cee Lo inquired about the "something painful in your voice." So finally, Cee Lo scored a team member. I think Chevonne made the right choice here. With Cee Lo on her side, she could be on the edge of glory.
MEMBER OF: Team Cee Lo
Kayla Nevarez - This 17-year-old had the type of sob story that "Voice" (and "Idol," and "X Factor") producers like to milk for all it's worth: a sick father, a hard-working breadwinner mom, and family of seven crammed into a two-bedroom apartment. However, Kayla had a pretty good voice, too. I was not nearly as impressed by Kayla's cover of Estelle's "American Boy" as the judges were--I found it a bit shrill and strident and strained in parts--but Cee Lo, Adam, and most of all Christina really wanted her for their teams nonetheless. "Let me put it to you, pure and simple: I'm your coach," proclaimed an aggressive Xtina. When Cee Lo asked Kayla which artists she grew up listening to, Kayla actually revealed that her childhood musical idol had been Christina--to which Cee Lo replied, "I give up." Cee Lo already knew he was going to get scorned again. But then, surprisingly, Christina got scorned, and Kayla went with...Adam. My two theories why? Either Kayla realized that she might get lost on a team positively teeming with young pop girls, or this ambitious girl appreciated Adam's super-competitive spirit. "We better win this," she told Adam. Wow. In Kayla--his final team member for Season 3--Adam may have met his match.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam
Celica Westbrook - Celica was another comely 16-year-old who could pass for 25 ("What are they giving these kids?" asked an incredulous Blake), with a stage presence and voice that belied her years. A third-generation singer based in Nashville, who signed a (failed) record deal at age 14, the pretty and poised Celica seemed like she'd been preparing for this TV moment for a long, long time. Her cover of Christina Perri's "A Thousand Years" was the work of a pro, and another Christina, Miss Aguilera, told her: "With God as my witness, you need to be on the radio right now!" Cee Lo and Blake also wanted Celica, and while Cee Lo (as usual) had no chance, Blake tried to work the Nashville angle to buddy up to Celica. And it seemed like he had a shot. But Celica went with Christina, thus completing Team Xtina's Season 3 lineup. Now Christina's last pick will just have to see if she can stand out and be Christina's last girl standing.
MEMBER OF: Team Xtina
MEMBER OF: Team No One
Rudy Parris - This 46-year-old may be the most rawkin' grandfather ever to try out for a singing show! The long-haired Hank III axeman started rocking out in the '70s after being inspired by KISS, but he curtailed his career in order to stay home with his daughter. With his daughter now 22 years old and a mother herself, it's finally Rudy's time to shine--and shine he did. I was surprised that he played country, not metal, but his country-tinged rendition of the Police's "Every Breath You Take" was really cool, and he had an outlaw vibe that understandably appealed to both Blake and Cee Lo. But I am sure you can already guess which coach Rudy picked. Sigh. Poor Cee Lo...
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
Cody Belew - But in the end, it all worked out the way the TV gods intended. Because if there was anyone this season that belonged on Team Cee Lo, it was Cody; in fact, Cody had been dreaming of joining Cee Lo's team for weeks. I pretty much fell in love with this kid, a cabaret singer trapped in a rodeo cowboy's body (or, as Cody worded it--in a way that kind of reminded me of Season 11 "Idol" semifinalist Adam Brock--a guy who "in a past life was an elderly black lady"), the instant he sang Otis Redding's/the Black Crowes' "Hard To Handle" with enough flair and panache to make Team Cee Lo member Domo seem as mellow as Javier Colon. Happily, this showboater (who likes to "entertain the crowd with a little bit of bam-bam") landed on Cee Lo's team...but he also landed on Cee Lo's lap, when, after an amusing delayed reaction, he suddenly realized that Cee Lo had buzzed in, and he excitedly pounced on Cee Lo like an overactive Purrfect. And I think these two will be a perfect match. Someone call Code Blue, because Cody Belew might make me pass out from an awesomeness overdose this season.
MEMBER OF: Team Cee Lo
And so, the Season 3 Blind Auditions, after what felt like months, ended with a big bam-bam. And now it is time to look at the full team lineups and assess. Below is my detailed ranking, from my favorite team to my least favorite team, with sub-rankings within each list of strongest to weakest team members. I've also included brief descriptions of each contestant, since, with 64 people to keep track of, I figure we can all use a refresher:
TEAM CEE LO
MacKenzie Bourg - adorable kid who covered "Pumped Up Kicks" and (sob story alert!) almost died from organ failure last year
Cody Belew - flamboyant showman, son of a rodeo cowboy, Cee Lo fanboy
Alexis Marceaux - New Orleans nerdy girl who covered Fleetwood Mac
Diego Val - handsome bilingual rocker who sang a Spanglish cover of Neon Trees' "Animal"
Chevonne - former Gaga backup singer and Jersey-girl rocker chick
Avery Wilson - teenage soul sensation from a family of dancers
Trevin Hunte - shy son of a Queens garbageman who belted out Beyonce's "Listen"
Mycle Wastman - blue-eyed soulman and orphan who sang "Let's Stay Together"
Amanda Brown - former Adele/Alicia Keys backup singer who loves gospel music and Radiohead
Domo - raging egomaniac who auditioned with the Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha"; will make for some good TV
J.R. Aquino - Alaskan YouTube star
Nicholas David - hairy folky/stay-at-home dad/recovering alcoholic who sang "Stand By Me"
Emily Earle - country girl who was part of a montage
Daniel Rosa - likable bow-tied Season 2 reject who made it through this time, but still seems like a longshot
Ben Taub - montage contestant I can barely remember
Todd Kessler - another barely seen montage contestant
Melanie Martinez - awesomely two-toned-haired, Hello-Kitty-hairbowed indie girl who played the tambourine with her feet
Caitlin Michele - this week's flame-haired, Florence-covering misfit girl
Joe Kirkland - emo-haired member of Artist Vs. Poet
Benji - blue-eyed soulman and former race car driver who sang "Knockin' On Heaven's Door"
Brandon Mahone - likable 17-year-old with a fondness for his grandparents' old Motown records
Bryan Keith - big-voiced man who sang Bruno Mars's "It Will Rain"
Kayla Nevarez - ambitious "American Boy" teen singer
Nicolle Nelson - earth mama who lives in a Burlington, Vermont shoe factory
Michelle Brooks-Thompson - bank teller/onetime football wife who belted out "Proud Mary"
Collin McLoughlin - ex-NYU music business student who somehow thinks being an actual musician is a more stable career choice
Samuel Mouton - reggae-loving pizza chef who sang a heavily accented "Redemption Song"
Alessandra Guercio - "Fame"- school student who unfortunately auditioned with "The Climb"
Brian Scartocci - single dad who covered Stevie Wonder
Adanna Duru - montage contestant who received little screentime; probable fodder
Sam James - another montage also-ran
Loren Allred - more montage fodder
Suzanna Choffel - awesome Austin music teacher who covered "Landslide"
Terry McDermott - Scottish rocker who used to be in the band Driveblind
Rudy Parris - outlaw country-rocker who covered the Police
Cassadee Pope - former Hey Monday frontwoman with strong voice, great look
Charlie Rey - smog technician with a heart of gold
Lelia Broussard - indie girl with an established cult following who received bizarrely little screentime
Gracia Harrison - bubbly blonde country spitfire who yodels
Nicole Johnson - Nashville girl who countrified "Mr. Know-It-All"
Julio Cesar Castillo - bilingual singer who tried out with "La Bamba"
2 Steel Girls - very marketable mother-daughter country duo
Michaela Paige - montage contestant, but one with a cool vibe and even cooler hair
Liz Davis - country girl who won the MTV talent show "P. Diddy's Starmaker" in 2009
Ryan Jirovec - professional demo singer who didn't get much screentime, but seemed to have potential
Terisa Griffin - big-lung'd diva with a big personality to match
Casey Muessigmann - average country singer
Kelly Crapa - montage/fodder contestant with an unfortunate last name
De'Borah - androgynous minister's daughter
Dez Duron - Season 2 reject, now returning as a Season 3 heartthrob
Aquile - biracial soulman who had his jaw broken by racist bullies when he was 19
Nathalie Hernandez - 15-year-old with a natural gift
Celica Westbrook - 16-year-old belter who was the final addition to Christina's team
Adriana Louise - really pretty brunette whose family was held up at gunpoint when she was 9
Joselyn Rivera - 17-year-old pop dynamo who sang Kelly Clarkson's "Stronger"
Jordan Pruitt - former Disney star trying to reinvent herself
Devyn DeLoera - pop girl who took a risk by auditioning with Christina's "Ain't No Other Man"
Lisa Scinta - briefly seen montage contestant who showed some promise
Nelly's Echo - guitar-strumming Nigerian refugee who crooned "Ain't No Sunshine"
Paulina - montage contestant with a '90s Europop vibe
Sylvia Yacoub - Egyptian girl pursuing the American dream of pop stardom
Laura Vivas - another montage contestant; tried out with Adam Lambert's "Whataya Want From Me"
MarissaAnn - another montage contestant; likely Battle Rounds fodder
Beat Frequency - creepy married electro-duo that somehow made it through, despite a terrible audition of "E.T."
Yes, somehow Cee Lo still ended up with the strongest team, despite the many times he was scorned by various contestants. So I guess I shouldn't have felt so sorry for him, after all. But Adam's team is almost as strong, and Blake's is solid too. And while Christina's team is the weakest--with all of those interchangeable pop girls, there's not much diversity to work with there--she too has some very good candidates. And in the end, it will only take one to be The Voice.
Tune in next week (Tuesday's episode is a best-of clip show, for some reason) to see how these teams get whittled down, when the Battle Rounds finally begin! See you then.
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