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‘The Voice’ Episode 4 Recap: The Talent Show Shuffle

Lyndsey Parker
Reality Rocks

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Melanie Martinez wows with her audition

On Monday, news broke that "The Voice's" Christina Aguilera and Cee Lo Green will go on hiatus in Season 4 to focus on, you know, their actual non-"Voice" careers. But we're still only a few episodes into Season 3, of course--so that same day, Xtina, Cee Lo, and their cohorts Adam Levine and Blake Shelton were all back on NBC, scouting and spinning for some new talent. How invested Xtina and Cee Lo actually were on the show was up for debate. Christina already seemed in full promotion mode for her November comeback album, Lotus (a snippet for her new video "Your Body" aired during Monday's episode), and she barely turned her chair around at all. Meanwhile, Cee Lo had his usual difficulty convincing anyone to join his team--at least until the very end of the episode, when he finally scored a major frontrunner for Team Cee Lo.

That all being said, I was more invested in "The Voice" than ever before, thanks to one contestant who was THE first blind-auditioner this season to truly excite me. If "The Voice" can still keep giving exposure to amazing young talents like Melanie Martinez, then I won't really care who is judging this show.

Here's how Melanie, and Monday's other hopefuls, did:

Melanie Martinez - I instantly fell in lurve with this arty 17-year-old photographer with the supercool Cruella DeVille hair and Hello Kitty hair-bow, who kind of reminded of quirky teen fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson. I wish I had been as cool as Melanie in high school. Heck, I wish I was this cool now. Melanie's cover of Britney Spears's "Toxic"--a risky choice, considering how negatively Christina reacted to contestant Tony Lucca's Britney cover last season--was positively revelatory, sort of Joanna Newsom-esque in feel, and she certainly earned extra cool points by playing a tambourine with her feet while she simultaneously strummed guitar. Basically, what Lindsay Pavao did for Season 2, Melanie Martinez is about to do for Season 3. All of the judges except Christina spun around (maybe the Britney cover did turn Xtina off), and I actually thought Melanie would end up with resident weirdo Cee Lo, or with Blake, a man who's exhibited a fondness for songstresses like Dia Frampton and Xenia. But Melanie went for Adam, a decision that hit Blake like a cowboy-boot kick in the gut. "That hurts...and it pisses me off," Blake grumbled. Gee, maybe Blake will be the next coach to quit this show.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam

Cupid - Cupid became a one-hit wonder in 2006 with the linedance favorite "Cupid Shuffle," which ended up selling two million copies. However, his career went nowhere after that--supposedly, according to his claims, because the novelty hit didn't show off his true singing ability. So he came on "The Voice" to try to change that perception...um, by auditioning with "Cupid Shuffle." WHY DID HE DO THAT? That would be like Vanilla Ice trying to prove there's more to him than "Ice Ice Baby" by rapping, you know, "Ice Ice Baby." This song choice made no sense. And it certainly did nothing to change his image or prove his singing skills, since no one turned around for him. Once this performance was over, Cee Lo recognized Cupid and exclaimed, "What are you doing on this show?" Good question. The judges let him do another song a cappella, Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get It On," to which Blake said, "You can really sing." But it was too late, and Cupid shuffled offstage, tail between his legs. On the plus side, maybe this performance will spark a second wave of popularity for "Cupid Shuffle." That's all he can really hope for, at this point.
MEMBER Of: Team No One

Brian Scartocci - This single dad, who works multiple jobs to support his daughters, performed a sentimental favorite for any father, Stevie Wonder's "Isn't She Lovely." I didn't think it was so lovely, however. I mean, there was nothing wrong with Brian's performance, but I wasn't wowed by it, and he certainly didn't improve upon the original. (Stevie Wonder is not easy to cover; most singers should not even go there.) I just thought Brian sucked a bit of the joy out of the song. But apparently Blake, Cee Lo, and Adam didn't agree with me, since they all hit their buttons. Brian eventually went with Adam, but Adam has been building such a strong team so far, I find it hard to imagine that this guy will make it past the Battle Rounds. It's a good thing he has those other jobs to fall back on.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam

Beat Frequency - I had high hopes for this married Christian-rocker duo, who met in church but looked like they met in a goth nightclub. I was intrigued by this dichotomy. But then they started singing Katy Perry's "E.T.," and the only dichotomy about their voices was that one was bad and the other was worse. I Did. Not. Get. This. Performance. At All. The wife, Natasha, was way off-key, and the husband, Shawn, kind of reminded me, vocally, of the guy in Aqua who sings the "come on Barbie let's go party" line in "Barbie Girl." Why Christina turned around for Beat Frequency I do not know, but at least the other three judges had some sense to pass. "Christina may be the only one who knows how to handle us!" reasoned Natasha. Yeah, good luck with that, Xtina.
MEMBER OF: Team Xtina

Tyler Lillestol - This baseball-playing all-American boy seemed poised to be the West Coast version of James Massone...but maybe he auditioned for the wrong season, since he admitted that he modeled much of his vocal stylings on his idol, Usher, who'll be replacing Cee Lo during "The Voice" Season 4. If only Tyler had waited until next year! Then again, I don't know if that really would've made much difference, since Tyler wasn't really all that great. None of the judges had it bad for his cover of "U Got It Bad," so Tyler the baseball boy ended up striking out.
MEMBER Of: Team No One

Liz Davis - This Nashville girl went on and on and on about how "this is definitely the moment I've been working for my whole life" and "it would be hard to be given this opportunity and it not work out." But I don't know why she was acting like some reality talent show was the end-all and be-all for her career, since a couple years ago she WON "P. Diddy's Starmaker" and that led to nothing. (Her contract with Bad Boy Records never yielded an actual album.) Liz of course never mentioned her "Starmaker" past, and neither did anyone else on "The Voice," possibly because "The Voice's" track record of spawning successful recording stars has been no better than Diddy's old MTV show. Or maybe Liz didn't want to draw attention to the fact that the song she auditioned with this week, "Here For The Party," is a song she actually also performed on "Starmaker." Liz was decent, not really any sort of star in the making, but Christina, Adam, and Blake all wanted her. Liz naturally went with Blake. Maybe Blake, with his much-bragged-about country connections, can help Liz in ways that Diddy never could, but I have my doubts.
MEMBER Of: Team Blake

J.R. Aquino - This Alaskan viral video sensation, who broke out to become one of YouTube's top 100 subscribed musicians with more than 45 million views, delivered a nice cover of Bruno Mars's "Just The Way You Are," but I didn't really think he made the smoothest transition from the computer screen to the TV screen. His audition had some pleasant moments, but he struggled with a few of the notes--the fact that he had little live experience, due to his hometown of Anchorage's lack of live music venues, showed. But there was potential here. Christina, Cee Lo, and Adam all turned for J.R., but J.R. decided, somewhat surprisingly, to join Team Cee Lo. (I would have guessed he'd go with Adam.) Cee Lo seemed so happy to finally get picked, I couldn't help but be happy for him. Let's see how these two mesh in rehearsals.
MEMBER Of: Team Cee Lo

Agina Alvarez - This young showbiz veteran of two failed record deals and "The Young & The Restless" (my favorite soap!) seemed to have so much potential, but maybe there's a reason why those record deals failed. Agina shouted "Turn The Beat Around" more than she sang it (Gloria Estefan would have never tolerated that on "The Next"!), and it was almost a relief when her performance came to an end. This was disappointing, since she certainly looked like a pop star (I bet Cee Lo was disappointed when he got a look at Agina), and Blake declared, "I'm embarrassed for all four of us for not turning around." But he had nothing to be embarrassed about. Although Agina certainly has some talent, her performance was overcooked, and the judges were right to pass on her this time.
MEMBER Of: Team No One

Nicholas David - This stay-at-home dad by day/musician by night/reformed alcoholic, whose excessive partying once caused him to balloon to 300 pounds before he met his girlfriend and transformed his life, sort of turned me off with his over-the-top evangelizing about "healing and hope." But his cover of "Stand By Me" had a pleasantly breezy yacht-rock vibe to it that I enjoyed. I shouldn't be saying this, given Nicholas's boozy past, but his performance made me want to kick back with a piña colada. Adam appreciated the Aaron Neville-esque quality to Nicholas's voice, but since only Cee Lo turned around, Nicholas ended up on Team Cee Lo by default. However, I think these two quirky, preachy souls could be a pretty good match.
MEMBER Of: Team Cee Lo

Alessandra Guercio - This 17-year-old student of the La Guardia School Of Performing Arts, aka the "Fame School," seemed promising UNTIL SHE SANG "THE CLIMB." Argh. Why must so many talent show contestants cover this treacly Miley power ballad? Alessandra, with her trained voice, did a nice job with the song, and I thought Christina would be all over her, but then Xtina (who did not turn around) made the astute observation that Alessandra sounded just a little too sweet. Cee Lo and Adam were the ones who hit their buzzers, but once again Cee Lo was scorned and Adam got the girl. No wonder Cee Lo is saying "forget you" to this show, after being rejected so many times.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam

Adana Duru, Kelly Crapa & Paulina - These young ladies (ages 15, 15, and 16, respectively ) all got relegated to a blink-and-you'll-miss-it montage, which made sense, since none of them really impressed me during the brief amount of screentime they did receive; I was not exactly yearning to see or hear more. Chances are, they're all fodder that'll topple quickly in the Battle Rounds (Paulina's vocals seemed particularly weak), but we'll have to wait for future episodes to see what sort of potential these girls really have.
MEMBERS OF: Teams Adam, Blake, and Xtina, respectively

Avery Wilson - This 16-year-old from a family of dancers kept his vocal talents hidden from his relatives at first, but once his dad heard him singing to himself behind his closed bedroom door, it was obvious to all that singing, not dancing, was Avery's true calling. And if all goes well for him, maybe one day he'll have millions of fans dancing to his hit singles. Avery was amazing--his performance of "Without You" was a far better Usher cover than the aforementioned Tyler's--and all four judges were practically begging to have him on their teams. "I gotta have you!" exclaimed Adam. "I hit my button just out of absolute respect for your vocal ability," raved Blake. "Our industry is suffering, and we could use you," declared Cee Lo. Shockingly, underdog Cee Lo scored this one, and he embraced his new recruit triumphantly as the show came to a close. If Cee Lo can keep snagging great singers like Avery for his team, he really ought to reconsider leaving "The Voice," because he's bound to win.
MEMBER Of: Team Cee Lo

So for those of you keeping track, so far Team Cee Lo has J.R. Aquino, Nicholas David, Avery Wilson, and from last week, Domo, Mackenzie Bourg, Trevin Hunte, and Daniel Rosa.

Team Blake has Liz Davis, the unfortunately named Kelly Crapa, and last week's recruits 2Steel Girls, Casey Muessigmann, Julio Cesar Castillo, Terry McDermott, and Gracia Harrison.

Team Xtina had a bad night on Monday, in my opinion, recruiting only Beat Frequency and Paulina, but Christina's already ahead of the game with additional team members Nelly's Echo, Lisa Scinta, MarissaAnn, Aquile, Adriana Louise, De'Borah, and Devyn DeLoera.

And Team Adam has the amazing Melanie Martinez, plus Alessandra Guercio, Adana Duru, Brian Scartocci, and last week's Samuel Moulton, Loren Allred, Nicolle Nelson, Bryan Keith, and Joe Kirkland.

Based on this tally, I would say the strongest teams are Cee Lo's and Adam's--although all four teams have their frontrunners and their also-rans, so it's still very much anyone's game. So come back Tuesday for more Blind Auditions, and enjoy Christina and Cee Lo while they're still around.

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