"The Voice" continued apace and continued its awesomeness this Monday, with a two-hour episode that totally had me testifying at Adam Levine's "Jewish church." (That joke will make sense in a few paragraphs if you keep reading, which I suggest you do.) Here's who made it through--along with a couple of dishonorable mentions of notable contestants who didn't--on Monday night:
The Swon Brothers - These siblings had their shtick down pat. It was like they'd rehearsed their hokey-jokey stage banter as much as they'd rehearsed their actual song. "You guys just heard your first Swoncert," one of 'em whooped, adding, "He's known as 'the face' and I'm known as 'the talent'!" (Incidentally, the cuter one, Colton "The Face" Swon, once tried out for "American Idol" Season 7.) Well, I love me some good stage banter, and honestly, I wouldn't mind if there was a whole reality competition dedicated to banter alone, like "Banter Idol" or "The X Banter." (NOBODY STEAL THAT IDEA, PLEASE.) So I was charmed, I admit it. I was also a sucker for this duo's song choice, "American Girl"--what American rock fan doesn't love a little Tom Petty?--and so were the judges and hooting audience members. But it was hard to separate the awesome stage presence and awesome song choice from the actual singers; did these guys have great voices, or were they just great fun? Or both? Eventually three of the judges turned around (Adam, the one I thought would dig the Swons the most, was apparently too busy air-drumming to hit his button). And Blake Shelton's eager adoption of the brothers' punny humor--he called them "Swinners" and said they'd soon be able to say they'd "Swon" on "The Voice"--sealed the deal. I'm still not sure if the Swons have what it takes to get far on this show, but I am sure they'll get up to some fun with Blake while their tenure on "The Voice" lasts.
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
Taylor Beckham - This former aspiring Olympic gymnast with the sporty surname obviously came to the show knowing a thing or two (or three) about competition. But I don't think this Beckham was quite ready for the big leagues. The 17-year-old Texan's vocals were very thin and reedy--something that may not have been so noticeable if she'd gone with a different song choice, but the Rose Royce/Mary J. Blige classic "I'm Going Down" was ALL WRONG for this kid. I was genuinely shocked that the panel's resident R&B expert, Usher, swiveled his chair first, or swiveled it at all. But Usher was really, really keen, and he fought hard to win Taylor away from the other coach who turned, Shakira. Shakira pointed out that she too was a former gymnast, not to mention a former teen singer, but Usher's unbridled enthusiasm won out, and Taylor signed up for Team Usher in the end. My guess is she will wind up being fodder on his team, but maybe Usher can coax out her innate competitive spirit--and help her choose better songs--and she'll be able to go for the gold.
MEMBER OF: Team Usher
Karina Iglesias - Karina is a real-life school-of-rock-style music teacher in Miami, and when producers showed scenes of her jamming with her young students, I wished that was a spin-off reality show, too. (NOBODY STEAL THAT IDEA EITHER!) When Karina got onstage to belt a Spanglish version of Melissa Etheridge's "I'm The Only One" (with her stroke-victim grandmother watching in the wings; pass the Kleenex, please), I got some real Vicci Martinez realness from her. This little lady had some serious lung power! And she gave me some Iron Maiden realness at the end, with her blood-curdling, toe-curling scream. Adam and Blake both hit their buttons at the last minute, uncoincidentally right around the time of that metal scream. (Bizarrely, Shakira, who didn't turn, hadn't realized that Karina was Latina; somehow those Spanish lyrics hadn't been a tipoff. Shakira should stop constantly eyeballing the coaches next to her, and pay more attention to her own ears.) Anyhoo, Adam quipped, "I thought the light fixtures were going to explode!" Said Blake: "It was almost like you were pushing the gas pedal. Like, 'Okay, you think this is as far as I can go? Watch this!' There was so much energy." Both judges rallied, but Karina's mind was clearly already made up. "I've been waiting to say these words ever since I started watching the show," she said. "I'm gonna pick…Adam!" I think Adam and Karina will rock pretty hard together; I expect to see more Adam air-drumming on "The Voice" very soon.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam
Garrett Gardner - This lip-pierced emo boy tried out last year and seemed crushed when he didn't get a single big red chair to spin in his direction. This year, his cover of the White Stripes' "Seven Nation Army" wasn't perfect (it certainly didn't come near the greatness of Season 2 finalist Jamar Rogers' epic version), but he was much improved. And his intriguingly Alex Clare-ish growl was enough to get one chair--Shakira's--to turn. "I was so pissed when you guys didn't pick him last year!" a passionate Shakira scolded Adam and Blake. "This is exactly what this show is about: the redemption of coming back," proclaimed Adam, while not exactly explaining why he passed on Garrett a second time. But it didn't matter, because this season, Garrett did get past the Blinds. We'll see how far he goes after this, but if he does make it to the live voting rounds, I believe his winning combo of cute face/sad backstory (a recently deceased dad) could help him go far--far enough to make Adam wish he had turned around this time.
MEMBER OF: Team Shakira
Holly Tucker - Holly is a proud band geek, a member of both the Baylor University marching band and a Partridge-style touring group with her family. But now it is time for her to go solo, because her very well-received "Voice" audition proved she's got the goods. Her cover of Bob Dylan's "Make You Feel My Love" inspired Adam, Usher, and Shakira to turn around almost immediately, and it wasn't long before Blake followed suit. Holly's voice was just that powerful and pure. While Holly insisted that she wanted to stick to her country roots, Adam argued, "You're so good that you just blow any genre out of the water." (It's true--I heard shades of both the Garth Brooks and Adele versions of this song in Holly's performance.) Usher tried to win Holly over by pointing out that, like her, he got his start singing in church, to which Adam joked that he got his start in the "Jewish church." And I laughed so hard, I literally did a spit-take all over my screen. I wiped away the coffee droplets just in time to find out that, totally unsurprisingly, Holly had chosen Blake as her coach. But extra points go to Adam for a funny one-liner that put the Swon Brothers to shame!
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
Michelle Chamuel - Quirky girl alert! When it comes to adorkability, Zooey Deschanel ain't got nuthin' on Michelle. This frontgirl for the oddly monikered rock band Ella Riot didn't have the best voice of the night, but her emo-tinged cover of Katy Perry's "I Kissed A Girl" just had the (wait for it) X-factor. I could not take my eyes off her; she was just so compelling, so weird, so unique, so hip-to-be-square. I was worried if the judges would be able to discern this without seeing Michelle perform, but Adam, Shakira, and Usher all heard something special and thankfully turned around. "We had nothing to go on but your voice, and you really shocked us," marveled Usher. "I see that rock chick in you, and I would love to work with you," said Shakira. "There's a rock chick inside of me too," snarked Adam, before adding, "You look so pure, but when you sing, it's like you're gonna stomp the earth!" I would've thought that Michelle would choose to go with either Adam or Shakira, but the self-described "electronic pop" singer joined Team Usher instead. At first Michelle's decision surprised me, but then I remembered Usher's recent collabos with David Guetta and Empire Of The Sun's Luke Steele, and I realized this odd pairing just might work.
MEMBER OF: Team Usher
Monique Abbadie - I imagine on-hiatus "Voice" judge and former "Mickey Mouse Club" cast member Christina Aguilera would have really related to Monique, because Monique was on "Sabado Gigante," a massive Spanish-language variety show on Univision. Of course, new judge Shakira related to this Cuban-American girl as well, and it was obvious from the start that Team Shakira was where Monique belonged; after all, Monique even auditioned with a famous Shakira tune, "Loca," and she revealed that she'd met Shakira when she was a child. Monique's performance lacked control--she was too shouty in parts and didn't seem to know how or when to rein it in--but there was genuine talent there, enough to get all four judges to turn around. However, Blake, Usher, and Adam didn't even put up much of a fight; they all conceded that Shakira was the right coach for this contestant, and pretty much bowed out. Most. Anti-Climactic. Deliberation. Ever.
MEMBER OF: Team Shakira
Warren Stone - Warren is a firefighter, a family man, a former rock band singer, and an aficionado of plaid shirts. If Warren had auditioned for "American Idol" last year, he would have given Phillip Phillips a serious run for his money! And I could see Warren giving this season's "Voice" contenders a run for their money, too. His cover of the Zac Brown Band's "Colder Weather" was very unforced and very real ("That song is harder to sing than you made it seem," Blake astutely pointed out), and he already seemed like a potential country sensation. Adam noticed this right away, turning first and telling Warren, "I'm so ignited by what you just sang. I know you're going to be a huge country star." But Warren had his pick of all four coaches, including Blake, the obvious choice. When he chose Adam instead, Adam gloated unabashedly: "My first triumph in the battle of pop versus country!" Blake was not amused. This time, it was personal.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam
J'Sun, Duncan Kamakana, and Chelsea M. - These poor contestants all got relegated to a blink-and-you'll-miss-it montage (I HATE WHEN THE SHOW DOES THIS), so it was hard to assess whether they were being set up as fodder, or if producers were just trying to hold back in order to give viewers a pleasant surprise later on. My guess is the former. Of these three, Hawaiian crooner Duncan seemed the most intriguing…but it's too soon to tell.
MEMBERS OF: Teams Shakira, Adam, and Usher, respectively
DISHONORABLE MENTIONS (aka, rejected auditioners):
Sam Alves - I've been avoiding mentioning the rejects this season, figuring that they're all forgotten in the time it takes for the judges to swivel their chairs back around after saying their condescendingly sweet goodbyes. But a couple Monday castoffs are worth mentioning here--namely Sam, who really should have made the cut. This made-for-TV man had it all: cute face, good hair, a heartstring-tugging sob story (he's a Brazilian orphan, literally left on his adoptive parents' doorstep as a baby), and most importantly, a really strong voice. But then he sang "Feeling Good." Oh, if only he'd known about the "Feeling Good Curse," which is indeed a thing. It was a bad song choice, yes, but I was still surprised that he didn't get a single chair to spin around, when lesser contestants like Taylor Beckham and all those random montage singers did.
Julie Roberts - Well, this must've been embarrassing. Julie was a bona fide country star in the mid-2000s, releasing two albums on a major label, Mercury Nashville, the first of which actually went gold. But things went south for Julie after that. Her second album stiffed; she got dropped by her label; she lost her house in the big Nashville flood of 2010; and then, on top of all that, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. "The Voice" was her chance to turn it all around, but--sorry to sound mean here--she just wasn't that good. It was hard to believe that this croaky girl ever had a record deal. Back in the day, she did sound much more impressive, but either her voice has lost its power over the years, or her audition song, Blake Shelton's own "God Gave Me You," was just a terrible choice. None of the coaches hit their buttons…but Blake instantly recognized Julie when he finally got a look at her. Facepalm.
So, if you're trying to keep track, Team Adam now comprises Karina Iglesias, Duncan Kamakana, Warren Stone, and last week's Judith Hill, Midas Whale, and Sarah Simmons. Team Blake has the Swon Brothers, Holly Tucker, and last week's Morgan Twins, Danielle Bradbery, and Christian Porter. Team Usher has Taylor Beckham, Chelsea M., Michelle Chamuel, and last week's Josiah Hawley, Jess Kellner, and VEDO. And Team Shakira has Garrett Gardner, J'Sun, Monique Abbadie, and last week's Tawnya Reynolds, Cathia, Kris Thomas, and Mark Andrew. So far, Team Adam still seems like THE team to beat, and Team Shakira still seems like the weakest bunch. But the coaches are only halfway through building their teams (they will eventually recruit 12 singers each), so it's still anyone's game. Come back Tuesday for more Blind Auditions, to see if the game changes.
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- Interview with "The Voice's" Midas Whale
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