“Live Quarterfinal Performances, Week 2” S2 / E16
- B- Community Grade
I learned something very important from The Voice tonight: It’s really good to clear the air before settling in for two hours of intensive labor. Cee Lo Green does it with a few fart jokes and a handheld electric fan (BTW, the judges were the most drunk/otherwise impaired that they’ve been so far tonight, yes/yes?) and I’m going to do it by being upfront and honest about the fact that ALL I could think about during this show was how sad I was about missing The A.V. Club’s RuPaul’s Drag Race Finale Live Chat. I know, it’s hard to believe, but even though I spend an amount of time I’d rather not contemplate watching and writing about The Voice every week, there are a few shows out there that I actually like better, like Game of Thrones and America’s Best Dance Crew. But just like Jon Snow at the Wall, I must resist the urge to run off into battle, even if House Eleganza needs me. I have taken an oath. My duty lies here. Pipsters are Coming.
But in all seriousness, even though it was juvenile and threatened to throw the entire show off the rails very early on, the four hosts’ uncontrollable giggles while Cee Lo fanned himself and Carson’s sputtered in frustration set the silly, unrehearsed tone that is one of the things The Voice can undisputably hold overIdol. By the time the first act was being introduced, I was more than ready to kick back, chill out with these four lunatics in the red chairs for a spell, and see what Team Cee Lo and Team Adam had up their sleeves.
Starting off the show was Jamar Rogers, with Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life.” I far preferred this number to the Lenny Kravitz one from the first live show, but I’m growing weary of all the dated rock songs that the judges keep leaning on. Yes, they’re well-known songs to multiple generations of viewers, but they’re not making for the most memorable of moments. I liked how deliberate the pacing was in Jamar’s arrangement, but it was still too busy for me—I’d love to see him do something stripped down again so we can be reminded of what his voice really sounds like. Still, it’s hard not to root for Jamar, even aside from his devastating background story (when Cee Lo tells him to “listen to the love” after his performance, and he starts to weep as the crowd cheers, well I mean, come on). I’m not made of stone.
Katrina Parker, currently deep in advanced-stage Adelification, came out with “Jar Of Hearts” next, and it was another slightly disappointing performance from an artist I’ve come to like quite a bit. While I’m no fan of the song, it’s a good slow-burner for this kind of setting, one that allows the performer to build and build in volume and intensity, and I feel like Katrina never achieved the peaks she’s capable of on it tonight. Cee Lo said he felt a little “wilt” in the song, which is actually a pretty great word choice—there was definitely a bit of defeat in the performance, and now that we know how little the Voice voters care for the ladies in the competition, she could be in trouble.
Time for a Team Cee Lo group number! A Buddy-Holly-bespectacled Carson Daly introduces the team in a what appears to be some kind of indirect American Bandstand/Dick Clark tribute, but it’s hard to be certain. (American Idol spent a lot of time eulogizing the late host last week, which felt appropriate as it is such a clear descendant of the kinds of shows Clark pioneered, but I think it would seem disingenuous for The Voice to pay the same kind of homage.) The Idol kids did “Dancing In The Street” last week as well, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that despite the go-go costumes, giant TV and hairpieces, this version somehow wound up being far less dorky. Point Team Cee Lo, Point Voice.
Mathai started off with a very prickly intro package, where she seemed about as excited about doing Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like A Bird” as Megan Draper was about that HoJo orange sherbet. (Goddammit, I am getting the worst TV cabin fever with these recaps. I apologize.) “I don’t want to sound like her,” Mathai says to Adam, who assures her “You sound like you.” Weeeellll, actually, Adam… she kind of sounds like Nelly Furtado. And after this performance so explicitly laid out that heretofore unseen (by me) resemblance, Mathai lost a lot of that “unique snowflake” appeal that she kind of had going for her. I am, however, in favor of The Voice just dropping a trapeze artist into a number without notifying the coach in question first.
Hey, LADIES! James Massone! Amirite!? How hard do your oves ‘splode when you see him take the stage in that sweet headband? Actually, this week, I enjoyed our time with James a bit more, if only because I finally got what Cee Lo was doing: building up our No. 2 Ladykiller and making him feel special and handsome while simultaneously setting him up for an irredeemably awful performance that would make him the obvious choice for instant elimination. It was pretty genius, actually, and executed flawlessly, right down to the girl in the window running away from James as soon as his performance of Billy Joel’s “Just The Way You Are” was over.
Tony Lucca attempted to bounce back from a rough first live performance and an even rougher Christina critique by confronting his Mickey Mouse Club history head-on. I was excited to see what he and Adam were so convinced would knock everyone’s socks off, and was pretty disappointed when it ended up being an “unconventional” cover of Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time.” The grown-men-singing-teenybopper-songs thing is far from unexplored territory (just ask Jermaine Paul!), and the novelty aspect undercut Tony’s actual talents as a singer/songwriter. Wouldn’t an original song be a better way to reject all the MMC hoopla?
In her sit-down with Cee Lo, Cheesa tells her coach that she wants to be “diva-esque.” Oh boy, here we go. Cheesa is going to sing “I Have Nothing” by Whitney Houston, which is the kind of song that I don’t feel like anyone on The Voice should try. The Voice is the show where Cee Lo farts and Tony Lucca sings Britney Spears, not where we try to have Moments with big ballads. I guess she’s feeling brave after singing her way out of the bottom with “All By Myself,” but this was pretty much totally ill-advised. Consider my charitable spin on the Cheesa train over.
Like a common show choir tournament slut, Adam has ripped off Pip’s bowtie and mussed up his hair, which almost makes him look like a grown up. Now that he’s sufficiently “dangerous” looking, he’s apparently ready to sing Keane’s “Somewhere Only We Know.” It’s going pretty well at first, and the spinning camera around Pip as he sits at the piano is quite flattering—the kid can certainly emote convincingly. Then he stands up, and it all falls apart. This is not the kind of song that necessitates a high-five tour with the audience, especially if you can’t hold your pitch while doing so, and Pip finally caps the song off with a truly dreadful falsetto note. It was hard not to feel like this was a sabotage by Adam, but Pip has been on a downward trend for his last few performances anyway.
Finally, current front-runner Juliet Simms returns to convince us that her breakout “Roxanne” performance was no fluke. And did she? Well, who remembers, honestly? She was wearing GIANT BLACK WINGS. Her hair was bleached, too. Also, SHE WAS WEARING GIANT BLACK WINGS. I understand why Cee Lo would try to put a dent in someone like James Massone’s performance, but Juliet is one of the best things he’s got going right now. I’d really like to know what Juliet would have sounded like without that giant contraption strapped to her back—she was visibly uncomfortable as she made her way around the stage—but I guess that’s what the MP3 downloads are for.
Elimination time. Man, without Christina up there filibustering through every decision, these things seem downright snappy, don’t they? Cee Lo reads his team a very sweet little speech off his phone, in which he implores them “Do not lose contact with me. Do not lose hope in yourself,” before giving James the boot, as predicted. I hope those two do stay in touch; you could write a pretty decent sitcom about them hitting up the strip clubs every weekend and getting into crazy Ladykiller hijinks.
Adam is less prepared, and he tells his team members to “Tivo tonights episode and listen to [Cee Lo’s] speech again, it will be better and more articulate than how I’m about to be right now.” Then, with very little additional preamble, he says goodbye to Pip. Neither of these are particularly stunning choices, but they’re very savvy in light of last week’s voter results. If Cee Lo and Adam want to hang on to their (for the most part quite talented) girls at all, they had to take out one of their guys tonight, and Pip and James were likely to pull a lot of votes, despite their unsatisfying performances. Smart move, dudes. I'm sure the ladies appreciated that more than they would have appreciated another James Massone slow jam.
- “Follow your fart.” I am not above laughing at an occasional Adam Levine flatulence joke.
- Interestingly, Adam reveals that Jamar was the first performer to come up during the blind auditions—“I know they made it look different on TV.” Of course, we all knew the auditions were edited and stitched together for maximum impact, but I love how little Adam cares about preserving the illusions of reality television.
- My notes from the Team Cee Lo performance: “The girls are stuck in a black and white box, and the boys are dancing on the stage. WHAT DOES IT MEAN!?! Oh wait, they let the girls out of the box.”
- “It just kind of laid there.” Blake’s critique of James Massone’s song was all there was to say about it, really.
- “Where is the bow tie!? It’s like having me without alcohol.”