The Voice: “Blind Auditions Continued”
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The Voice: “Blind Auditions Continued”

Let’s get this out of the way now: If you meant to click on The X Factor, you just did exactly what NBC was hoping millions of viewers would do when confronted with two singing competition shows anchored by former Mouseketeers, and figured one was about as good as the other.

That said, you are probably the only one.

For all the bluster about a Christina Aguilera/Britney Spears rivalry, Christina has never attracted the level of polarizing opinions that Britney does. Sure, she once wore skimpy chaps and dreadlocks, but Britney once shaved her head and beat a car to death with an umbrella. There’s just no contest. Very few people tune into The Voice for the sole purpose of wondering if this will be the episode when Christina Aguilera falls apart. They might want to see her fall out, maybe, but that’s a different issue. The Christina vs. Britney rhetoric is ultimately pointless. The names of their shows alone confirm both women are in the right place for their particular brands of expertise: Christina Aguilera is judging The Voice; Britney Spears is judging X Factor.

For those who did tuned in to The Voice tonight consecutive night No. 3 (three!) was essentially a Voice sampler platter. We start with pizzeria worker Samuel, who gets out about five notes of “Redemption Song” before Adam turns around and nabs him for his team. This makes sense, since Samuel kind of sounds like Adam Levine doing a Bob Marley impression. We also get onto our first pair of the season with a mother-daughter act. Allison and Krystal Steele, or 2Steel Girls, say they have sold just about all their material possessions in pursuit of their joint musical dream. It’s a little weak as far as Tragic Pre-Performance Montages go, but that doesn’t mean the daughter doesn’t go for a “choked up” moment during their interview (the season’s first to require air quotes). They belt Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats,” and while the mother clearly has a stronger voice, both Blake and Cee Lo turn around. The fact that the duo even pretends to consider Cee Lo immediately makes me like them less.

Nelson, a Nigerian refugee, goes by the stage name Nelly’s Echo. Listening to the explanation more than once will only get you so far in understanding what this means, but Carson’s unblinking reaction (“What a profoundly beautiful answer!”) will always be hilarious. Fortunately, Nel’s version of “Ain’t No Sunshine” proves he has a powerful enough voice to back up his stage name. For his part, Adam proves he’s taking the voice part of The Voice far more seriously than his fellow judges by waiting to hear the famous “I know, I know, I know” refrain before turning around. Still, Nelly’s Echo goes to Team Christina. She did turn around first, and everyone knows the best vocal coaches are the impulsive ones!

Speaking of impulsive, Cee Lo’s only gain of the night is a complete mess. Domo is a singer, but she primarily thinks of herself as a dancer of “hip-hop, the cool kind.” Domo makes claims like “In China, I’m like, Lady Gaga” and “I can sing like Mariah, Whitney, Christina, Celine.” Domo belongs on the first round of The X Factor, not a team on The Voice. But Cee Lo can’t resist a halfway-decent performance of a song he wrote, even if it is The Pussycat Dolls’ “Don’t Cha,” and is the only one to turn around. The other judges don’t even bother to hide their relief when they realize what a grating bullet they dodged. I’m not saying I want Domo to stay on this show, but if she must, she must be on Cee Lo’s team.

The most bizarre audition of the season thus far is Chris, a tiny man of indeterminate age who can barely see over his 80 Urban Outfitters scarves. See, Chris was a member of the boy band Dream Street, best known for alum Jesse McCartney. Chris didn’t fare as well as his bandmate, though, and currently works at a sushi restaurant. He unfortunately decides to play into his boy-band roots in as ill-advised way as possible by singing to “Glad You Came” by The Wanted, a.k.a. the JV team to One Direction’s varsity squad (I stand by it). Also, Chris decides to dance. This seems like a strange strategy for a show where the entire concept is, the judges can’t see you. Chris’ thin voice can’t sustain itself through a dance routine. Not a single chair turns around. The judges try to make him feel better (though Christina just flat-out asks whether he’s a singer or a dancer), which of course ends with Adam making Blake try the moonwalk. “You should see Blake try to do it, it’s hysterical,” Adam says, prompting thousands of Voice fans to simultaneously imagine the shenanigans that must be afoot during wine and cheese night at the Shelton-Levine residence.

Finally, there’s Nicole. She lives in an old shoe factory in Vermont, likes to meditate on hammocks, and decides to sing arguably the most covered song in the world: Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” by way of John Cale and Jeff Buckley. And she crushes it. Adam turns around before the other three follow suit, and though Nicole says she was set on #TeamBlake before she set foot on stage, she goes with Adam. He leaps to his feet, runs onstage, and gives her a huge hug. The problem with Adam Levine on The Voice is that Adam Levine on The Voice is charming enough to make you forget you’ve had that inane “Payphone” song in your head for weeks now, and for that, I both salute and deeply resent him.

Stray observations:

  • Tomorrow, we’ll know if NBC adding a third night at the last minute to compete with X Factor paid off. I suspect no.
  • When Christina really wants someone, she flexes her hands she’s trying to like grab a particularly shiny toy. This seems about right. 
  • Blake, summing up The Voice: “That was really cool, but not as cool as it’s gonna be listening to the bickering that’s about to happen.”

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