Pat yourselves on the back, Team A.V. Club. Twelve hours and roughly 10,000 stock shots of judges’ hands lingering over their buttons later, we have made it to the battle rounds, and the end of this season’s blind auditions.
While the judges’ easy chemistry was a welcome surprise, The Voice’s most accessible, formidable strength has always been the simplicity of the blind auditions. Knowing the judges can’t see what the audience can raises the stakes, immediately investing the viewer in the singer. Unless someone gives a truly obnoxious pre-audition interview, it’s very hard not to watch an audition on The Voice without getting anxious for a chair to turn. There are exceptions, of course, but skipping the weeks of cringe-worthy auditions that are now par for the course on other competition shows means that schadenfreude is blissfully absent. The default setting of watching The Voice is truly wanting an audition to knock it out of the park. Pair that with the insistence that superficiality doesn’t play a part in the audition process and it becomes clear why The Voice has proven to be a formidable opponent to American Idol (and a clear victor over The X Factor). The Voice is simply a more optimistic show which, ultimately, makes it a more enjoyable show to watch.
Adam is the first to complete his team. He takes Caitlin Michelle, who has blue ombre hair to signify that she is “far from normal,” and sings Florence + The Machine’s “Cosmic Love.” Tackling any Florence + The Machine song is a hard choice, and it very nearly doesn’t pay off. Florence Welch is an undeniable powerhouse, but that she has a very particular voice that can backfire on her. Even her own live renditions of “Cosmic Love” have her shouting through a note until it hurtles past “powerful” and into “flat” territory. It’s no surprise, then, when Caitlin has a powerful but pitchy audition. Adam tells her as much, but Caitlin still picks him over Blake’s typically useless “We have a real connection!” pitch. Blake’s been so terrible at making his case this season, in fact, that even Christina stops fanning herself long enough to push Caitlin away from him. Seventeen-year-old Kayla Nevarez takes the last spot on Team Adam with her surprisingly mature version of Estelle’s “American Boy.” Christina sells herself harder to Kayla than she has to anyone all season, but not even Kayla admitting she grew up on Christina’s albums makes a difference. At this point, there’s a reason most of the highly sought after singers on The Voice end up on Team Adam. He’s noticeably pickier about his button pushing than the other judges, which makes his positive feedback that much more valuable. More importantly to performers with fragile egos, it makes his approval more flattering.
Christina recovers from losing Kayla by snagging precocious teens Nathalie Hernandez and Celica Westbrook. They offer up Taylor Swift’s “White Horse” and Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years,” respectively, and both their voices seem too shaky and undeveloped to warrant the enthusiastic response. There have been more than a few instances on The Voice where I think audtionees’ nerves have gotten the best of them, only to have three or four chairs turn around. Maybe the camera adds ten times the tremor? In any case, Nathalie and Celica join Christina’s army of belting teens and Team X-Tina is complete.
The last half hour goes to filling out CeeLo and Blake’s teams. Since CeeLo never compliments a singer on anything more concrete than their “vibe” and Blake keeps trying to relate to people through their shared mall experiences, this is fairly excruciating.
To no one’s surprise, Blake ends up with another pair of country singers. Eighteen-year-old Nicole Johnson sings a country version of Kelly Clarkson’s “Mr. Know It All” that had Blake at her drawled “you don’t know a thaaaaaang about me,” because of course it did, and Rudy Parris persuades him to turn around with a Sting cover. Team Blake is mostly cute as a button Southern country singers; Team Blake would kick serious ass on Idol.
Former Lady Gaga backup singer Chevonne sings “Brass In Pocket,” which is mostly low talk-singing with staccato belting, or in other words, a very weird choice to show off your voice. Still, CeeLo and Blake turn around at the last second, and she joins the pink cockatoo at CeeLo’s side. (Full disclosure: I was rooting for Chevonne to go far before she sang a note, because if she gets super famous, Judy Greer can play her in the Chevonne! biopic.) Finally, there are six minutes left, CeeLo needs one more person, and Cody Below swaggers onstage so we know how this is going to end. Of course, Cody doesn’t know this, and has a genuine, joyful freakout at CeeLo turning around that wouldn’t be out of place in an elementary school playground, save for all the bleeping.
Next week kicks off the battle rounds, those awkward vocal bouts that take place in an actual boxing ring to the delight of no one. Plus, an ominous new “steal” rule! Jury’s out on whether adding another wrench to The Voice’s most confusing, problematic round will pay off, but it’s easy to see NBC’s logic here. The blind auditions are for better and for worse the best part of The Voice. Airing this many blind auditions may seem excessive, but they’re the element that sucks people in, and the ratings reflect that. In fact, if you watch these last hours of auditions backwards, all the songs sound exactly like an NBC executive letting out a slow, agonizing scream of panic. The more you know!
- The One Who Got Away of the Day: Kamron Corvet, who sings a perfectly solid version of Seal’s “Crazy” that is apparently too solid to be interesting enough for the judges.
- Chevonne: “I just got off tour singing background for Lady Gaga.” Christina: “Aww, good for you.” Gossip blogs, probably: “X-TINA VS. GAGA? THE CLAWS ARE OUT!”
- Adam Levine may have tattoo sleeves, but he may secretly be a dorky suburban parent:
- “It was all 50 Shades Of Grey in here.”
- “It’s The Voice, not The Abs!”
- “Why don’t you cool your...spurs or something.”
- Note: Tuesday night’s hour is a recap of the blind auditions. Watch at your own risk.