Up until tonight, the second season of The Voice has been sorely lacking in the narrative department, mostly due to its disjointed structure and how infrequently we see the key contenders during those first stages. Last night, we had a bit more to chew on as far as “story” goes, with the season’s more notable heroes and villains taking the stage. And tonight, it really paid off, with a genuinely exciting elimination episode that was by turns funny, suspenseful, and yes, even a little moving.
It was still as rushed as last week’s show (courtesy of a once again stressed-out, but not quite so surly Carson Daly), but this time, the time constraint wasn’t so much of a stumbling block. At times, it aided the suspense. We also started off with a much more capable opening act, the ever-appealing UK pop star (and UK Voice judge) Jessie J, who unfortunately will never be a chart-topper stateside so long as Katy Perry is still doing her thing. She was joined in the second half of her song “Domino” by members of Team Christina, who looked slightly less prepared to be on stage than Kim Kardashian at a Prince concert. It was adorable, of course. Just ask Arsenio Hall! (What?)
After that, we got right to the results. On Team Adam, Mathai, Tony Lucca and Pip made it through, while Kim, Katrina and Karla landed in the bottom three. What can we learn from this? America apparently doesn’t care about Christina Aguilera’s opinion, or overweight people. I would have swapped Katrina for Pip in this particular scenario, but otherwise, I didn’t feel particularly upset by the results. I also really appreciated Adam’s words to his contestants before the results were announced: “You guys are singers and artists, and this whole thing is weird. It’s a game.” (I’m paraphrasing.) It’s unusual to see a judge on these kinds of shows be honest about how little the game reflects reality, and it was a nice moment.
Over on Team Cee Lo, Juliet and Jamar made it through first, leaving the final top spot between James, Cheesa, Tony, and Erin. At this point it was just a relief to know that either Tony or Erin would be in the bottom, but I still didn’t trust the voters enough to put both of them there. Luckily, America came through (sort of), and James was sent through. Say what you will about James; he’s just incompetent, whereas I wasn’t sure how many more weeks I could deal with Tony or Erin’s face on my TV. What can we learn from this? America is much more swayed by brainless hype (James) than credentials (Tony). For once, I don’t mind that so much.
Then it was time for the bottom-dwellers to convince the judges to save them in slightly more time than they gave Name That Tune contestants to identify a song. Kim sings “Spotlight” and makes a big error in choosing to sing backup-like refrains during the second chorus. When you have that little time up there you have to maximize it; anything else looks like aimless noodling. Karla sings “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” and no, Karla, you can’t. While her vocals were a bit stronger tonight than last night, she still had major breath problems. Plus, the girl wears her shoulders like earrings. She’s clearly plagued by nerves whenever she gets on stage. Finally, Katrina comes on with “Don’t Speak,” and... DONE. Just. Done. Game over. It wouldn’t take much to outshine the ladies that preceded her, but the song choice suited her perfectly, and let her get emotional without wallowing.
Kristina is saved, naturally (the judges all blathered through long preambles before unanimously choosing her; my notes just look like “blablablablabla” at this point), and Kim and Karla bid farewell, sweetly thanking the show’s behind the scenes crew before riding off into the night. In a brief intermission, we visit the #SprintLounge for some @CMilianOfficial social chat time with Adam, which delightfully goes off the rails when the latter can’t get over how goddamn weird the #SprintLounge is. “It’s a little bit awkward in here!” he says, looking around uncomfortably. “Everyone’s tweeting!” Christina helpfully explains.
Back on stage, it’s time for Tony Vincent to terrorize us one last time. Look, my reality show memory only goes back so far, but I do believe I have heard contestants sing “Sweet Dreams” on The X Factor and the current season of American Idol and get swiftly kicked off their respective shows. The song is cold and scary enough (it’s a great song for those reasons, but not singing competition material), but with Tony in full-on Voldemort mode, stalking across the stage with those skinny little legs and snarling directly into the camera, it was a grand flaming failure at recapturing any remaining audience sympathy that could be available to him. The much-more-savvy Cheesa goes for a big ballad, which I had my doubts about, but she undeniably slayed those big notes on “All By Myself.” And Erin Martin croaked and wailed her way through “Your Song,” sounding particularly like a dying animal on the line “my gift is my song,” which, haha, oh, Erin, thanks for the laughs. We’ll miss you, babe.
But all in all, between those three performances, there were a lot of feelings. Yes, primarily feelings of revulsion, but also genuine surprise and hope for Cheesa, of all people. And that sort of setup is what The Voice has needed so badly. Finally, I felt like I was invested in whatever outcome the judges arrived at. Of course, it was going to take them forever to get around to that, padding their choices with so much apologetic dilly-dallying that I was half afraid Carson would snap, jumping down off the stage and slamming the emergency ejection buttons on the back of all four red chairs. Christina even forgets Tony’s name during her ramble, the whole show really starting to unravel in glorious slow motion in those final minutes. But at last, evil is defeated, Cheesa is saved, and Carson is able to usher us into Jessica Simpson and Fashion Star’s sweet embrace with mere seconds left on the clock. Of course, this is at the expense of any final words from Tony or Erin, but I think we can find it in our hearts to let that one slide, can’t we?
Well done, everyone! We did it! See you back next week for the semifinals. If you have any bracket-like predictions, do share them in the comments. I’ll try to rustle up my own within the next couple of days.
- Have I been missing it before now, or has Mathai been “y’all”ing all along? I guess this the first time she’s had to address anyone in second person plural.
- I feel like the control room is just as frazzled as Carson is as the minutes slip away. The editing becomes increasingly sloppy and disjointed; at one point, the camera cut to Cheesa’s foot as she exited the stage.
- Adam was full of good stuff tonight, and he’s quickly turning into my favorite judge from any competition right now. I love that he chastised Team Cee Lo’s bottom three for failing to be really convincing performers until the last minute. I’m obviously no Tony or Erin fan, but the criticism definitely applied to Cheesa.