The Voice 2, April 9: Everybody Wants to Rockby Barbara McDowell -- 04/10/2011
Welcome back to The Voice – I’m glad you made it back for another dose of the live rounds. I’ve been looking forward to this week because it brings back some stronger talent and fan favorites. The coaches appear to be in good spirits, Cee Lo has discarded his ‘70s gear to return to this decade, and I hear Purrfect cat will be making an appearance. Host Carson Daly reminds us that voting can be done via calling the 866 numbers, texting from Sprint phones, downloading your favorite artist’s song from iTunes, or voting via Facebook. Voting closes at 10:00 am EST on Tuesday.
Katrina Parker – “Tonight Tonight”
Katrina is one of Adam’s strong-voiced contestants. During some of the earlier rounds, he’s coached her on having confidence and trusting her natural gifts. For this week, he’s wanting her to find the connection to the song and just sing.
Okay, the stylists have dressed her with a hairstyle and dress reminiscent of Adele. I don’t think this is a good thing because it might cause some to make that mental comparison and then judge her against it. The song itself is a bit bland because it has been arranged to be more mid-tempo ballad versus a rock song. There are better choices that would have fit her voice and highlighted the unique strengths. As it is, Katrina sings it with a happy air that doesn’t fit and she does what she can with the basic melody.
Christina says she was worried about what Katrina’s connection would be to the song and wanted her “to rock out a bit more.” She praises her beautiful voice. Cee Lo says the song isn’t meant to be a “show tune,” thus it lacked the connection that the original version has. Adam disagrees and says he’s happy with the song choice fit and with her performance.
Cheesa – “Don’t Leave Me This Way”
Cee Lo mentions how, after her battle round, people on Facebook and Twitter were posting that Angie Johnson should have moved forward instead of Cheesa. I say they were right. As I stated that week, “Angie has the better, more emotionally connected voice.” Cheesa just went to warp five loud and that is what Cee Lo favored.
Cheesa’s performance feels like it is cruise-ship, Vegas-night theme worthy. If the live rounds are the opportunity to reintroduce yourself to the audience and show what you aim to be as an artist, she has failed. Is her goal to bring back disco? Does she fancy herself to be a dance/club song performer? The singing itself is generic in the beginning, melting down into out-of-breath, unsupported notes from the stage stalking and occasional dance moves. This isn’t a good performance and I wonder how the coaches will address it.
They don’t. Blake says he loved it and it was “like watching Solid Gold.” He says the performance had “Cee Lo written all over it.” Adam agrees that the performance has Cee Lo’s signature on it, but worries that Cheesa didn’t stand out over the other great singers in the competition. Cee Lo disagrees with Adam and feels it was “wonderful” and the performance lent itself to a fusion of power vocal and dance. Interesting that Christina doesn’t get to weigh in.
We are kicking back to the Sprint Lounge and Christina Milian, and just as last year, I’m not sure what the point is.
Tony Lucca – “In Your Eyes”
Tony, our former Mouseketeer, has picked a song that appears to be a good fit for his voice. Adam says he coached him to stretch and hit some falsetto notes that are out of his comfort zone.
Tony starts off strong and brings some different turns and pacing to the verses that provides for a few nice moments and highlight his warm tone. In terms of performance, the initial connection is lost when he moves from standing at the mic to walking around the stage smiling and bending over to hit the hands of people in the audience. That pulls me right out of believing what he is singing.
Christina says, “obviously we go back,” as a reference to their time in The Mickey Mouse Club together as kids. She then pulls out what feels like a pocket knife and digs in hard saying, “I find you to be very one-dimensional” and would love to see where he “would grow from this stage” in terms of versatility if he makes it past this point. She then notes that Tony has gotten a lot of support from her (um, doesn’t feel like it), the old Mouseketeer buddies, and Justin Timberlake in particular, but feels this is a contest really about the voice and that “there are just better voices on the show versus a celebrity sway” type of thing. I’m not sure what has been brewing behind the scenes, but that critique felt like it swung to a bit of a personal attack.
Adam addresses Christina’s stabbing commentary by saying, “that was honest,” but doesn’t formally take anything she’s said to task. He says that Tony worked his way around the falsetto piece in a way that made him proud. He feels that Tony met the challenge of the song. Cee Lo and Blake are not given time to comment, which does not allow us to know if they would have counteracted Christina’s view.
Kim Yarbrough – “Rolling in the Deep”
Kim headed into her rehearsal with Adam not knowing what she should sing. They settle on Adele and both think it is a fit for her voice and opportunity to have a moment.
Kim starts off fine with the first verse, but then falls off-pitch in the chorus. She’s also pushing the song at one level of rough, screaming vocals versus having the ebb and flow of the original. She has an angry scowl both while singing and as she ends.
Blake notes that she went sharp on the first chorus and wonders if it is her power voice pushing that way. Cee Lo commends Adam as a coach for allowing her to do what she wanted to do, but feels he should have steered her in a different direction. The song is so current and the comparison is too close that he didn’t “love it” as a performance. Adam echoes that she is an “unbelievable singer” and that there were some issues that he was worried about. He tries to pick his words carefully so as not to kill her spirit, but notes the review might sound negative.
James Massone – “Don’t Know Why”
James mentions how he needed to work on his confidence during the earlier rounds and believe in himself being talented enough to be there. Cee Lo picks the song to dig into the social media buzz of James being a “lady’s man.” In the rehearsal, his voice surprisingly sounds good on the song.
As he begins his performance, we find that James has a laid back R&B tone to his voice that, at times, shows promise. At other times, he veers off pitch. I think this is due to lack of experience and performance technique since it happens a few times as he’s moving around or bending to interact with the audience. It also feels like James is singing the notes, but not connecting at all to the lyrics.
Blake likes the performance and says he almost threw his panties on the stage. Christina liked the “more subtle approach” and flags the pitch problems. She loves his runs when he does hit the notes. Cee Lo shouts out to the ladies in the audience and hopes James is proud of the “solid” performance he did.
Juliet Simms – “Roxanne”
Juliet shares that, prior to the show, she’s had five record deals that didn’t stick. In rehearsal, Cee Lo says her voice is “classic rock,” and she pipes up and says she doesn’t want to be pigeonholed there. They pick this song because it is unpredictable.
Juliet starts off her performance stronger than we’ve heard her in previous rounds and the unique tone of her voice shines through. This isn’t rock screaming for the sake of being loud, but specific choices of how to handle each note as part of a build. Dare I say she sounds good? I do think she needs to work a tad on her breathing technique with the mic because I hear some gasps once she got to the first chorus.
Adam starts by saying it “pisses him off” because he wanted her on his team. He says it is the best performance he’s seen from her so far. Christina, who’s given her a standing ovation, says she loved the performance and was way “into it.” Blake says this is the first time he’s actually heard her sing and got to see her voice. Cee Lo says, “Wow, baby, just wow.” As the coach, he’s way proud of her performance and says she “doesn’t need smoke or mirrors,” just her voice.
Mathai – “Ordinary People”
As I stated during the Battle Rounds, “Mathai’s voice is one that hits you like nails on a chalkboard and makes you tweak.” Yes, it is unique. Hers is a stylized voice that some might love. There are stylized voices that have found sweet spots in terms of audience and been successes. Bob Dylan comes to mind and Macy Gray for a more recent example.
I’m not in the love camp. This is a different kind of torture, one where I am trying to consider what I’ve done to deserve it and what the penance can be to escape. She does a chew-garble thing on the ends of her phrases that make some of the words sound like baby talk.
Christina says she likes Mathai’s voice a lot, but felt it was a “bit loungey” for her. Blake echoes the voice love and adds that he appreciates her confidence. Adam says that she’s “magical” and wanted the arrangement to be quiet like it was so people could hear her voice. We heard it, Adam. Thanks.
Tony Vincent – “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”
Tony is now a new dad to a baby girl. Big congrats! Cee Lo’s goal is to make the performance “bigger than life” without turning it into a show tune.
But as Tony begins his performance, we see that this is a case where a song is forced to be something more than it is. If they wanted Tony to shine and show off his vocals, this limited melody choice wasn’t the best option. Tony’s belting, Broadway voice sounds like he’s been trapped in a pop cage. He pushes to give the second verse some flavor, but there is nowhere to go.
Blake says he’s thrown off by the staging of evil dictator and that it was hard for him to concentrate on the music. Christina appreciates the production value. She wanted to hear more and realizes the song limited that. Cee Lo agrees and apologizes if his actions regarding the song limited Tony in any way. He says that people know Tony is a far better singer than any one song can show.
Karla Davis – “Airplanes”
Adam supports how Karla is making an unexpected song choice. As I did with Sera Hill last week, I wonder on this choice in terms of it not being a singer song. Why would you give a singer a song predominantly coated with rap? In Karla’s case, it is possibly to cover up vocal flaws. Adam says that she can also stand to bring up the energy and push herself.
Karla starts off quiet and meek. The rap parts are sung to the basic melody. There are times when I can’t hear Karla because of her breathy vocals. Unfortunately, I think the song choice paired with nerves will doom her. I also recall her very subdued performance during the Battle Rounds, which I’m sure didn’t win her any new fans.
Christina says the performance is a good job – though breathy – and that she’d have liked to hear more of the singing quality. Blake thinks Karla did as well as she could with the song. It was too wordy and didn’t allow her to explore vocal qualities. Adam says she was “in the pocket” on the song. He also says that her nerves kicked in, which is unfortunate because she did better in the rehearsal room.
Erin Martin – “Walk Like an Egyptian”
Erin comes into her rehearsal knowing her voice is an “acquired taste.” Heh. Cee Lo likes her song because it has a unique quality and that it will allow her to prove the naysayers wrong. Like Cheesa, Twitter felt that Erin should not have won during the Battle Rounds. Indeed, as the performance begins, we note that Erin is a performer who needs all the smoke, mirrors, posing, and costumes she can grab to get over. There is no way her voice competes at this level. To quote my mother, “That’s bad.”
Blake says, “here we go again with the male strippers” (see picture at the beginning of this article) and wonders what it has to do with the performance. He says she did as well as she could with that song. Christina reiterates that she loves theatrics, but “when you are up there, you’ve got to bring it.” She feels Erin could have performed better vocally and with her staging. Erin loses her pasted-on smile and stares Christina down. Cee Lo praises Erin on learning all the song lyrics but then agrees with Christina that he wanted Erin to be “more aggressive and take charge.” By this time, Erin’s true colors are showing and her face holds a scowl of death being directed at her coach.
Pip – “When You Were Young”
Pip is hoping to step outside of his typical styling and sing a rock song. He calls it a moment of “Rock 101” and says he wants to show America he can rock. Um, why? I get taking risks. But I wonder if now is the time to take it.
The song starts off feeling a little flat like he can’t hear the music. It continues to happen and I especially hear it on the chorus when he sings the “young” word low. Weird. This is a bit of a mess for me and a wasted opportunity for the talented Pip.
Christina says she appreciates his vocal ability, but it came off as “trying too hard” and was under the pitch. Adam congratulates him for taking the risk on the song, but still wanted him to be more dangerous and to get more outside of himself. They need to work more on the “intent” behind songs.
Jamar Rogers – “Are You Going to Go My Way”
Jamar is in the last spot and is billed as the “comeback kid.” Full disclosure: I’m a huge fan of Jamar from his attempts on American Idol. He has the total package of ability, connection, and believability. Plus he is down to earth and humble. And he made me cry during his Battle Round performance.
Jamar comes out fierce and owning each note and move he makes on stage. That is what shines in terms of his performance style. It is honest and filled with passion. We can believe what he’s saying and singing. I actually like this version a little better than the original, which is a testament to how good Jamar is because I also love Lenny Kravitz. In terms of the staging, I could do without the stilt walkers and the band is a little too loud.
When the performance ends, the crowd is so loud with cheers and clapping that Carson has to pause a little bit before going to the coaches. Blake flags the stilt walkers too, asking what they had to do with the performance. Heh. Blake has been a voice of set design reason for the night. Cee Lo, in football coach style, barks out questions to Jamar about if he hears the crowd, if he feels the energy he’s created, and if he feels like a winner. Jamar answers each question with, “Yes, sir.” Adam fights to speak and says that Jamar “embodied what this show is” by what he just did.
My rankings in terms of performance:
Jesse J will be performing tomorrow with Team Christina. William Hammon will bring you all the action and I’ll meet you back here next week!
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Barbara is a training and development manager, short story writer, budding novelist and a semi-reformed reality TV addict. Sadly, the addictions only seem to end when the shows are cancelled. Kick any questions or comments to her at email@example.com, follow her tweeting at @BMcDowellOH and visit her blog, Life Can't Drive 55.
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