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The Voice: Season 11, Top 8 (Semi-finals), 12/5/16

December 6th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

After Austin Allsup was voted off last week, I was tempted to add this season of The Voice to things that make 2016 a garbage fire. I was prepared to vote for him as season 11 champ, but Team Blake lost both him and Courtney Harrell. At the same time Team Miley’s soft-voiced Aaron Gibson squeaked by with the Twitter Save for the third time in a row. His fans may not vote much, but they sure can tweet.

It’s only another week ’til the finale, though, and there are still a few singers I want to see do well, so I watched once again:

1.  Christian Cuevas (Team Alicia):  After doing a spiritual performance that got a lot of downloads last week, Cuevas returns with a gospel song, partly in Spanish. If Christian voters are making up a substantial block, he could make the final four. Adam comments, “No one else in this competition allows to wear their emotions on their sleeve like you do.”

As American Idol used to do sometimes, the contestants are paired for duets: We (Ms. Flinty Alto) and Aaron (Mr. Aspirate Voice) are the evening’s first pairing and I have no idea what they’re singing. “Four Five Seconds,” what’s that?

2.  Ali Caldwell (Team Miley): We and Ali are the last female vocalists and the last soul singers left. Miley’s talking away about how this week’s song choice is “I Will Always Love You,” how it’s associated with Dolly Parton and Whitney Houston. (Not a word about Linda Ronstadt–she also turned it into a hit.) This song is very familiar–I know every note of it–and it makes Ali’s voice sound small. It’s like she’s only singing half the notes, the rest she’s faking. The performance is more like a run-through. Alicia and Miley gush afterward about such a perfect performance, but it wasn’t.

3.  Brendan Fletcher (Team Adam):  Sarah McLaughlin’s “Angel” is a song about an overdose, and Fletcher sings it for a friend who died recently. Adam thinks it’s the perfect “emotional choice” after last week, a chance for Fletcher to embrace “the tender side of who he is.” They try a bluesy-er arrangement, but Fletcher only sings about half of it right. Just like Caldwell’s performance, this sounds more like a run-through. Blake suggests because Fletcher has a gravelly voice, he next try a Michael McDonald song, but that strikes me as not much of a compliment.

Second duet:  The two country singers, Sundance Head and Josh Gallagher, throw a curveball–instead of a hardcore Nashville country song, they go bluesy with Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright.” They are two of the best singers left.

4.  We (Team Alicia):  I’m still waiting for We to come up with a song that truly showcases her rich alto. (“God Bless the Child” came closest.) “Scars You’re Beautiful” isn’t it–instead it’s a contemporary rocker that requires a different type of vocals. The two judges who comment heap praise what they hear anyway. “What a We tour would look like!” raves Miley. Alicia adds, “Witnessing the growth of a star!”

5.  Aaron Gibson (Team Miley):  Out of all the songs Miley could’ve picked for a “big classic hit that everybody at home can sing along to,” she comes up with “Everything I Do I Do It For You.” Not only has Bryan Adams had hits that better fit Miley’s description, so have several dozen (hundred?) other stars. She thinks it’s going to keep Aaron from needing the Twitter Save on the results show tonight. I’m not so sure–it may even keep him below the cut line. He’s applying his soft (if powerful) aspirate voice to a nineties’ power ballad. Either this is the week his luck runs out, or he’s in the final four. (It makes me think of Blake’s comment about Michael McDonald–and Aaron would be a better fit for a McDonald song than Fletcher would.)

Third duet:  Christian Cuevas turns out to be a Billy Gilman fan, and the two have become good friends. They show they both have power ballad-singing voices, but “Unsteady” isn’t a strong enough song for them.

6.  Josh Gallagher (Team Adam):  “Danny’s Song” (composed by Kenny Loggins, a big seventies’ hit for Anne Murray) doesn’t need much to be countrified, but Adam suggests adding fiddle and steel guitar to make it more country anyway. Gallagher is able to make it completely different from either Loggins or Murray. “I know you know you nailed that,” raves Adam. “Best of the night so far!”

A Bryan Adams song selection that makes sense:  Brendan and Ali team for the night’s fourth/final duet, “It’s Only Love,” originally a vocal event for Bryan Adams and Tina Turner. The contestants sound better here than they did during their solo performances.

7.  Sundance Head (Team Blake):  Did I hear correctly? Did Blake make a rehearsal/practice tape of the Judds’ 1995 hit, “Love Can Build a Bridge,” for Sundance? How about hearing that performance? Sundance is one of this season’s contestants whose appeal goes beyond “the voice,” he more closely fits what American Idol used to look for. He sounds splendid–except for the parts where the arrangement gets too overpowering. Blake is so impressed with his one remaining team member, he raves about the performance “blows my mind” and “so much passion” and “could not have been better.”

8.  Billy Gilman (Team Adam):  Billy and Adam agree on a Celine Dion song, “I Surrender,” that’s “Celine but not already so Celine.” Adam advises, “Get lost in it … rock it.” Billy agrees there’s a rock element, it’s an epic song, the chords are epic. Adam says there’s a place for Billy in today’s music because “most of the people that do like what he does are women.” It’s an epic performance, Billy nails it, the audience loves it, and the host Carson Daly announces, “That’s how you close the semi-finals!” Adam gets a minute to comment before sign-off, and he says the coaches (judges) had looks of shock and amazement, adding, “The length of the notes you hold out is unbelievable.” He also says he’s glad Billy’s act followed Sundance’s.

Without peeking at the iTunes charts, I’m going to predict that Sundance Head, Billy Gilman, Josh Gallagher are three of the final four. You decide:  will Aaron Gibson get one more Twitter Save or will Christian Cuevas sneak into that fourth position?

After peeking at the iTunes charts, I see Sundance, Billy, Josh, and Christian made top ten. Gibson is so far back of the pack that Brendan or We may nudge past him, but I still think, against either of those, the Twitter Save will go to Christian. We’ll see.

 

 

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The Voice: Season 11, Top 10, 11/28/16

November 29th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

With the Season 11 finale of The Voice airing in two weeks, the field of ten singers is starting to separate into favorites and weak links. Two contestants will be cut this week, and I’m guessing that means four will be cut next week, leaving a final four. The numbers may shift a little during the final two weeks, but that’s the rough outline of what’s coming.

If last week’s songs became an unintentional night of American legends, Monday’s performances unintentionally divided mostly between singers who revived eighties’ hits and singers who revived–something else:

1.  Billy Gilman (Team Adam): There are nights when so many singers pick religious material that The Voice begins to resemble a revival meeting. This evening Gilman proved to be one of those singers. He and Adam wanted to go back to Gilman’s country roots so they picked Martina McBride’s “(Dream it) Anyway” which is heavy on prayer references. Blake, Miley and Adam all agree, however, that the performance showed off Gilman’s vocals (they throw around words like “incredible” and “remarkable” and “event”) and he could win the season.

2.  Courtney Harrell (Team Blake):  Harrell is one of the night’s singers who flashes back to the eighties, bringing a fresh soulful flavor to Cher’s “If I Could Turn Back Time” (no peekaboo costumes or naval props, however). Blake says when he chooses a song for her, he just picks the hardest song to sing. Alicia says she likes Harrell’s ability to “take the expected and turn it on its head.” Blake critiques, “Your stage presence and personality came out.”

3.  Josh Gallagher (Team Adam): Following up last week’s energetic performance, Adam says his team’s hardcore country singer is one of the better performers left in the competition. Coach and singer repeat last week’s formula, this time choosing Tim McGraw’s “Real Good Man,” enabling Gallagher to do a guitar-slinging crowd-pleasing show, not just a song. Alicia comments Gallagher is “controlling the energy in yourself” with this performance. Adam’s unrestrained, declaring, “Tonight a country star was on that stage!”

4.  Aaron Gibson (Team Miley):  After being in the bottom two and getting a Twitter Save twice, coach and singer want to change their formula–try something fun instead of dark. Gibson sings Elton John’s “Rocket Man” but in an alt-rock style, as if the seventies’ hit were being revived by Dave Matthews. The problem is, Elton’s seventies-era style was more bluesy, and Gibson’s not a bluesy singer. Miley and Adam both ramble on after the performance, saying many nice things but not much in the way of critique. (Maroon 5 performed this evening, and Adam may have been on a performance high.)

5.  Christian Cuevas (Team Alicia):  Cuevas re-interprets Lady Gaga’s ballad “A Million Reasons” as a religious song. The result is an uneasy mash-up of love song and spiritual. It’s getting late in the competition and I’m still waiting for Cuevas to give us something with a romantic Latin jazz flavor–his best bet to get votes. Unless the Christian voting bloc gets involved, I don’t think he’s going to get many votes with this performance.

6.  Austin Allsup (Team Blake):  Allsup goes eighties with a county-flavored “I Ain’t Missin’ You.” Blake says this song selection is meant to show a softer side. The effect of Allsup’s Seger-like voice, deftly handling the soulful heartbreak ballad, is stunning. Miley says it’s one of her favorite performances. Blake raves, “Your personality comes out on stage … range and power … a classic song, makin’ it your own.”

7.  We (Team Alicia):  We (pronounced Way) McDonald becomes the third singer to turn this evening’s broadcast into a revival meeting. She brings operatic and gospel overtones to the old jazz standard, “God Bless the Child.” Her singing and speaking have both improved throughout this show, and this performance is her best yet. Even host Carson Daly observes the crowd was enamored by how much she brought to the song. Alicia says it “shows so many sides to who you are,” an opera side, a jazz side, a pop side, and so on.

8.  Brendan Fletcher (Team Adam):  Attempting to show a softer side, this season’s rocker is mismatched with Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors.” He’s more of a belter and the song’s not a belter-type song.

9.  Sundance Head (Team Blake):  Again The Voice turns into a religious broadcast. Head double-times his way through “Me and Jesus” and it does nothing to show off his vocals. Given the strength of the competition and how close to the finale, it’s a poor decision. (Of course the Heartland Christian voting bloc is downloading all the night’s religious performances on iTunes this morning, but that may say more about who downloads than who votes.)

10.  Ali Caldwell (Team Miley):  Caldwell may finally have found just the right song and style. Coach and singer want to go back to basics–and for them, that’s back to the seventies and Nilsson’s “Without You.” Caldwell draws heavily from Mariah Carey’s version, and it’s the big diva moment of the night (and the biggest voice of the night, according to Miley). It’s the performance I find myself most wanting to hear again this morning.

A peek at the iTunes chart shows Aaron Gibson and Courtney Harrell are the least popular downloads, but last week Ali Caldwell’s downloads were next to none, and she had no problem advancing.

Favorites (based on entire season):  Ali Caldwell, We McDonald, Josh Gallagher, Austin Allsup, Billy Gilman.

Weak links:  Aaron Gibson, Courtney Harrell, Christian Cuevas.

I’d like to see the show go back to the slower cut-two-at-a-time pace of several earlier seasons, rather than rushing to cut half the field in the final two weeks.  Maybe next season?

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The Voice: Season 11, Top 11, 11/21/16

November 22nd, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Monday’s Voice performances resembled a cavalcade of Americana:  there wasn’t an intentional theme, but several top-eleven contestants sang the songs of American legends Dolly Parton, Whitney Houston, Johnny Cash, Bob Seeger, Bruce Springsteen–and those were the performances that defined the evening. Plus we got asides to Tina Turner, Garth Brooks and Billy Ray Cyrus, so let’s see who may have impressed voters the most:

1.  Ali Caldwell, Team Miley:  Adam advised Miley to assign Ali a country song, so Miley decides to have her R&B singer give “9 to 5” some soul. “She has a huge personality and a lot to say,” says Miley. Although the song is Dolly Parton’s, Ali performs it with Tina Turner’s shimmy. Unfortunately she mixes up the words, and the song’s too rough for her sweet pretty voice.

2.  Sundance Head, Team Blake:  At this season’s auditions Alicia asked Head, “Where’d you learn to sing like that?” His answer:  “From You.” So that makes Alicia’s “No One” a suitable choice for him. He treats it like country soul, and says it’s the most challenging song he’s ever had. After his performance Alicia says, “The one person I wish was on my team! I listened to my song in a whole new way.” Blake says, “Powerful, Dude! … Didn’t crack under pressure … a breakout moment.”

3.  Aaron Gibson, Team Miley:  Since Gibson hit bottom two last week, he’s taking a new direction. This week he’s going for a Southern Gothic flavor with “Hurt,” Johnny Cash’s last big hit, that was originally a hit for Nine Inch Nails. Miley thinks his voice needs to show more highs and lows. For a singer who needs special handling, this song is a good match. “Your voice is just crazy,” Adam comments on the performance, “perfect song.” Miley said Adam advised her on this, too, about wanting “to care.” So Adam’s coaching the coach.

4.  Courtney Harrell, Team Blake:  After singing Whitney Houston’s “What I Did for Love” in high school twenty years ago, Harrell goes back to it this evening. Blake advises, “Get as Whitney as you can.” Her version is sweeter and prettier than Houston’s, and Carson Daly announces she electrified the room. Alicia comments, “So pure … such a pure soul.” Blake thinks it’s the best performance she’s ever given.

5.  Josh Gallagher, Team Adam:  “Drunk on Your Love” isn’t a Garth Brooks song, but Adam advises his hardcore country singer to “embrace your inner Garth.” Adam and Josh agree it’s time to have fun and work the crowd. This is a much better performance–in terms of both vocals and stagecraft–than last week. Miley compares the result to her father, Billy Ray Cyrus, who in his heyday brought forth comparisons to Elvis. Adam offers that there’s no one better in this competition when it comes to connecting with an audience.

6.  Billy Gilman, Team Adam:  This former boy soprano was once a top country star but now he’s attempting to transition to pop–to remake himself in a George Michael or Adam Lambert mode. Adam compares Gilman to the champion of two seasons ago, the weak-voiced yet emotive Jordan Smith, even while noting they don’t sound alike. For this performance Gilman revives his audition song, Adele’s “All I Ask.” Adam advises it’s time to show another “shade of you … strip it down … take your time, [get] emotionally invested.” Gilman milks every note, and the audience applauds wildly. It prompts Blake to ask, “Do you ever hit a bad note?  Is it possible for you to hit a bad note?” Adam says, “You can hit all the perfect notes but you’ve got to feel it … You made me feel it.”

7.  Christian Cuevas, Team Alicia:  To celebrate his engagement, Christian performs a fun upbeat song, “Rosanna,” leading Carson Daly to comment, “Party like it’s 1982.” It’s an improvement over last week’s misstep, but it’s not the Latin jazz he’s best at. Miley, however, likes the energy he brought to this song after so many intimate moments. Alicia praises his singing, “this big … like crystal … pure.” I say if he’s still on the show next week, he needs to do something like “Beautiful Maria of my Soul.”

8.  Austin Allsup, Team Blake:  Allsup’s baritone notes bring faint echoes of Elvis. Like Bob Seger, he occupies a vocal territory somewhere between high baritone and low tenor. Those characteristics are on full display as he tackles Seger’s haunting “Turn the Page.” Blake says Allsup could be on mainstream radio but still with that “country outlaw voice.” Adam says, “By far the best performance you’ve ever had on this show.” Blake raves at length, “[I was] on the edge of my seat! … He’s got to stay … nobody doing what you do … it’s genre-less.”

9.  Darby Anne Walker [it’s Anne with an e], Team Miley:  Just about anything would be better than last week–but this week’s performance of “You Don’t Own Me” remains amateurish. Walker shows her lack of range, too. It’s like she’s got two notes, falsetto and not. Alicia likes her falsetto though, and Miley babbles at length but says very little.

10.  Brendan Fletcher, Team Adam:  “The River” isn’t the most obvious choice for a Springsteen cover but Fletcher performed it back when he and his brother were teenagers in a band. His performance is haunting–it’s almost like he’s channeling Springsteen. Blake praises his “great storytelling voice.” Adam notes a couple of things, that this singer is “slightly introverted” but provides an “important and almost forgotten voice” in today’s music scene.

11. We McDonald, Team Alicia:  Earlier Adam compared Billy Gilman to Jordan Smith, but We compares better–a voice who’s just a little bit different so gets conveniently held up as an emblem. McDonald’s youth, squeaky speaking voice and flinty alto combine into a special package. Tonight she sings the current Rhianna hit, “Love on the Brain.” It’s still not the best song for her range, but now she at least sounds like the breakout her iTunes chart positions make her out to be.

Tonight’s results show has a pre-Thanksgiving theme. A peek at the iTunes charts shows Ali to be in serious trouble. Her Dolly-meets-Tina mash-up was a good idea that didn’t quite come off, given the caliber of this competition.

Disclosure:  I voted for all the guys. However, Austin Allsup is who I find myself most wanting to hear again.

 

 

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The Voice: Season 11, Final 12, 11/14/16

November 15th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Time to vote on The Voice, with a field of twelve singers being narrowed down to one champion in several weeks. Garth Brooks was the celeb guest advisor for the final twelve on Monday.

Featured singers:  Sundance Head, Billy Gilman, Brendan Fletcher, Ali Caldwell, Darby Ann Walker, Aaron Gibson, SaRayah, Christian Cuevas, We McDonald, Josh Gallagher, Austin Allsup, Courtney Harrell

1.  Sundance Head, Team Blake:  Country singer Head starts the evening off well with “My Church.” Miley tells him, “I think you were made for this moment.”

2.  Darby Walker, Team Miley: “Ruby Tuesday” is an inappropriate song choice for Walker, and wouldn’t you know Miley was who picked it out. Miley says her singer (who’s bleached her hair a shade lighter and taken off her hat since the earlier rounds) has a “familiar” voice, like something out of the sixties and seventies. Walker can’t sing like Mick Jagger, and she tries to do the song as some kind of idiosyncratic folk song–and sounds like some animal in agony. Before the performance, Garth said something about Walker felt the lyrics, and after the performance, Miley said roughly the same thing. No, Miley and Garth, Darby didn’t “feel” the lyrics. She slaughtered them.

3.  Christian Cuevas, Team Alicia:  Weird song choices are trending this evening. Cuevas sings Coldplay’s “The Scientist” for his girlfriend, and his voice isn’t compatible with power-ballad rock. He needs to stick to pop love ballads. Alicia gushes, “You have the ability to take any song from anywhere” but he doesn’t.

4.  SaRayah, Team Alicia:  After two mediocre performances, it’s nice to hear someone who can sing even when shifting genres. SaRayah moves into rock territory with Bon Jovi’s “Living on a Prayer.” Garth says, “SaRayah’s taking this song where it’s never been before.” We know she’s got soul, now she shows she can rock, too.

5.  Billy Gilman, Team Adam:  Former boy soprano Gilman wants to get away from the Nashville scene that made him a child star. Garth Brooks thinks he’s improved now that he’s an adult. Gilman takes Queen’s big dramatic “The Show Must Go On” and gives a big dramatic performance. Adam says this singer can “feel” the lyrics and Adam’s right. The performance gets the judges and studio audience on their feet. Adam says, “This is just the very very beginning for you.”

6.  Austin Allsup, Team Blake:  “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” (an Aretha Franklin song) may seem like an odd choice for country rocker Allsup but he makes it work. He doesn’t sound anything like Elvis but he brings an Elvis flavor to the song just the same. At rehearsal Garth’s excitedly talking about how there’s only a few country female vocalists–Kelly Clarkson, Trisha Yearwood–can do Aretha, but Allsup can.  Blake comments afterward, “There’s a movement happening in country … a new generation of outlaw country artists and I doubt there’s anybody in that group that can sing like you.”

7.  We McDonald, Team Alicia:  Like everybody else who meets this squeaky-speaking teen alto, Garth says, “It can’t be the same person.” McDonald tries to show her rock side with “Take Me to Church” but we have yet another inappropriate song choice. Not only is it gender-inappropriate (perhaps even age-inappropriate), it doesn’t show off her alto to full advantage.

8.  Aaron Gibson, Team Miley:  This season’s weakest voice gushes that meeting Garth Brooks is like meeting Elvis or The Beatles. No, not quite, I’d say more like meeting Eddy Vedder. Gibson’s song is yet another left-field choice:  “Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings.” He says he wants to show his alt-rock side with a song that hasn’t been done on The Voice before. His aspirate voice can rock, in a post-punk emo way, and this song brings that out. He does keep getting better–once again, he turns in a season-best performance–and we’ll see how voters respond. Blake says, “If Godzilla could sing, that’s what he’d sound like!” (Godzilla was a she, Blake, but I guess you mean well.)

9.  Courtney Harrell, Team Blake:  “I saved Courtney because of her range,” says Blake. Harrell’s song choice is “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” and she wants to sing it for her young son. At rehearsal Blake and Garth tell her it’s too pretty, and if she wants to give it some of Steven Tyler’s angst, she should sing it as a love song–so she sings it to them, and everyone agrees, much better. Unfortunately she’s no Steven Tyler, and her performance still sounds too sweet and pretty.

10.  Josh Gallagher, Team Adam:  Garth says about Adam’s country singer, “when he opens his mouth you believe him,” like Willie Nelson. Gallagher’s vocals are subdued on Jason Aldean’s “Why” but his performance is betraying a need for something bigger. He’s down on his knees, even though the song doesn’t call for it. Adam admits it was good to have Garth giving advice because country “isn’t in my wheelhouse.” At that Blake piles on. Adam’s been begging for a country singer, so he’d better not fumble on this one.

11.  Ali Caldwell, Team Miley:  The late Leonard Cohen is known for his dark cynical songs but Caldwell sounds sweet and pretty, if dramatic, on his “Did I Ever Love You.” The judges all stand and applaud. Carson Daly gets carried away and proclaims, “A new front-runner!” Alicia comments, “That was a real moment!”

12.  Brendan Fletcher, Team Adam:  This Brooklyn rocker used to be in a metal band. Adam says he kept him on the team because, “There was something you did I connected to.” Garth agrees, “There’s no other voice like it.” Fletcher brings a metal flavor to “Whipping Post,” an Allman Brothers song from the sixties. He sings it like some kind of head-banging confessional, and we get the rock performance of the night. Blake says afterward, “There’s a battle brewin’ between you and Aaron!” Adam adds, “This guy was not this guy to begin with.”

One singer will be cut tonight and one will get a Twitter save (for East Coast voters only). Based on the performances, Christian and Darby appear to be the weakest links. However ’tis the season for peeking at the iTunes charts for a spoiler alert. Based on that SaRayah, Courtney and Aaron may be in trouble.

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The Amazing Race: Flashback, Season 11, 3rd Leg, Original Air Date 3/4/07

November 9th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Since CBS still hasn’t announced an air date for The Amazing Race Season 29, let’s take a look back at Season 11, with a cast that included some of the most aggressive players in the show’s history. As the third episode opens, nine teams leave the pit stop at the church in San Pedro de Altacama, Chile, in this order:

  • Rob/Amber (Ramber), Survivor couple
  • Oswald/Danny, gay friends
  • Joe/Bill, Team Guido, gay couple
  • Eric/Danielle, couple that raced on separate teams in Season 9
  • Uchenna/Joyce, black married couple
  • Dustin/Kandice, beauty queens
  • Charla/Mirna, aka Mirna and “Smurna”
  • Teri/Ian, retired married couple
  • Dave/Mary, the original Team Kentucky

Ramber leave the pit stop shortly before midnight and get their next clue, to fly to Puerto Montt, Chile, then drive about thirty miles to a fish farm. It’s around midnight so Rob asks someone in town about a late-night Internet connection. There is a late-night travel agency nearby. Ramber book their plane tickets.

The first three teams to get to the airport are Danny/Oswald, Eric/Danielle, and Team Guido. The airport’s closed but there are three ticket counters. The teams stake out all three, with the plan that whichever opens first, the team at that counter can book tickets for everyone. Uchenna/Joyce arrive and make another suggestion. They’ll go to a nearby hotel, and use the hotel’s Internet connection to book tickets for all four teams. The other teams take up the offer, and supply their credit card info.

Other teams arrive at the airport:  Dave/Mary, Charla/Mirna, Teri/Ian, Dustin/Kandice. Soon Uchenna/Joyce return with good and bad news. They needed security codes as well as credit card numbers to book airline tickets. The only team that had the foresight to give them that information was Team Guido, so Uchenna/Joyce and Team Guido have tickets. The others have to scramble.

Soon ticket counters open and the remaining teams book their tickets. Eric, however, finds out that Uchenna/Joyce, Team Guido, and Ramber have tickets on a different, earlier flight that involves connecting planes. Eric/Danielle are able to change to that earlier flight. Teri/Ian and Charla/Mirna try, but are told they’ll have to be on standby for the connection.

Teams all fly to the connecting airport. Teri/Ian and Charla/Mirna race to see about the standby flight. Teri/Ian get there first. Charla/Mirna barge in front of them. They argue, but the end result is: the connection’s full. Five teams have to wait for a slightly later connection.

Four teams make the earlier connection:  Ramber, Uchenna/Joyce, Team Guido, and Eric/Danielle. They get into waiting rental cars and drive to the fish farm. At a fork in the road, Ramber goes one way and the other three teams go the other, which turns out to be the correct route. That puts Ramber a little behind.

At the fish farm is this leg’s roadblock. One person has to transfer 80 fish from a breeding tank to a holding tank. They’re a large flat fish (halibut, maybe) so all the fish have to be transferred for the bottom of the tank to be clearly visible. The next clue is painted on the bottom of the tank.

Uchenna, Joe, and Danielle start transferring the fish. Ramber arrives and Amber volunteers to transfer the fish. Their strategy appears to be: front-load RB tasks that she can do. Everyone’s yelling. Danielle’s screaming about the fish and Eric’s screaming at her, “Use your boobs!” and other pleasantries. Rob objects to that–in his post-leg interview. “I was making comments about Amber, but different kind of comments,” he says.

Soon the five teams from the second flight arrive and join in transferring fish, with more yelling, and people running and stumbling. Uchenna finishes first. He reads the clue on the bottom of the tank, which reads, “Find the sign for La Mangarita along the river just before the town of Petrohue.” That’s about a 50-mile drive away.

Team Guido finishes the RB 2nd but they don’t write down the entire clue. Ramber finish third, Danielle/Eric, fourth, the beauty queens, fifth, Dave/Mary, sixth, Oswald/Danny, seventh, Teri/Ian, eighth, and Charla/Mirna, last.

Eric/Danielle and Ramber are the first teams to find the clue box at the place they were directed to from the fish farm. This clue is for the detour, both for wilderness sports:  teams may rock climb, or raft Class 3 rapids. Everyone chooses river-rafting.

The two front-runners separate, and so Ramber gets to the rafting stop 1st. Before teams can go rafting, they have to stop at changing tents, to change their clothes and leave their bags. When teams are done rafting and take a shuttle back to the tents, they get their next clue. Ramber is the first to finish, and find the clue is for the pit stop, three-and-a-half miles away at a black sand beach called Playa Petrohue. They’re first to the mat. They win exercise equipment.

Eric/Danielle are 2nd to the raft stop. Dustin/Kandice find the rafting place and assume the clue box is somewhere along the rapids. Uchenna/Joyce arrive, and pass Eric/Danielle on the rapids. Uchenna/Joyce are 2nd to the pit stop, Eric/Danielle, third. Dustin/Kandice are 4th but Phil tells them they need to go back and pick up the clue envelope they missed. They find the clue box, get the envelope, and are still in 4th place when they get back to Phil.

Dave/Mary come to a fork in the road. They take the wrong fork. Charla/Mirna ask directions from a guy in Petrohue, then literally drag him into their car even as he protests he has to work. (“We’ll give you $50!” the women say.) Team Guido meet and team up with Charla/Mirna, and so they find out about the part of the clue they didn’t get.

Danny/Oswald are fifth to get to the rapids, Teri/Ian, sixth. Teri falls in while rafting but gets back into the raft safely. When the teams are finished, Danny/Oswald save time by not changing from their swimwear before they drive to the pit stop. They finish the leg in 5th place. Teri/Ian come in sixth.

Team Guido and Charla/Mirna race neck-and-neck through the rapids. Like Danny/Oswald, both teams try to save time by not changing afterward. Except Charla/Mirna can’t find their car keys. Team Guido races out of the raft company’s parking lot, crashing into a post as they go, and place seventh. Charla/Mirna find their car keys, and place eighth.

Dave/Mary drove far out of their way when they took the wrong fork in the road. They’re last to get to the detour, last to raft the rapids, and last to get to the pit stop. They’re eliminated.

 

 

 

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The Voice: Season 11, Voting Begins, 11/7/16

November 8th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Because of the presidential election, The Voice departed from its customary formula this season. I had two members of each team picked out I intended to vote for–but nobody in the western half of the US got to vote. All twenty semi-finalists were packed into two hours (no time for judges’ comments after each performance), and voting was by Twitter and phone app. The voting window opened and closed for each team, and all results were announced before the broadcast was over. That meant the voting demographic consisted of the wired crowd east of the Mississippi. What did remain the same was that two contestants from each team were voted into the round of twelve, with each judge “saving” a third:

First, Team Alicia:

A-1.  Christian Cuevas croons “Yesterday” very well, setting a high standard for the evening’s performances. During the taped segment introducing her team, Alicia comments he represents “almost a lost art, a love song singer.”

A-2.  Kylie Rothfield sounds a little like Cher, belting the Stones’ “Satisfaction.” She shows she’s an alto who can rock!

A-3. We McDonald sings “Home” from the Broadway musical The Wiz, but she’s off. She’s got R&B style, but Rothfield’s alto was better than McDonald’s tonight. I’d think this performance would take McDonald out of the running.

A-4. Josh Halverson, one of this season’s two country singers named Josh, turns Sam Cooke’s “Cupid” into a country-flavored ballad. He’s more than a singing voice, he can act the words as he sings them.

A-5.  SaRayah, one of this season’s R&B powerhouses, also shows an ability to act her songs, not just sing them. She brings big notes (a bit of a Janis Joplin flavor) and a contemporary style to “I’d Rather Go Blind,” an Etta James song from the sixties.

Results for Alicia’s five will be announced in a little while but first let’s hear from Team Blake:

B-1.  Dana Harper turns Daryl Hall and John Oates’ “Maneater” into a smooth contemporary piece that starts slow and goes uptempo. She doesn’t give it much attitude or personality, though, so her stock’s down.

B-2.  Austin Allsup does bring rocker ‘tude (a trace of Elvis, maybe) to a Waylon Jennings song, “I Ain’t Living Long Like This.” Not only does he have a voice, he’s got the right look for a country hearthrob.

B-3.  Jason Warrior brings a James Brown flavor to a Drake song. He shows range with a lot of screams and high notes, but that may or may not be the best selection for this stage of the competition. There’s showmanship, and there’s some crazy vocal ability, but it may not be what gets votes.

B-4.  Sundance Head, whom Carson Daly introduces as a “country-soul” singer, gives a bluesy treatment to a Keith Urban song (“Blue Ain’t Your Color”) and he mumbles the lyrics. It makes for a very subdued–even lackluster–performance, so he’s not one of the evening’s best.

B-5.  Courtney Harrell is Blake’s third R&B singer this season. She performs a standard-issue R&B diva ballad in a standard-issue R&B diva way. She’s got big notes and a big finish but not anything overwhelming.

Results for Team Alicia are announced:  I’m thinking, SaRayah and Josh, or Christian and SaRayah, and the one left–or maybe Kylie–is going to be Alicia’s choice to advance. However, the top two turns out to be Christian Cuevas and We McDonald. (Voters may have been thinking of McDonald’s past performances.) That means Alicia has to cut two of her best people, and SaRayah is who she keeps.

Time for Team Miley:

C-1.  Sophia Urista does a terrible performance, starting with a terrible song choice. When Rod Stewart sang, “Do You Think I’m Sexy,” it was supposed to be cheap and tacky. The Voice is not supposed to be cheap and tacky. She’s using her rasp entirely wrong, too–making for a strip-club quality performance. Where’s Simon Crowell when you really need him?

C-2.  Darby Walker is a very idiosyncratic singer, and her strengths and weaknesses are equally evident on the folksy sixties-era hit, “Those Were the Days.” At times she perfectly matches the music, at times, not. She might have been better with any number of Broadway hits where her character voice would have been, well, in character.

C-3.  Aaron Gibson may turn in his best performance of the season, with his soft aspirate voice wending its way through the Counting Crows’ “Round Here.” (That’s the one about “between me and you/the angels get a better view.”) He’s got the right performance of the right song at the right time.

C-4.  Belle Jewel sings “My Little Runaway” as a quirky jazzy ballad. Again we see a singer who has personality as well as a voice.

C-5.  Ali Caldwell demonstrates old-school powerhouse R&B at its best. Her song is “Times Have Changed” and if that’s the Bob Dylan song, she sure gives it soul.

Results for Team Blake are announced:  The two country singers, Austin Allsup and Sundance Head, are voted through, even though Head had an off-night. Blake has to decide which of his three R&B singers to keep. He keeps Courtney Harrell.

Finally, it’s time for Team Adam:

D-1.  Brendan Fletcher gives “To Love Somebody” a contemporary coffeehouse treatment, heartfelt but with a few big screaming notes. He’s the type of contestant who often does well on these TV talent shows.

D-2.  Simone Gundy is the fifth R&B diva of the night. She shows off her big powerhouse voice on a dramatic ballad (“Diamonds in the Sky”), but we’ve seen much the same from SaRayah, Ali, Dana, and Courtney already. (We won’t say anything about We.)

D-3.  Josh Gallagher, the other country singer named Josh this season, aptly demonstrates how he could win. His voice on Zac Brown’s “Colder Weather” is a well-matched combination. During a break earlier tonight, when Carson asked Blake for his thoughts on Team Adam, Blake singled out Josh for how his voice and charisma works together.

D-4.  Riley Elmore, an old soul of 16, can do the old-school cocktail-jazz ballad style of singing perfectly. He shows it with “Luck Be a Lady.”

D-5.  Billy Gilman has name recognition and an established fan base, making him this season’s front runner. When Blake was asked to comment on Team Adam earlier tonight, he said, “I don’t think anyone can out-sing Billy.” Then Gilman takes the stage and nails “Crying,” the ol’ Roy Orbison country-rock hit.

Results for Team Miley are announced:  First Carson asks Alicia for comment, and she says she’d keep Ali and Darby. Then Carson announces that Ali Caldwell and Aaron Gibson are the two being voted through. Miley keeps Darby, although I’d have kept Belle instead.

Finally it’s time to close the show with the results for Team Adam:  First Carson points out there’s about four minutes left of airtime and asks Adam for comment. Apparently Adam thinks that means he has to fill all four minutes, because by the time he’s done praising his five contestants, the credits are about to roll. Carson announces Billy Gilman and Josh Gallagher are voted through. Adam saves Brendan Fletcher as the show cuts out.

Here’s who Voice viewers will be voting for next week:

Team Alicia:  SaRayah, Christian Cuevas, We McDonald

Team Blake:  Sundance Head, Austin Allsup, Courtney Harrell

Team Miley:  Aaron Gibson, Ali Caldwell, Darby Walker

Team Adam:  Billy Gilman, Josh Gallagher, Brendan Fletcher 

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The Voice: Season 11, Final Knockouts, 10/31/16

November 1st, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

We now know which twenty singers will make the voting rounds on Season 11 of The Voice. Let’s find out how it happened with the final knockout brackets on Monday night. As the show began, faithful fans knew that Alicia Keys was the only judge who could steal, and the steal would come at the final knockout:

1. Team Blake, Austin Allsup vs. Gabe Broussard:   Blake says he paired them because they combine bits of different genres–I’d say mostly country with a Southern blues flavor, maybe some Cajun swamp-pop thrown in. Allsup sings Tom Petty’s “Breakdown.” Fifteen-year-old Broussard sings Bruno Mars’ “It Will Rain.”  I don’t think either picks the best song, but their vocals are similar, and Miley even has to tell young Broussard she was fangirlin’ (twice–the second time she pulls him backstage to gush). Blake keeps Allsup probably on the basis of more experience. “My heart’s a little broken,” he says, about having to cut Broussard. We know Alicia isn’t going to steal him because it’s not the last knockout of the season.

2.  Team Miley, Darby Ann Walker vs. Maye Thomas:  “They’re both stylistic,” Miley says, adding that seventeen-year-old Roberts has got “this cool vibe that’s not of this generation.” Darby shows off her warbling quirky notes on “Shake it Out” (a song by Florence + the Machine). However, my opinion is that Thomas, singing “Closer” (Tegan and Sara, not Nine Inch Nails), offers the best package of vocals, personality and experience. Blake even comments Walker’s vocal tricks weren’t all that perfect, giving Thomas an opening. This is Miley Cyrus judging, however, and she keeps Walker (“As Miley as it gets,” Blake said–and that was before the decision was announced.) Alicia lets Maye walk, too, and I think both judges may have made the wrong choice. Maye’s who I would have preferred to see more of.

3. Team Adam, Brendan Fletcher vs. Nolan Neal:  Adam’s two rockers aren’t all that similar. Fletcher’s introverted, while Neal’s got a killer voice in the Steven Tyler mold. During rehearsal, Adam and celebrity guest advisor Tim McGraw consider whether to have Neal play guitar on “Love is Your Name.” The decision is that with the guitar, he’s a singer-songwriter type, but throw the guitar away and he’s a flat-out rock star. After the performance, Blake says Neal “treated this like a knockout round, and took every opportunity you had to swing for the fences.” Brendan’s much more mellow, singing “Soul Shine,” in a singer-songwriter way. Miley says, “Two very different artists–Nolan, I want to go see [but] Brendan, I like your tone.” Adam keeps Brendan, rambling about his vulnerability, but I’m not sure he made the right choice.

4.  Team Alicia, SaRayah vs. Michael Sanchez:  Although it’s a long stretch between R&B diva SaRayeh and piano man Michael Sanchez, both are soulful and have showmanship. When McGraw hears Sanchez rehearse “Just the Two of Us,” he comments, “You don’t expect him to sing with the soul and gravitas he has.”  When the other celebrity guest advisor, Faith Hill, hears SaRayah rehearse Chaka Khan’s “Ain’t Nobody,” she comments, “SaRayah reminded me of Tina, of Areatha.” After the performance, Miley and Adam both think Sanchez won the knockout. Alicia, however, keeps SaRayah, whom Blake calls “incredibly talented.”

5.  Team Blake, Dana Harper vs. Karlee Metzger:  Dana applies her soulful alto to the contemporary hit, “You Give Me Something.” Karlee applies all the power in her young vocal cords to Kelly Clarkson’s “Invincible.” (Blake had an idea he’d find some country in her, but this song is hard to find any country in.) After the performance, Alicia praises Dana’s “folksy smokiness.” Blake must like what he calls her “relaxing warm voice,” too, because he keeps Dana. It’s possible Karlee’s youthful difficulty with handling her vocal power caught up with her.

6. Montage of only one knockout:  Team Miley, Sophia Urista knocks out Josette Diaz. I guess this shows Urista isn’t the producer’s choice for a front-runner.

7.  Team Miley, Josh Halverson vs. Aaron Gibson: Three Team Miley performances tonight, culminating with gravelly aspirate-voiced Gibson vs. soulful country-flavored Halverson. Gibson puts an alt-rock treatment on the country hit, “Die a Happy Man.” Miley coaches him to “go for it” but he doesn’t have a go-for-it voice. It’s a lounge voice, a coffeehouse voice. Halverson picks “Whiskey and You,” a Chris Stapleton composition that Tim McGraw has recorded. McGraw tells him to sing it like a movie scene, and Halverson can do that–when he sings, he’s not just singing the song, he’s acting it. Miley keeps gravel-voiced Gibson and Alicia steals Halverson, who she cut in the battle round.

Tonight we saw Maye Thomas, Nolan Neal, Karlee Metzger and Michael Sanchez walk, but Gibson’s still here. Alicia’s going on about how Halverson’s authentic and the real deal–but she didn’t think so last round. Couldn’t he have at least ended up with Adam or Blake? (I keep saying, they need a rule, if you cut ’em, you don’t get ’em back.)

Who we’ll be seeing in the final twenty:

Team Adam:  R&B vocalist Simone Gundy, country singer Josh Gallagher, Sinatra stylist Riley Elmore, introverted rocker Brendan Fletcher, and former boy soprano Billy Gilman.

Team Blake:  R&B vocalists Jason Warrior, Dana Harper, and Courtney Harrell, country singers Austin Allsup and Sundance Head.

Team Alicia:  Soul singers SaRayah and We, Puerto Rican singer Christian Cuevas, country rocker Josh Halverson, and Kylie Rothfield of the blown-out vocal cords.

Team Miley:  R&B singer Ali Caldwell, gravelly and whispery Aaron Gibson, and female rockers Belle Jewel, Darby Walker, and Sophia Urista.

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The Voice: Season 11, Three Knockouts, 10/25/16

October 26th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

We saw three knockout rounds and one steal on The Voice Tuesday night, leaving six knockouts (I think) and one steal before Season 11 moves on to public voting. Here’s how the final field is evolving:

1.  Team Blake, Courtney Harrell vs. Bindi Liebowitz: Blake matches two of his bluesy women, who sing bluesy sixties’ classics. Courtney tears through Tina Turner’s hit, “River Deep Mountain High,” like a hurricane. Bindy goes sweet ‘n’ low with “Son of a Preacher Man,” which celebrity guest advisor Faith Hill calls “one of the nastiest dirtiest songs ever written.” The judges’ consensus is for Courtney, and Blake keeps her. Miley suggests during the comments that she might steal Bindy, but neither she nor Alicia do.

2.  Team Adam, Billy Gilman vs. Ponciano Seoane:  Somebody on Team Adam has to be given the unenviable task of trying to out-sing former child star Billy Gilman. Adam says frankly, “If Ponciano can win this, he can win The Voice.” Seoane sings Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire” in a style reminiscent of Phil Phillips. Gilman, however, makes the contemporary hit, “Fight Song,” into a personal statement, complete with showy high notes. Blake says about him, “This guy has so much he wants to prove.” Alicia adds, “There was this lion starting to come out.” Although Adam admits to Seoane, “It’s the best I’ve ever heard you sing,” it’s not enough to upset one of this season’s front-runners. Adam keeps Gilman and nobody steals Seaone.

3.  Team Alicia, Belle Jewel vs. Christian Cuevas:  Alicia says she paired these two because of their individualism. This is the first time viewers have seen what Belle can do, and she’s an amazing goth-punk throwback to the eighties-MTV era. Alicia says she likes how Belle can take eighties’ hits and give them a forties-jazz twist. (The style remains “eighties” even with the classic jazz flavor, however.) Jewel sings a sultry “Don’t Dream it’s Over,” originally a pop-wave hit for Crowded House. She’s no slouch, but neither is Christian, who turns the moldy-oldie “Superstar” (a seventies’ hit for The Carpenters) into a rock-flavored power ballad. It strains his range just a little, enough to give Belle an apparent opening. Miley says after the performances, “I’m watching … what’s Alicia gonna do?” Blake says he’d go with Christian because, “vocally he just explodes.” Apparently Alicia agrees, because she keeps Christian. “He earned it,” she explains. Miley steals Belle, adding her to a team that already includes rockers Maye Thomas and Sophia Urista.

As the final knockouts loom, Alicia is the only judge left who can steal a contestant. She says she wants “somebody fiery.” A girl (or boy) on fire? Tune in next week to see who makes it to the live voting.

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The Voice: Season 11, Knockout Rounds Begin, 10/24/16

October 25th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Knockout rounds are underway on The Voice, which means the judges must pair up their singers in sporting-style brackets again, and judge which singer to keep. Each singer sings a song, then the judge cuts one and keeps the other. Each judge gets one chance to steal a singer discarded from another team, too. When the knockout rounds are over, it should be time for the audience’s vote.

1.  Team Blake, Josh Gallagher vs. Sundance Head:  Blake says he paired them because they’ve both got voices ready for country radio, although Head’s country leans a little to the soulful side. (They can both throw in showy high notes, too, Blake.) Gallagher sings the Brooks & Dunn hit, “My Maria,” which demands so many falsetto notes, and he hits them. Head does a manly-man version of the Miley Cyrus hit, “The Climb,” changing a few notes but still showing off what Blake calls “this beautiful high register.” Blake says he’s basing his decision on technique–the most solid performance–and the winner is Sundance. Anybody want one of Blake’s spare country singers?  Adam does! Josh G. joins Team Adam. Of course Adam rubs it in with Blake about how “one of Blake’s best” country singers is now on Team Adam. But will Adam know what to do with him?

2.  Team Alicia, Kylie Rothfield vs. singing sisters Whitney and Shannon: Alicia thinks both acts are folksy. Kylie sings “Hound Dog,” copying Big Mama Thorton’s blues instead of Elvis’ rock. The way she blues-shouts, no wonder she has a history of blowing out her vocal cords. Celebrity guest advisor Tim McGraw tells her to keep the whisky and smoke in it, and she does. In contrast the sisters take a soft and silky approach to John Mayer’s “Won’t Give Up on Us.” Adam’s impressed with Kylie’s guitar-playing as well as her singing, and Blake adds that Kylie and her guitar are “kind of a duo,” too. Alicia picks Kylie and nobody steals the sister act. Blake comments as the sequence ends, “Kylie stands alone as the rocker chick this season.” Depending on what happens with some members of Team Miley, that may prove true.

3. Team Miley, Ali Caldwell vs. Lauren Diaz:  Two women with big voices compete. Diaz is influenced by Alicia Keys. Ali has an old-fashioned blow-the-doors-off-the-place R&B voice. Diaz sings “Rise Up” and she’s a little pitchy, a little sharp. Caldwell sings “No Ordinary Love” (a Sade song) and is plainly the singer to watch in this competition, so it’s not a surprise when Miley keeps Caldwell and nobody steals Diaz.

4. Team Adam, Dave Mosian vs. Simone Gundy: Why Adam paired these singers is a mystery–maybe it was the soul connection. Mosian, the Maroon 5 fan, was a four-chair turn and has a soft aspirate voice. Gundy’s an R&B belter who was a two-chair turn (Adam and Miley). Mosian gets soft and romantic, dedicating “Like I Can” (a Sam Smith song) to his wife, but he still demonstrates considerable power under the softness. Gundy belts out “Midnight Train to Georgia.” The judges think Mosian showed all his vocal tricks and that he has a beautiful voice but they liked the way Gundy showed some fight. Adam, for obscure reasons, calls the round for Gundy and nobody steals Mosian, even though everybody wanted him at the audition. Maybe Adam thought Gundy could get more votes, but I think Mosian was the one to see more of.

5. Team Alicia, Courtnie Ramirez vs. We McDonald:  Both girls are seventeen and have big voices with R&B stylings. Ramirez sings Beyoncé’s “If I Were a Boy.” We (pronounced “way”), the rich alto with the squeaky speaking voice, sings “No More Drama” but her singing pales besides what LaPorsha Renae did on Season 15 of American Idol. (Now that was a knockout!) By comparison, McDonald resembles what might happen if Michael Jackson sang the song. Miley thinks We brought some punk-rock to it, though. Alicia starts her decision by announcing, “The winner of this knockout is both of you!” She has to choose, though, so she chooses We. Blake says, “I wish, like, one time per season, you can save both your people.” Not a bad idea for a new twist, Blake, and it sure beats the “wild card” twist the show’s used for two seasons. Adam says he’d have stolen Ramirez if he’d had a steal, but he doesn’t.  Nobody, not Blake, not Miley, steals Rameriz.

6.  Team Adam, Jason Warrior vs. Riley Elmore:  We know there’s going to be a steal here, because the tease said so. Adam makes his second odd match of the night, even though Warrior and Elmore both have a jazz side. (Warrior vs. Gundy and Elmore vs. Mosian would’ve made more sense.)  Elmore sings a Michael Buble song in a pop style. He’s only 16, but his mature tenor reminds me of Sal Valentinetti (who’s only 21). Warrior sings “I Want You” and makes a signature note out of a falsetto so high it’s in dog-whistle range. Alicia says, “Women can’t hit that note!” Adam says, “Men who sing like women can’t hit that note!” Blake says he’d pick Jason. Alicia and Miley prefer Riley. Adam says he’s going to keep the singer who’s the “most unlike anything we’ve ever had on this show,” and the winner is Riley.  “When you hear him, you know it’s him,” Adam explains later. Miley says she’s mad because she wanted to steal Riley. Blake steals Jason, saying, “You can win this thing!” and of course Blake rubs it in on Adam.

We’ll probably see three more knockouts and maybe a montage tonight. Miley and Alicia have steals they can use.

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The Voice: Season 11, Last Three Battles, 10/18/16

October 19th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Tuesday night brought us the final three battles of The Voice Season 11. Because Blake was the only coach (judge) left who could steal a discarded contestant from another team, we knew his steal would come at the end. We also knew one of his contestants was going to leave the show–unless and/or until this season features a “Wild Card” twist that brings contestants back for a second chance.

1. Team Blake goes first, because we know there can be no steal at the end of this battle. It’s Austin Allsup vs. Preston James, “country singers with an edge,” Blake calls them. It’s also our first chance to see Preston James, who’s ID’ed as 15 during the rehearsals and 16 during the performance–maybe he had a birthday in the middle of the taping. It also makes him barely older than Gabe Broussard, this season’s youngest contestant. The song the contestants are battling on is “Bad Moon Rising,” classic rock with a Southern flavor, which fits them both. Once again Blake’s faced with the choice between rough-edged youth (James) and someone more mature and experienced (Allsup). Alicia says about the performance, “You both have your own style. Both are really strong.” Miley gets so confused about which singer she favors, she starts to sound like a certain Republican candidate. Adam restores a bit of order with, “They’re both great, you can’t really go wrong.” Blake picks Austin, on the basis of more experience. That means James leaves the show, but given his age and talent, we’ll probably see him again–somewhere.

2. Team Alicia is coming down to a battle of Broadway actor Gabriel Violett vs. Whitney and Shannon, the singing sisters who are this season’s only duo. Alicia gives them an unusual song choice, the power ballad “More Than Words” by Extreme (the nineties rock band, not the new-century Hispanic group Xtreme). Celebrity guest advisor Charlie Puth tells Gabriel to “start nasal, then go breathy,” which tells us essentially all we need to know about his vocals. Puth also suggests Gabriel is overthinking. The performance turns out to be very pretty and romantic, despite the off-balance between a duo and a solo artist. Miley and Adam both say they don’t have a favorite–but they like the girls. Blake, however, says he’s impressed with Gabriel, that he’s not getting “full credit.” Alicia keeps the young girls over the more experienced Violett, and Blake doesn’t use his steal, despite being impressed with Gabriel both here and during the auditions. Then again, we don’t see Carson Daly saying anything about a steal, so maybe this performance came after Blake had used his steal.

3.  Team Adam gets the last battle, Brendan Fletcher vs. Bindy Liebowitz, so Blake’s getting whoever Adam discards. Celebrity guest advisor Sammy Hagar pronounces Fletcher’s voice as “beefy” and “like a big old oak” while Liebowitz’s, he says, is classic and soulful. Adam says he paired them because they’re so different–but they both need to feel what they’re doing. They belt out the swamp-rocker “(Take me) Home” by Marc Broussard. Blake says it’s hard to tell who out-sang each other. Adam compares Liebowitz to Rhianna but he keeps Fletcher. Right on cue, Blake steals Liebowitz, who he wanted during the auditions.

Next week comes the next round of cuts, as contestants are paired for “knockout” performances. The celebrity guest advisors are going to be Faith Hill and Tim McGraw. Each team is going to be reduced to a final five in another week or two, then the live voting begins.

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