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The Amazing Race: Throwback, Season 16, Argentina, Original Air Date 2/28/10

March 23rd, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Throwback Thursday is today, and a week from today Season 29 of The Amazing Race premieres March 30. While we wait let’s take a look back at Season 16, when cowboys Jet/Cord dominated in South American cow country. “They’ve got tricks up their sleeves and then their tricks have tricks,” one of the other teams (lesbian couple Carol/Brandy) complained.

As teams leave the pit stop in Puerto Vallas, Chile, they get clues to start the third leg by taking a bus over the Andes to Bariloche, Argentina. They’re also given a classic photo of Butch Cassidy, the Sundance Kid, and the Wild Bunch, on which a Travelocity gnome has been photoshopped. Their destination is a saloon (El Boliche Viejo) that Butch and the Kid frequented while they were in Argentina.

The first three teams are to leave on an 8:30 a.m. bus:

  • Cowboys (and brothers) Jet/Cord
  • Married couple Heidi/Joe
  • Lesbian couple Carol/Brandy

The remaining six teams are on an 8:50 a.m. bus:

  • African-American women lawyers Monique/Shawne
  • Policemen Louie/Michael
  • Big Brother couple Jordan/Jeff
  • Brothers Dan/Jordan
  • Pro baseball coach Steve Smith and his daughter Allie
  • Dating models Brent/Caite

Caite/Brent were supposed to leave in fourth place, but came down with symptoms of food poisoning and had to go to the ER just before their start time. They recover in time to catch the 8:50 bus with the other trailing teams.

The first three teams reach Bariloche and pick up waiting rental cars. Before getting on the bus, Jet/Cord found a woman who spoke English and could give them driving directions, so they’re first out of the parking lot and know where they’re going. They notice Heidi/Joe and Carol/Brandy are following them. They pull over and pretend to read their map while the other teams drive by.

Heidi/Joe are first to reach the saloon (“The Old Joint” in English), but Carol/Brandy and the cowboys are right behind. The task at the saloon is to win a hand of five-card stud against a Travelocity gnome. Once a team wins, the dealer gives them the gnome, which has the next clue on the bottom. The cowboys get several bad hands, so Joe/Heidi are first to get the next clue. Carol/Brandy are second.

A gaucho festival is going on next to the saloon, and that’s where this leg’s Roadblock is. Teams must rope an artificial steer–a bullhead on a hay bale. The envelopes with the next clue are attached to the hay bales. Heidi and Carol start roping, or trying to.

Although the cowboys are third to start the RB, Jet’s the first contestant to rope a bullhead. Cord says afterward, “Brandy thought it wasn’t fair, that this roadblock was too much like our way of life. We didn’t throw a fit because they knew Spanish and we didn’t!”

Carol is the 2nd to rope a bullhead, Heidi third. By now teams from the second bus are starting to reach the saloon. Jeff/Jordan are the 4th team to arrive (1st from the 2nd bus). When Jeff gets a winning hand, he jumps up and knocks a chair over in his excitement. He exclaims, “I’m bustin’ up the joint!”

The clue on the hay bale at the RB instructs teams to drive their rental cars to an area where cliffs overlook a river–Puente Nirihuau–and search along the cliffs. When the cowboys reach the site, they’re still in first place. They find a clue box that contains choices for this leg’s detour: “Horse Power” or “Horse Sense.”

“Horse Power” involves scoring a goal at a nearby polo field. The cowboys go to pick themselves out a polo horse, only to find that they’ll have to use a wooden practice horse. Teams must take turns hitting the ball, and move the wooden horse to the ball each time. If they score a goal in less than ten swings, they’ll get the next clue. If they don’t score a goal in less than ten swings, they have to carry the wooden horse back down the field and start over.

The cowboys score a polo goal before any other teams get to the field. They’re awarded a trophy that has the name of the pit stop–a ranch called Estancia Fortin Chacabuco–on it. They drive to the pit stop, take first place, and win a trip to Argentina (so they can return to South American cow country someday).

The other detour, “Horse Sense,” involves bandits and hidden loot. Teams first visit a gunslinger waiting by the railroad (like he’s about to hold up the train) who gives them coordinates to pace off, leading to a spot where a bag of “money” is buried with the ropes poking up. When the team finds a bag that matches their coordinates, they’re to take it to the train station, hand it over to the lead bandit, and he’ll give them a gold coin in return. That coin bears the name of the pit stop.

Several teams try “Horse Sense” but few of them show much horse sense. Carol/Brandy are the 2nd team to get to the detour. They get their coordinates and start pacing them off, but one sees a shovel in the ground, and she’s certain they’ve found the buried loot. That’s not the spot, and they’ve gone off their line for nothing. They argue about it for a long time, give up, and switch to the polo field.

Back at the RB, Jeff ropes his bullhead, making him and his girlfriend Jordan 4th. Steve/Allie arrive and complete the task, putting them in 5th place. The policemen and the black women arrive, 6th and 7th in a virtual tie. Brothers Dan/Jordan arrive in 8th place (they had bad driving luck) but they get the RB done quickly and jump two slots. Louie/Michael are the 7th team to get a bullhead roped. Monique/Shawne are still trying, and Caite/Brent haven’t arrived yet.

Jeff/Jordan arrive at the detour and try pacing off the coordinates. They don’t get them right, and when they find a bag, they’re confused about who to give it to. They think the head bandit is the guy that gave them the directions, and they’re missing the part about a train station. They make several tries and can’t figure out what they’re doing wrong.

Heidi/Joe get to the detour, and Joe insists he doesn’t need to pace off coordinates because he can just use his own compass. (Insert joke about men not following directions here.) They find a bag and take it to the train station, but the bandit doesn’t accept it because the team’s directions don’t match the numbers on the bag. The couple give up and switch to “Horse Power.”

Brent/Caite, who had very bad driving luck, are the ninth team to get to the RB, but Brent gets his bullhead roped on his second try. Monique/Shawne are left trying, and trying, and trying to rope a bullhead. They pray, and maybe that works, because they finally do get the bullhead roped.

Steve/Allie arrive at the detour in fifth place, and immediately pick the polo field. They finish quickly, becoming the second team to finish either detour. Carol/Brandy score their polo goal and that puts them in third place. Joe/Heidi finish the polo, too, so they’re fourth. The three teams reach the pit stop in the same order.

Louie/Michael get to the detour and choose “Horse Sense.” They decide they don’t have to pace off coordinates, just do a grid search of the field. (Again we have a case of, men can’t follow directions.) They search, and find some bags, but the bags don’t match their coordinates, and some are decoys (nothing but ropes). Jeff/Jordan, still searching for their bag, hear the policemen reading the numbers on a bag.

“That’s our bag!” the Big Brother couple exclaim. They take it from the policemen, and find the right man at the train station to give it to. He summons an accomplice to ride away with it, and gives them a gold coin with the name of the pit stop on it. They place fifth.

By this time Dan/Jordan have arrived at the detour. They, too, try “Horse Sense” but fail to find a bag that matches their coordinates. They give up and switch to the polo field.

Louie/Michael switch to the polo field. Brent/Caite arrive at the detour and immediately choose polo. So do Monique/Shawn.

Dan/Jordan need three attempts to score a polo goal in less than ten swings, but they do. They get to the pit stop in sixth place. Caite/Brent score a polo goal and they place seventh.

Louie/Michael score their polo goal and get to the pit stop–putting them in eighth place. Monique/Shawn are left struggling with the wooden horse and the mallet on the polo field. They become concerned they may injure themselves, so they switch to pacing off the coordinates in search of the bandit gang’s loot. They’re the one team of the day that actually completes the “Horse Sense” detour according to instructions. They’re the last team to arrive at the pit stop, and are eliminated.










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The Voice: Season 12, More Battles, 3/21/17

March 22nd, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

When The Voice is in battle rounds, who duets with whom and who gets stolen determines who gets through to the next round. That means some people are going to go home who shouldn’t have, and some people are going to stay despite not appearing to be a front-runner. Here’s what we saw and (thanks to three battles being condensed into sound-bytes) didn’t see Tuesday night:

1.  Team Gwen, Johnny Gates vs. Sammie Zonana:  Gwen says she paired these two because they’re both alternative (or in Adam’s words, “leather-clad bad *sses”). She–and celeb guest mentor Celine Dion–make much of the song assignment, “I Drove all Night.” It was recorded by Celine Dion, but also by Roy Orbison and Cyndi Lauper, and the latter two singers are more likely models for Gates’ and Zonana’s vocals. Gwen likes Gates’ “character” voice and, despite this show being The Voice she says she thinks the deciding factor will be stage presence. All three of Gwen’s fellow judges think this battle’s winner is Johnny Gates, and Gwen must agree because she keeps him. 

Nobody steals Sammie Zonana.

2.  Team Alicia, RJ Collins vs. Chris Blue:  Alicia says both male vocalists have beautiful, soulful voices but in different ways. She compares Collins to Usher, Blue to Marvin Gaye. She gives them “Adorn,” a contemporary hit, but one she thinks has a classic R&B style. Her celeb guest advisor, DJ Khaled, suggests the result sounds like nineties’ R&B, like New Edition. Gwen provides the most memorable moment of this battle, however, because after the performance she starts babbling to Blue about, “I was mesmerized by your body” and to Collins about, “distracting me.” Adam thinks the voices were super-even, while Blake says, “RJ, your stage presence is incredible but, Chris, I think you could be in the finals.” Alicia keeps Chris Blue, explaining that he has a versatility that she has yet to scratch the surface of.

Nobody steals RJ Collins. I supposed the other judges would be hot to bid for him, but they aren’t, maybe preferring to work with the R&B vocalists they already have.

3. through 5. Montage:  NBC and Voice producers, please don’t reduce any battle rounds to sound-byte caricature anymore. I know we can go online to watch, but we shouldn’t have to. Next season, jiggle the airtime or the number of contestants or whatever, but let us see why people were kept or not, instead of sending the message that some contestants don’t matter. Now for the results, which we’re not even sure we really saw–except a check of the NBC site reveals the current teams and no additional steals:

3.  Team Adam, Nala Price vs. Josh West, Adam keeps West. Nobody steals Price.

4.  Team Gwen, Aaliyah Rose vs. Savannah Leighton, Gwen keeps Rose. Nobody steals Leighton.

5.  Team Blake, Andrea Thomas vs. Micah Tryba, Blake keeps Thomas. Nobody steals Tryba.

6.  Team Blake, Dawson Coyle vs. Aliyah Moulden:  Blake takes two of his young pop singers who could be country, and assigns them the eighties’ pop hit, “Walkin’ on Sunshine.” During the performance, Moulden sounds less like the blues-shouter that she was at her audition, and more soulful (like the Aaliyah, maybe). By comparison Coyle’s more like a back-up singer who has a featured part with the star. Gwen likes Moulden–but Adam and Alicia like Coyle. Blake keeps Moulden, which makes sense.

Alicia uses the only steal she’s got left on Coyle, which doesn’t make much sense. She says he fills a certain slot on her team, but I don’t think he’s going to win the season, and there are more intriguing possibilities left on the board.

So RJ Collins is out, Dawson Coyle is still in. Tune in next week to see who else stays and goes.



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The Voice: Season 12, Let the Battles Begin, 3/20/17

March 21st, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Time for the battle rounds to begin, when the Voice judges discard contestants like so many playing cards. The contestants get the honor of being coached by the judges and their celebrity guest advisers:  Celine Dion (Team Gwen), John Legend (Team Adam), Luke Bryant (Team Blake) and DJ Khaled (Team Alicia).

Predicting who’ll get to the next round is difficult because much depends on the pairings for duets. Each judge gets two steals, so I will predict some possibilities:

Alicia Keyes  really wanted one guy she didn’t get, You Tube star TSoul. She may want him if Blake cuts him, but Adam and/or Gwen may want him, too.

Gwen Stephani may be interested in Johnny Hayes and/or Hanna Erye.

Adam Levine may want to broaden his rock bench with Troy Ramey, Jack Cassidy, or even the soulful RJ Collins.

Blake Sheldon may want Troy Ramey, too, or Adam’s country singers Taylor Alexander or Sheena Brook should Adam be foolish enough to cut them. Blake also really wanted Gabby Borromeo, Stephanie Rice and Julien Martinez.

Now for what actually happened Monday night:

1.  Team Blake,  Brennley Brown vs. Lauren Duski: Blake’s putting two of his most charming country girls together because, he says, they’re both country-pop, so “the lane has to be clear.” He assigns them “Better Man,” composed by Taylor Swift, as sung by Little Big Town. I call the performance for Lauren, because she shows about ten years of experience on the teenage Brennley. Gwen lets it be known she prefers Brennley’s “innocence.” Blake admits, “This one hurts,” but he picks Lauren. 

Gwen signals to steal Brennley. Adam does, too, but he needn’t have bothered, because Brennley picks Gwen as her next coach.

2.  Team Gwen, J Chosen vs. Kenny P. If emerging season favorite J Chosen were to be come available, Adam, Blake, and Alicia would all likely signal for a steal, but Kenny P didn’t get the same level of enthusiasm when he auditioned. Gwen assigns the two male vocalists Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made to Love Her.” Kenny comments about the pairing, “I’ve got a lot of power, he’s got a lot of control.” Gwen decides to keep J Chosen.

Nobody steals Kenny P.

3.  Team Alicia, Anatalia Villaranda vs. Missy Robertson:  Tiny Anatalia is only 16, but she out-performs Missy, even though Missy’s much more experienced. Alicia calls the tiny young Filipino-American a “a female Bruno Mars.” Alicia keeps Anatalia.

Nobody steals Missy.

4.  Team Adam, Gaby Borromeo vs. Mark Isaiah:  Adam pairs two of his mainstream pop youth-appeal types–Borromeo with her anime-character look and Isaiah with his resemblance to Justin Bieber. They make an edgy sweetheart duet out of a Zayn hit, “Pillow Talk.” Blake comments he’s leaning to Mark who “really had a grasp on the song.” Alicia says the choice is between a powerhouse female vocalist or a male vocalist who’s a little smoother. Gwen says she’s leaning to Mark, too. Adam keeps Mark.

Blake doesn’t steal Gaby, maybe because of his feeling Mark was the winner here, and nobody else steals Gaby, either.

5.  Team Alicia, Felicia “Keys” Temple vs. Quizz Swanigan:  Alicia pairs two of her soul singers. Does she want the person with a vocal resemblance to her, or the very young male vocalist whose voice is beginning to change–but still resembles a very young Michael Jackson? Alicia assigns them the very popular hit, “Titanium.” Felicia’s more experienced–but Quizz gives the impression something unique is developing here. Adam and Blake both advise keeping Temple, but Alicia keeps Swanigan. 

Blake steals Felicia Temple, boasting she can win this thing. He apparently saw something in her that he didn’t see in Borromeo.

6. Team Blake, Casi Joy vs. Ashley Levin, with Blake explaining he’s matching his two classic country types–he sees these female vocalists as similar to Tammy Wynette or Reba McEntire. He assigns them McEntire’s “How Blue.” He says it’s his toughest battle and predicts neither singer will go home. After the duet, Gwen comments that Casi is more experienced, but Adam says Ashley may have taken it. Blake keeps Casi.

Everybody else wants to steal Ashley, just as Blake predicted. Adam and Gwen give good pitches but Levin joins Team Alicia. That’s going to make for some interesting coaching during the next round.

Battle rounds continue tonight. Who’ll be kept, discarded, stolen, next?

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The Voice: Final Auditions and Look Ahead, 3/14/17

March 15th, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Sometimes I wonder what happens to Voice contestants who are called for the last auditions of the season. If the judges’ teams are full, are people who are waiting told politely to try again next season? Do they perform not knowing whether the teams are full or not? Is there some kind of numbers-crunching to ensure that everyone who’s waiting for an audition does get to audition?

However it’s handled, the teams for The Voice Season 12 filled up last night, and next week the cutting of teams begins with the battle rounds. I didn’t hear any contestants last night that I thought might challenge the front-runners who are emerging, but there were some that may make the next rounds interesting:

1. Vanessa Ferguson, who has some vocal resemblance to Alicia Keys and plays piano, too, is a cruise ship singer. She says her style combines R&B, hip-hop, and jazz. Gwen and Alicia turn almost simultaneously. Blake joins after a few more lines. Adam never turns, and no one lets him forget it. Ferguson’s a good match for Alicia and she picks Alicia.

2.  Dawson Coyle sounds country to everybody but Blake, more on that later. The song’s nearly over when Blake turns. It’s a one-chair turn, so he’s on Team Blake, and now Team Blake is full. Blake says he’s got a pop singer now. Given the depth of Team Blake and the fact that the judges very nearly didn’t turn at all, I predict Coyle will be a casualty of the battle rounds.

3.  Jozy Bernardette (how’s that for an uncommon spelling of a nickname for Josephine) is the daughter of pro basketball player Glenn Hansen. She presents herself as a rock singer, but “American Woman” is entirely the wrong song for her. (I don’t know if she’s making an identity statement, or just being gender-inappropriate.) Just the same, Gwen and Adam turn for her, which is more love from the judges than Dawson Coyle got. Blake joins in an argument over whether Gwen or Adam is the rocker on the judges’ panel. (I’d say they’re both rockers, Blake–it’s Jozy I’m not so sure about.) She picks Gwen, and now Team Gwen is full.

4? Another American Heartland Elvis Costello type (or John Hiatt type), Steven Boris, gets–just like Austin Tyler Jones before–complete lack of interest from the judges. I’d have preferred to see Blake or Gwen pick this guy instead of the first two singers they picked tonight.

4! Sheena Brook is an attractive young lesbian with dark hair and tattoos, who sings in a beach bar in Florida. In her pre-audition interview, she says she sings country, rock, pop, and island music. She also tries to demonstrate rap, but her rap sounds more like beat-boxing to me. She does demonstrate she can sing traditional country when she auditions with Sugarland’s “Baby Girl.” Since Team Blake is full, who’ll get her? Adam turns for her, so now Team Adam is full. Will he be smart enough to hang on to her and his male country singer?

5.  Alicia’s the only judge/coach left with space on her team. She says she’s looking for someone bluesy and soulful. She turns her chair for a young black Southern man, Chris Blue, who’s had some success with a brother act, The Blue Brothers (his four brothers and him). He shows an old-school R&B voice on “Tracks of my Tears.” Alicia’s impressed with his falsetto vocal tricks. He says he learned them from Adam. Team Alicia is now full.

The teams–but only about 55 percent of these people will remain after the battle rounds, and much will depend on how they’re matched up:

Alicia:  Lilly Passero, Autumn Turner, Felicia “Keys” Temple, Anatalia Villaranda, Lauryn Judd, Vanessa Ferguson, Missy Robertson make a crowd of female pop/soul vocalists. She also has male vocalists RJ Collins, Chris Blue, and Hunter Plake, as well as piano man Jack Cassidy and young Michael Jackson impersonator Quizz Swaningan. 

Her front-runners: Chris Blue, Jack Cassidy, Quizz Swaningan, Felicia Temple, Lilly Passero, RJ Collins. Her deep bench of female vocalists, however, could score some upsets.

Gwen:  Rockers Johnny Gates, Jozy Bernadetta and Troy Ramey, R&B vocalists J Chosen, Brandron Royal, country-flavored Kenny P and female pop vocalists Savannah Leyton, Caroline Sky, Stephanie Rice, Davina Leone, Sammie Zonana, Aaliyah Rose.

Her front-runners:  J Chosen, Johnny Gates, Stephanie Rice, Brandon Royal, Troy Ramey.

Blake:  Female country vocalists Allaya Moulden, Andrea Thomas, Brennley Brown, Lauren Dusky, Cassie Joy, Ashley Levin, old soul Josh Hoyer, soul man TSoul, country-pop male vocalist Dawson Coyle, female pop vocalists Enid Ortiz and Micah Tryba, and Valerie Ponzio who’s between pop and country.

His front-runners: TSoul, Allaya Moulden, Brennley Brown, Lauren Dusky, Cassie Joy, Enid Ortiz.

Adam:  Rockers Jesse Larson, Josh West, Johnny Hayes, Mark Isiah, Julien Martinez, male R&B vocalists Malik Devage and Kawan De Bose, female pop vocalists Gabby Borromeo, Nala Price, Hanna Erye, and country singers Sheena Brook and Taylor Alexander.

His front-runners:  Taylor Alexander, Kawan De Bose, Jesse Larson, Mark Isiah, Josh West, maybe Sheena Brook.

I’m going to make up a list of possible steals, too, but I’ll wait ’til next week and see how my predictions work out.

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The Voice: Season 12, Teams are Filling Up, 3/13/17

March 14th, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Adam’s been wearing a blue-and-ecru striped sweater all season, and Blake’s taken to calling him “Ham-burglar,” a reference to a character in an old fast-food campaign. Last night Gwen gave him a “Ham-burglar” hat. So now that the judges have had their fun, let’s look at the contestants they recruited. After last night’s auditions, teams are almost full:

1.  Kenny P is from Nashville and says he sings country–but his audition is seventies-era pop, Todd Rungren’s “Hello, It’s Me.” The judges take their time but Gwen turns around when the audition’s about three-quarters over. Blake joins in when it’s about seven-eighths over. Blake says, “You attack those notes with so much power,” but I don’t hear that much power. We wait patiently for the man from Nashville to choose Blake but he picks Gwen instead. He either wants to be coached by a cute blonde, or he wants to go in a pop direction, or both. Trivia:  he’s got a handlebar mustache.

2.  Enid Ortiz is in Ragged Old Souls, which she describes as a reggae-soul-funk-fusion band. She has a Southern-Goth look, and a showy Broadway-style voice. It looks like nobody’s interested until Blake pulls a buzzer-beater. It’s a one-chair turn, so she’s on Team Blake. Trivia:  she says she has that skin condition that makes her skin two-toned, but it doesn’t show here. I don’t know if it’s in remission or if she’s covering it with make-up.

3.  RJ Collins is a young African-American from Chicago, and his brother was the victim of a police shooting. He shows a youthful soulful style on Justin Bieber’s “Purpose.” He hooks Adam about five seconds in. Just when it looks like he’s on Team Adam, Alicia sneaks in. The contestant’s choice? “I love you, Adam, but I pick Alicia.” Trivia:  he works at Guitar Center in Chicago.

4? Austin Tyler Jones shows promise, being a church singer from Columbia, TN (a small town for a change, instead of Nashville). He sings Elvis Costello’s “Alison” and there’s a vocal–and visual–resemblance, but no chairs turn. Adam thought he was a little subdued, but I thought he was a Southern-Goth version of Elvis Costello.

4.  TSoul is already a You Tube star–his fans call themselves T-Souldiers. He sings a soulful gospel-tinged “Take Me to the River,” showing a style similar to Alicia Keys. Adam turns about five seconds in, Blake, a second or two later. Adam babbles about how he’s glad Alicia didn’t turn around. Blake says, “Your voice is like a fifty-year-old voice, all the herbs and spices!” The results of this Blake vs. Adam showdown? TSoul picks Blake. Alicia and Adam both probably have this contestant on their list of possibilities to steal. Trivia:  he’s from Richmond, VA.

5. and 6. We can tell when the auditions are winding up because that’s when some are reduced to soundbytes in montages. Andrea Thomas is on Team Blake (he’s got another country girl). Davina Leone is on Team Gwen. 

7. Hanna Erye (yeah, like Jane Erye) is a teen who’s already working as a piano teacher in Laguna Niguel, CA. She shows off a pure youthful soprano on Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” although I’ve heard the song done better. Adam turns right away, but Blake turns near the end, and Gwen, even nearer the end. Adam compares Erye to Season 4 winner Danielle Bradberry. Blake thinks he’s heard “just the tip of the iceberg” in her audition. Gwen says, “I want to find a girl who’s sparkly and talented and young.” Just when it looks like Blake–or maybe Gwen–has reeled her in, she picks Adam. If it doesn’t work out with him, Blake or Gwen may steal. Trivia: she’s 15 and studying performing arts in school.

8.  Hunter Plake (not “Blake,” Plake) is a church singer from Baton Rouge. He sings with the level of passion and drama that invites comparisons to George Michael and Freddie Mercury. Gwen turns after about five seconds, Alicia on the last lines. He picks Alicia. Trivia: he and his wife are living with his parents because they lost their house and car in a flood.

9.  Nala Price is a 17-year-old singer, actress, and dancer. Adam and Gwen both want her. She picks Adam even though her style appears to make her a better match with Gwen. Trivia: she’s performed in musicals and choirs.

10. Sammie Zonana is a wedding singer from Austin, TX. She’s gay, and her female fiancee is with her. She’s got a smoky, husky, bluesy voice. Gwen is the only judge that wants her, so she’s on Team Gwen. Adam says, “I heard so much Gwen in your voice.” Trivia: she wrote screenplays and went to film school before she became a singer.

11. Valerie Ponzo is another singer from Texas. She does a jazzed-up “Ring of Fire” in a tiny aspirate twang. I’ve heard Adam Lambert’s world-music “Ring of Fire,” and I find this to be a pale imitation. Apparently none of the judges have, because they’re all impressed and excited. It’s a four-chair turn, when I wouldn’t have given her a one. (I’d have turned for Austin Tyler Jones instead.) Adam says he heard elements of all four judges’ vocals in her voice. He talks about the Adam part, and Blake has to say the girly part. Ponzo’s got enough of a country flavor that she picks Blake, but I don’t think she’ll last long given the depth of his team. Trivia:  she’s also got some Mexican or world-music flavor.

It’s time to start wondering which singers are going to get through the battle rounds–only about half of them can, unless we have a big surprise coming. Tomorrow I’ll post my predictions. For now here’s the running tally:

Alicia:  Lilly Passero, Autumn Turner, Felicia “Keys” Temple, Anatalia Villaranda, Lauryn Judd, Missy Robertson make a crowd of female pop/soul vocalists. She now has male vocalists RJ Collins and Hunter Plake, as well as piano man Jack Cassidy and young Michael Jackson impersonator Quizz Swaningan. 

Gwen:  Rockers Johnny Gates and Troy Ramey, R&B vocalists J Chosen, Brandron Royal, country-flavored Kenny P and female pop vocalists Savannah Leyton, Caroline Sky, Stephanie Rice, Davina Leone, Sammie Zonana, Aaliyah Rose.

Blake:  Female country vocalists Allaya Moulden, Andrea Thomas, Brennley Brown, Lauren Dusky, Cassie Joy, Ashley Levin, old soul Josh Hoyer, soul man TSoul, female pop vocalists Enid Ortiz and Micah Tryba, and Valerie Ponzio who’s between pop and country.

Adam:  Rockers Jesse Larson, Josh West, Johnny Hayes, Mark Isiah, Julien Martinez, male R&B vocalists Malik Devage and Kawan De Bose, female pop vocalists Gabby Borromeo, Nala Price, Hanna Erye, and country singer Taylor Alexander.

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The Voice: Season 12, Auditions Continue, 3/7/17

March 9th, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Yesterday I didn’t post my usual morning-after Voice recap because I was supporting The Day Without A Woman. So now this woman’s back to reviewing the singers who auditioned two nights ago, and what the celebrity judges (aka coaches) said and did:

1.  Johnny Gates, long-haired rocker, sings “Maggie May,” the seventies’ Rod Stewart hit. He has a voice like a schoolboy–a mature one, but a pure one–so the “I really should be back in school” line sounds genuine. He gets the attention of Gwen, Blake, and Alicia. Blake compares him to Mick Jagger. Gwen points out there was a time when the group she sang in, No Doubt, was just a ska band in bars. Johnny says, “All us garage band kids got to stick together” and he picks Gwen.

2.  Malik Devage (that’s how his name’s spelled on the NBC site), a fine R&B vocalist, barely starts his song before Adam turns around. Maybe Adam’s comment, “Your upper register, you need work,” explains why the other judges sit this one out. It’s a one-chair turn, so he’s on Team Adam.

3.  High school girl Lauryn Judd takes choir and theater classes. She sings “Girls Just Want to have Fun” without Cyndi Lauper’s quirkiness. She has a tiny little voice, young, inexperienced, so I doubt she’ll last long. At first the judges appear unimpressed. Gwen and Alicia finally turn when the audition’s about three-quarters over. Blake waits even longer, until the last lines. Judd picks Alicia.

4.  Sweet-voiced Caroline Sky is another teenager whose youth and inexperience show. She auditions with “Will You Still Love me Tomorrow” which is very much the wrong song for her, and she can’t carry its tricky tune. Gwen and Blake turn, but late. Sky picks Gwen, because Gwen was so young when she started, too.

5.  So many teens this season, but Josh Hoyer is a 40-year-old bartender with a wife and kids. He also sings in bars. He’s got a red beard and black hat. He’s an old soul (he’s influenced by Otis Redding) with an old soul song, “Oh, Girl.” He’s bluesy but he doesn’t show much range. Gwen and Blake turn around. Adam sits this one out–but comments, “Soulful.” Blake’s said previously he’s been looking for “a manly man” singer, and now he says, “There’s nobody like you on the show.” (There may be a few but they’re on Team Adam.) Hoyer picks Blake, so Blake’s got his manly-man team member.

Teams will fill next week. After that comes a rough stretch, where teams will be cut in half.

The teams so far:

Alicia:  Lilly Passero, Autumn Turner, Felicia “Keys” Temple, Anatalia Villaranda, Lauryn Judd, Missy Robertson make a crowd of female pop/soul vocalists. Piano man Jack Cassidy and young Michael Jackson impersonator Quizz Swaningan are her only male vocalists so far.

Gwen:  Rockers Johnny Gates and Troy Ramey, R&B vocalists J Chosen, Brandron Royal, female pop vocalists Savannah Leyton, Caroline Sky, Stephanie Rice, Aallyah Rose.

Blake:  Female country vocalists Allaya Moulden, Brennley Brown, Lauren Dusky, Cassie Joy, Ashley Levin, old soul Josh Hoyer, female pop vocalist Micah Tryba.  

Adam:  Rockers Jesse Larson, Josh West, Johnny Hayes, Mark Isiah, Julien Martinez, male R&B vocalists Malik Devage and Kawan De Bose, female pop vocalist Gabby Borromeo, country singer Taylor Alexander.



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The Voice: Season 12, Nine Successful Auditions, 3/6/17

March 7th, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Teams on Season 12 of The Voice are about half-full by now. If the format is the same as past seasons, the four judges will soon finish selecting singers to coach, and they’ll start cutting their teams in the battle rounds. Front-runners are starting to emerge as auditions continue:

1.  Micah Tryba (a 24-year-old veterinary student) sings a lush ballad, attracting Blake and Gwen. Blake gushes, “I can’t even think of those notes, let alone hit them.” Adam, who’s not bidding for this contestant, says there were “pocket issues but those can be fixed.” Tryba picks Blake so he now has a female vocalist who’s not a country singer on his team.

2.  Troy Ramey was in a rock band for about five years. He’s from Woodstock–Woodstock, VT, not Woodstock, NY. He sings a bluesy version of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World.” Blake’s in from the very first line, but Adam soon bids as well, much to Blake’s chagrin. Almost three-quarters of the song go by before Gwen decides she, too, is interested. Alicia turns around on the final chorus, making this a four-chair turn. Alicia says, “I can hear lifetimes in your voice” and calls Ramey, “cool.” (He says, “Alicia Keys just called me cool!”) Adam thinks Ramey could be a major contender to win. Blake thinks he sings “like a man” and asks to meet the man’s family. They come out to meet him, and Adam jabs, “Blake sinks to new lows!” Just as we’re thinking Blake (or Adam) is getting this contestant, he picks Gwen. (He must really, really like her.) Adam or Blake may want to steal him–but Gwen may not let him go.

3. Jack Cassidy is the 18-year-old grandson of singer-actress Shirley Jones (and the nephew of David and Shaun Cassidy). He says his influences include Elton John, Billy Joel, and the Beatles. He plays keyboards and sings passionately “What if God Was One of Us,” the nineties’ Joan Osborne hit. Adam turns on the second verse, but Alicia turns at the song’s climax. Adam says he heard, “incredible passionate commitment to every word.” Blake suggests Cassidy and Alicia could duet at facing pianos the way piano men Elton John and Billy Joel do on tour together. Maybe that’s the seal on the deal because Cassidy says, “I love you, Adam, but I’m picking Alicia.” If Adam wants him, it’ll be a steal.

4.  Kawan DeBose is a professional R&B singer who got started singing in the choir at his grandfather’s church. Now he sings at hotels, weddings, churches, and other gigs in Los Angeles and San Diego. He sings Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it on,” and his vocals are the male equivalent of the great R&B divas. Adam likes him right away, Gwen turns after a few vocal runs, and Blake soon follows. Although Alicia is this season’s R&B coach, she doesn’t bid. Adam says, “The only man who can do the same kind of falsetto is [the late] Prince.” Alicia advises, “There’s nobody like you on Adam’s team,” to which Blake retorts, “There’s hardly anybody on his team at all!” (Not quite true, Blake, you all have about the same number of team members.) Blake is so impressed he states, “All your coach has to do is get out of the way!” DeBose picks Adam because, he explains, “You have one of my favorite keyboard players in your band.” Sounds like Adam’s attracted another Maroon 5 fan.

5.  Taylor Alexander is an outside-the-box Nashville country singer. He’s a white guy with a guitar (WGWG) who combines genres–a little cowpunk, a little folksiness, a little pop, a little hardcore. He started out as a punk-rock singer, then switched to country, so he wouldn’t have to do so much punk-rock shouting. Instead of auditioning with a typical country song, he gives one of Cher’s nineties’ hits a country arrangement. Adam turns on the first verse. Blake sits and sits–and does not pull a buzzer-beater. Blake explains to Alexander that Team Adam may be a better fit where “there’s a wide-open lane.” It’s a one-chair turn, so Alexander is on Team Adam. It’ll be interesting to see how long Adam hangs onto him, and what direction he coaches him in.

6.  Gaby Borromeo (I hope I got her name right, it’s pronounced more like “vermeil”) is a Filipino-American New York City waitress, looking for her big break. She’s got working with John Legend on her resume. Even though her upbeat singing attracts Blake and Adam, she’ll probably be better remembered for her striking combination of purple hair and yellow skin than her performance. Blake says, “I’ve got a bunch of country singers but I don’t have nobody with purple hair.” Despite Blake’s pitch, Gaby picks Adam, giving him a girl pop singer. Depending on how the battle rounds are matched, Blake may decide to steal her.

7.  Missy Robertson, 34, a church singer from Sacramento, California, is in a band, Outgo, with her sister. Her R&B vocals show some resemblance to Adele. For about 88 seconds it looks like she’s going to get no chairs–but then Blake and Alicia both turn on the very last note. She picks Alicia. 

8.   Aallyah Rose (uncommon names are common this season) has round babyish bleached-blonde curls around a round babyish face and she’s only 14, but she’s a big girl, so she resembles a queen-sized bleached-blonde Shirley Temple. She’s already a star on social media–You Tube videos, things like that. She sings Andrea Day’s “Rise Up” and shows a very mature voice. Gwen likes her on the very first line, and it’s a one-chair turn, so Gwen gets the young female pop starlet she’s been saying she wants.

9.  Now comes the four-chair turn that’s been hyped all night. Josh West, 17, is in a rock band with his father in Glendale, Arizona. Instead of blues-shouting rock, however, he auditions with Duran Duran’s “Ordinary World,” demonstrating a retro-eighties (or nineties) vocal. After the four-chair turn, he and Adam start comparing favorites–West likes Soundgarden–leading Blake to ask if this is a record store. As the judges bid, it becomes apparent, however, this long-haired kid and Adam are a natural match. Adam even says, “It’s like talking to a younger me.” So West is on Team Adam.

The teams so far:

Alicia:  Lilly Passero, Autumn Turner, Felicia “Keys” Temple, Anatalia Villaranda, Missy Robertson make a crowd of female pop/soul vocalists. Piano man Jack Cassidy and young Michael Jackson impersonator Quizz Swaningan are her only male vocalists so far.

Gwen:  Rocker Troy Ramey, R&B vocalists J Chosen, Brandron Royal, female pop vocalists Savannah Leyton, Stephanie Rice, Aallyah Rose.

Blake:  Female country vocalists Allaya Moulden, Brennley Brown, Lauren Dusky, Cassie Joy, Ashley Levin, female pop vocalist Micah Tryba.  

Adam:  Rockers Jesse Larson, Josh West, Johnny Hayes, Mark Isiah, Julien Martinez, male R&B vocalist Kawan De Bose, female pop vocalist Gabby Borromeo, country singer Taylor Alexander.


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The Voice: Season 12, Auditions Continue, 3/2/17

March 3rd, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

“Turn around,” says the eighties’ hit about “A Total Eclipse of the Heart” but “turn around” is what contestants want The Voice judges to do. Three nights of auditions have been packed into the first week of Season 12, and there’ll be two more nights next week. We don’t know how many slots there are on this season’s teams, but we could be well into the battle rounds and perhaps even to the knockout rounds before March is over. So besides Adam’s blue-and-ecru striped sweater and Gwen’s sparkling fringed dress, what was there to to see Thursday night?

1. Ashley Levin is looking for her big break as a country singer-songwriter in Nashville. She’s shows she’s got a big, bluesy voice with plenty of range. Blake and Gwen glance at each other and turn their chairs together, but Alicia joins in on the final lines. Gwen likes the contestant’s vibrato and sweetness. Adam suggests picking Alicia so Gwen and Blake don’t have to blame each other for losing a contestant. However, Levin picks Blake anyway, saying, “I’ve listened to you my whole life!”

2. Brandon Royal, 31, is from the Virgin Islands but now lives in Florida. In college he was in a musical group, Dem Island Boys. His audition is the first time he’s sung on a stage in five years–he’s been working as a firefighter between college and now. He sings an island-flavored Stevie Wonder song. Gwen turns around about halfway through the audition, Blake joins her after a few more lines. Gwen points out that her group No Doubt got started playing ska. Royal picks Gwen. She says she’s glad to get him because, “We have similar tastes in music.”

3.  Julien Martinez, a boyish-looking teacher’s aide from Oxnard, California, says in his pre-audition interview that he has ADHD. He sings–and shouts–some classic blues-rock. Just when it looks like none of the judges is going to be suitably impressed, Blake and Adam both turn at the last note. Adam says he half-expected to see some giant biker still on his Harley, and “that last note sounded like the birth of Satan!” Blake says he’d like a manly-man rocker on his team. Martinez picks Adam. If Blake wants a manly-man rocker on his team, he may have to steal one. Adam says of his latest team member, “When he let that devil’s roar out, I just had to push [the button and turn around].”

4. I hope I get this young black man’s name right:  Quizz Swaningan. He’s only 13, and he’s performed in Michael Jackson tribute shows. Singing a Jackson song, he shows off the falsetto (and boy-soprano) style associated with Jackson–and many other legendary R&B male vocalists. The judges take their time, but Alicia turns at the last minute, Gwen at the last second. The guys sit back and watch the women compete. The young man picks Alicia, and she calls him, “my little Michael Jackson.” We’ll see.

5.  This season appears to be heavy on young country singers looking for their big break in Nashville. Cassie Joy is another one. She sings “Blue” in a rich, full voice, perhaps well enough to overshadow the Leann Rhimes version. Gwen likes the first notes and turns her chair in about two seconds. Alicia joins the bidding before the audition’s half over. Blake takes his time but turns at the final lines. Adam turns as the song ends, but then goes off to pout about how he doesn’t get the contestants he wants. The girls put forth their best arguments, but after all that Joy picks Blake anyway. Blake thinks she can win this thing, and he may be right.

The teams so far:

Alicia:  Lilly Passero, Autumn Turner, Felicia “Keys” Temple, Anatalia Villaranda, Quizz Swaningan.

Gwen:  Savannah Leyton, J Chosen, Stephanie Rice, Brandon Royal.

Blake:  Allaya Moulden, Brennley Brown, Lauren Dusky, Cassie Joy, Ashley Levin.

Adam:  Jesse Larson, Johnny Hayes, Mark Isiah, Julien Martinez.


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The Voice: Season 12, Auditions Begin, 2/27/17 and 2/28/17

March 1st, 2017 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Who’s going to win The Voice this season?  Will it be whoever best reps hardcore straight-up country on Team Blake, or somebody else? Will we see a new star be born, or someone whose name’ll be forgotten come 2018? Whatever happens, let’s tune in and enjoy the singing contest, or at least some more bickering and wisecracking from returning judges/coaches Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani, and Alicia Keys.

Eight people who auditioned on the premiere, 2/27/17, got at least one judge to turn around:

1.  J Chosen, R&B singer (his day job is special ed. teacher) who can channel Marvin Gaye’s presence on “Sexual Healing.” (He even makes Alicia blush.) Adam likes him right away, but so do Alicia, Blake, and Gwen. They’re all passionate about him now, but will he survive until the live rounds? I think if he continues at this level, he may even be the first R&B winner in several seasons. He must really like Gwen, because he picks her.

2.  Hey, Blake, here’s your first country singer!  Lauren Dusky is chasing that neon rainbow–to quote an Alan Jackson song–in Nashville. She sings Jewel’s “You Were Meant for Me” (but if she stays long, which she looks like she will, I’ll request Jackson’s “Chasin’ That Neon Rainbow” for her). She’s got Adam’s attention after about five seconds, Blake gets interested when he hears a note he likes. Just when it looks like we’ve got an Adam-Blake showdown, Gwen pulls a buzzer-beater. (That’s usually what Blake does.) Blake thinks she can win–and I’ll say–she’s a country singer, she’s on Team Blake, her odds are good. Gwen and Adam argue she can cross genres but Blake gets his first country singer of the season.

3. Returning contestant Johnny Hayes sings an energetic “Try a Little Tenderness” but I’m already measuring the field against the first two contestants, and I don’t think he’s on their level. Gwen and Adam both turn around on the first line. Adam says, “I feel the energy” and gets his first team member. It’s possible Gwen may steal this guy if she gets a chance.

4.  Anatalia Villaranda is a sixteen-year-old Filipino-American from Temecula, California, but her voice is much more mature than her age and size (4-foot-9) may indicate. She’s an alto and she rocks so well she gets a four-chair turn. Alicia and Blake turn around on a particularly showy note, Adam and Gwen on the last line. Adam thinks she can win, but I’m not sure. Young girl rockers usually go out early. Blake likes her energy and personality. Alicia calls her an artist unafraid to express herself. She picks Alicia.

5.  Stephanie Rice, the first Texan of the season, wears a black hat, and she’s gay. She’s got her fiancee Jan along. She’s got the kind of rich heartfelt voice (like Crystal Bowersox) that could take her deep into the season. She sings Kelly Clarkson’s “Piece by Piece” (another vocalist she has a slight resemblance to). Blake and Gwen both want her, so it’s a boyfriend-girlfriend fight. Gwen compliments the contestant, “You can only sing like that if you’ve lived it.” After the singer picks Gwen, the judge adds, “Something in her voice told her story.” Blake threatens to steal if he gets a chance.

6.  Mark Isiah, 19, has won a Justin Bieber soundalike contest, and that’s all you need to know. He’s teen idol material, and even though teen-idol types don’t often get to the end of the season, they make things interesting for the female audience along the way. Even Carson Daly says, “That kid’s a star!” Gwen and Adam fiercely compete for him–leading Gwen to point out Adam used to come to her shows–but Isiah picks Adam.

7.  Brennley Brown is only 14, but her aspirate voice can hit big notes. She’s a teenage country singer from Apple Valley, California, and she sings a Keith Urban song. (Jackson’s “Chasing That Neon Rainbow” might be a good song for her, too.) She attracts interest from Blake and Alicia but of course she picks Blake.

8.  Felicia Temple, a young nurse who’s survived cancer, says her nickname is “Felicia Keys” because her singing resembles Alicia’s. I think she sounds strained compared to the real thing, but she and Alicia sing together and everybody agrees she sounds just like Alicia. Gwen and Blake want her, too, but of course she picks Alicia.

Now for the second night of auditions, 2/28/17, when five singers were lucky enough to advance:

A.  Autumn Turner is a black skating coach who used to be in a typical R&B girl group. She picks “Last Dance,” which won an Oscar in 1979 for Best Song from the disco movie Thank God It’s Friday but nowadays sounds dated. (In fact it sounded dated in 1979.) Nevertheless, she gets a four-chair turn. Adam likes her right away, Gwen soon follows, Alicia turns on the last line and Blake pulls one of his buzzer-beaters. Adam thinks she can win, but I’m thinking the R&B field is going to be a stiff one–as always–this season. She likes the way Alicia sounds like a coach (“she said stuff I say to my students”) so she picks Alicia.

B.  Jesse Larson has been a guitarist for season 4 contestant Judith Hill. (She sang in Michael Jackson’s show, and was featured in Twenty Feet from Stardom.). He’s got glasses, a bald head, and a red beard and has spent fifteen years playing gigs (shades of Laith Al-Saadi in season 10). Like Al-Saadi, he thrives on soulful old-time blues-rock. He sings John Lennon’s “Jealous Guy” and attracts Adam. It’s a one-chair turn, so Jesse Larson is on Team Adam. This could be a winning combination, given that Adam coached Al-Saadi to second place in season 10.

C.  Allaya Moulden (I probably didn’t get her name right, sorry) has a yuuge blues-shouting voice, and she’s only 15. She rips through “Hound Dog” like the blues song it was before Elvis rocked it. Her late father was black, her mother is Mexican-American, and she’s from La Habra, California. Before she sings, she says she’d like to be coached by Alicia. She attracts Blake, Alicia, and Gwen. Blake points out his success working with young girl contestants, and maybe he’s persuasive, because she picks Blake. (She probably likes those cowboy dimples, too.) Maybe Alicia will get a chance to steal her, but Blake may be reluctant to let her go.

D.  Savannah Leyton is a southern small-town girl of 17, but she sings Katy Perry’s “Unconditional.” Even though she’s definitely not country, Blake wants her. Problem: his girlfriend Gwen does, too. Gwen and Blake argue and argue how they’ll coach her, leading Adam to suggest calling it like a sporting event. (“Blake takes the lead but may be sleeping on the couch tonight!”) Savannah’s reduced to giggles but she picks Gwen, saying later, “girl power.” Anything Blake touches tends to turn country, anyway, so Gwen’s probably a better match.

E.  Lilly Passero is living the Hollywood “LA LA Land” dream–she’s a waitress from Studio City, California, who’s trying to get her break as an actress and singer. She’s got a showy Broadway voice, but she says her influences are Aretha Franklin and Marvin Gaye. For about half the song, the judges think it over. Then Blake turns. Alicia thinks a little longer, then turns, and so does Gwen. Alicia goes so far as to channel her Aretha Franklin voice and sing her pitch to the contestant. (I’m thinking Alicia’s little jam-rap may have been a little–pre-planned.) Of course Lilly’s going to pick Alicia after all that work Alicia put into her pitch.

The teams so far:

Alicia:  Lilly Passero, Autumn Turner, Felicia “Keys” Temple, Anatalia Villaranda. All girls!

Gwen:  Savannah Leyton, J Chosen, Stephanie Rice. Gwen said something about diversity, and she’s getting some.

Blake:  Allaya Moulden, Brennley Brown, Lauren Dusky. He notes how his team is all girls so far, too.

Adam:  Jesse Larson, Johnny Hayes, Mark Isiah. So far it’s all guys that in one way or another rock.

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The Voice: Season 11, Finale, 12/13/16

December 14th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

NBC spent its entire three hours of prime time programming Tuesday for an announcement, that, if stretched and padded, takes about three minutes–who won The Voice, Season 11:

Winner:  Sundance Head, yet another country singer from Team Blake (That’s five trophies for Blake now.)

Runner-up:  Billy Gilman, former country-singing child star who’s come out as gay and moved into mainstream pop (as Team Adam continues to lose to Team Blake)

Third place:  We McDonald, the teen alto from Team Alicia

Fourth place:  Josh Gallagher, the first country-singing finalist coached by Adam Levine

If NBC wants to continue dedicating an entire night of programming to The Voice finale, then they need to provide content that’s meaningful to The Voice audience. Seeing top stars sing their current hits is nice, and seeing clips from the season is nice, but there needs to be more recognition of the show as a community. American Idol, Survivor, The Bachelor, and other top reality shows do. The Voice can, too.

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