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The Voice: Season 8, More Auditions, 3/3/15

March 4th, 2015 · No Comments

While the judging panel on that other TV singing competition appears more and more dysfunctional, The Voice may have found its funniest and most fun judging panel ever.  Even when Adam, Blake, Pharrell, and Christina are acting dysfunctional, they’re good for fun. We got an especially funny two hours on Tuesday as the judges had plenty of time to scheme and bicker. So here’s who and what the judges fought over last night:

1.  Radio-friendly pop singer Ashley Morgan, 26, works doing back-up vocals and singing at a theme park (probably Disneyland, given that she’s from Costa Mesa, part of the real OC). For her audition she goes up-tempo, with Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance with Somebody Who Loves Me.” She gets Blake’s and Pharrell’s interest.  She tells the judges, “I want to make music that makes a difference in the world,” and then picks Pharrell.  Blake, complaining about losing out, believes, “That girl could win!”

2.  I think I got this black R&B singer’s name–she’s Koryn Hawthorne, not Karen or Karyn. She sings a power ballad and hits some big notes, but it looks like the judges are unimpressed until Christina finally turns her chair.  Then Pharrell hears a particularly impressive note and pushes his button.  We’ve got the first Christina vs. Pharrell showdown!  From a neutral position, Adam states, “Bonkers mature for a 16-year-old girl!”  Christina and Pharrell both label Hawthorne an “old soul.” Christina also says, “There’s no vocal coach in the world who can convey what you just did.”  Pharrell observes the judges don’t have to fight, and hugs Christina.  Not to be left out, Adam hugs Blake. Then Adam stands between Pharrell and Christina, like a boxing ref, and asks, “Who do you pick?” The answer:  Christina!

3.  Puerto Rican girl Lexi Davilla (Where’s Shakira when you really need her? Or J-Lo?) has got Adam and Blake whispering back and forth. Adam turns first, then Blake gets in just under the bar. (Blake probably didn’t want Adam to get away with a one-chair turn.) Pharrell didn’t push his button, but now he seems very interested in this singer.  He starts coaching her about breathing and relaxation techniques. Adam argues Blake’s not the right coach for Davilla because he’s a country artist but she’s not.  It must have seemed reasonable, because Davilla does pick Adam.

Montage goes by so fast I didn’t get it all:  Josh  Blackstone to Team Adam,  Amoria (America?) Deland and Katelyn Read to Christina, Bev Brooks to Blake.

4.  Farm girl Brenna Yeager (Is she related to Chuck and Steve?), from Spokane, WA, is so taken with Miranda Lambert’s “The House that Built Me” that she says she’s even got a tattoo of it.  (She doesn’t show it, though.) She’s a sweet girl with a sweet voice, and the song’s incredible, but you’ve got to wonder about anybody who loves any song that much.  Adam can’t resist when she sings the line about “You don’t know me from Adam.” It looks like Blake may let Adam have this country girl without a challenge–until he pulls a buzzer-beater. Of course he notes, “That takes a lot of nerve” to sing his wife’s song so well, and he likes that. After considerable bickering, the lady picks Blake, although Adam plainly wanted her very much. Steal, Adam, steal!

5.  Jeremy Gaynor is part of West Point’s military band.  He says he has to be able to sing all kinds of music–and he shows it by his song choice.  He’s African-American, but rather than picking an R&B song, he does one of the Carpenters’ hits from the seventies.  It’s “Superstar,” written by Paul Williams, with the “I love you, I really do” hook. “I love you, too!” shouts Christina, but all four judges apparently love this guy. He does pick Christina.

6.  Jack Gregori (strange surname for a country singer) is in a country band and has a day job doing law.  He’s a big bearded guy with a Western hat–and a baritone that invites comparison to Johnny Cash.  He plays up the vocal resemblance with “Ring of Fire.” Adam turns his chair fairly early and no one, not even Blake, challenges him.  Adam praises the singer’s “deep baritone, completely on the mark, soulful voice.” Blake tells Adam, “I want to see what you can do with a great country singer,” but I’m suspicious maybe the country expert heard something he didn’t like.  Maybe the Cash resemblance was a hindrance as far as Blake was concerned?

7.  Here’s another uncommon name that’s hard to get right as it flashes by on the TV–I think it’s Bria Joynee.  She’s an African-American girl from a small town in Mississippi, she sings in church, and her mother’s a choir director. She’s got a pretty radio-friendly pop voice.  Pharrell and Blake both want her. Blake praises her vibrato and argues she should be on his team because, “You’re a country girl, dammit!”  Pharrell says he’d like to help her work on “some things.” She must agree with that argument because she picks Pharrell.  He says he’s glad to have her because “I wanted a little more soul on my team.” He must be thinking of coaching her to add some more soulful elements.

8.  Brian Johnson, 24, has the kind of voice and backstory that this show’s voters often respond to.  He had a rock band called the Rescue until he quit to take care of his ailing father. He’s a heavyset guy and says he always got made fun of in school when he sang, because of his high voice.  (When he tells this story to the judges, Adam says, “Same here!”) He auditions with “Reason to Believe,” the second time a contestant has sung a BeeGees song this season. After only a few notes, Adam signals his interest. After a few more lines, Blake turns his chair, too.  The next chapter in this bickering bro-mance begins. Adam thinks the singer has an “engaging emotional way, drawing you in.” Blake comments, “So much heart [but] you make it seem so easy,”  Pharrell (from the sideline) adds, “Music on radio needs voices like yours, faces like yours.” Despite Johnson’s earlier statement that he likes Maroon 5, he picks Blake.   Maybe Blake’s argument, “There’s nobody like you on my team [compared to Adam’s],” worked. Once again we see a running storyline this season:  Blake gloats while Adam sulks.

9.  Oh, Boy!  Another country singer for the boys to fight over!  Corey White, from Oklahoma, sings Zac Brown’s “Chicken Fry.” He looks and sounds like a teen but he must be older because he talks about going to school and being in a band for several years. The judges glance back and forth, everybody waiting for somebody else to jump in. Finally Pharrell gets tired of waiting for Blake and/or Adam, and pulls a buzzer-beater.  Except Blake pulls one, too!  Pharrell argues, “He knows country music but I know all kinds of music!” Adam’s rubbing it in now, getting up to argue “the case of the People vs. Blake Shelton.” When White finally gets asked to make his choice, he says, “Something about those boys from Oklahoma, I’ve got to go with Blake!” Blake crows about his latest team member, “This cool rasp, he’s got everything to be in country!”

Then he lets Pharrell, Christina, and everybody else know, he and Adam made a pact to keep talent away from Pharrell and Christina, and Adam just broke it.  What is this, a Survivor tribal council?

Running tally of coaches’ (judges’) teams:

Team Christina–Clinton Washington, America (?) Deland (?), Katelyn Read, promising female pop singers India Carney, Sonic, and Trina Gibson, the soulful Samoan-American Joe Tolo, folksinger Gabriel Wolfchild, R&B vocalists Rob Taylor and Koryn Hawthorne, and military man Jeremy Gaynor (do we count Adam Levine, too?)

Team Adam–Josh Blackstone, James McNiece, Nicholette Morrette, alt-rocker Michael Lear, R&B singers Barry Minnefield, Blaze Johnson, Renee DeBarge, and Tonya Boyd-Cannon, Latina teen Lexi Davilla, and two–two–country singers, Deanna Johnson and Jack Gregori

Team Blake–country singers Corey White, Brenna Yeager, Cody Wickline, Matt Snow, Kelsey May, Brook Adee and (probably) Bev Brooks, bluesy metal shouter Sarah Potenza, folksinger Joshua Davis, Maroon 5 fan Brian Johnson, and R&B singer Jacob Rummell

Team Pharrell–Noel Beebee, folksy Sawyer Fredericks, bluesy Mia Z, bluesy beatboxer Travis Ewing, black woman rock singer Kimberly Nichole, black church singer Bria Joynee, James Brown soundalike Anthony Riley, teenage crooner Lowell Oakley, theme park (likely Disney) entertainer Ashley Morgan,and the country-and-blues blend of Meghan Linsey

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The Voice: Season 8, Auditions Continue, 3/2/15

March 3rd, 2015 · No Comments

The judges (or coaches) keep pushing their buttons, turning their chairs, and filling their teams as The Voice continues its season 8 auditions.  Slots are quickly becoming scarce, while Christina Aguilera faces the prospect of coaching Adam Levine:

1.  Kelsey May, 15, from Kentucky, is nicknamed “Little Loretta” because she sounds so much like Loretta Lynn.  She sings Lynn’s hardcore country hit, “You’re Lookin’ at Country.” All the judges wait for Blake’s reaction.  Despite his interest in throwback country, he waits until well into the song to push his button.  Then, almost at the end, Pharrell and Christina take his cue and join in.  Adam stays out of it. Christina’s pitch is that, like Kelsey, she started young. Pharrell points out that here’s a young singer who knows what she wants to do. Despite the other judges’ pitches, the country singer picks Blake, who then directs his rub-it-in act at Christina.

2.  At 32, Kimberly Nichole is a veteran African-American rock singer from New York. Her nickname is the “Rock Ballerina” for the way she often dresses. She plays on her similarity to Tina Turner by singing “Nutbush City Limits.” Blake turns his chair about halfway through the song, while Pharrell only joins in on the last notes. Pharrell says he feels her combination of soul and blues (and rock) is an unique blend. (At this point some bickering breaks out about her Pharrell-like notes.)  Despite Blake dangling his record of wins, Kimberly picks Pharrell.  Christina declares she wants to steal if she gets a chance. (Her list of potential steals is getting long.) Blake would probably like to steal this singer, too.

3.  Pre-med student Michael Lear used to be in a rock group in his hometown of Fargo, North Dakota. Playing up his vocal resemblance to Eddie Vedder (one of the greatest rock vocalists of all time), he auditions with “Last Kiss.”  (I also hear some punk in his voice–some Billy Idol or Billy Joe Armstrong in there.)  Blake and Adam both want this guy, so let the battle begin!  Adam offers, “Eddie gets imitated a lot but nobody can imitate Eddie–you did your own thing with it.” Blake’s rambling about Eddie and all these remakes, like he’s confusing the singer and the song.  (“Last Kiss” started with Bobby Darin and was revived famously by Pearl Jam.) The grungy Lear picks alt-rock judge Adam, explaining later that’s who he wanted. (BTW Lear’s med-school look doesn’t match his voice, so maybe he could use a rock makeover.  Christina may actually be the best judge for that.)

4.  Bluesy-voiced Travis Ewing describes himself as a “one-man band,” a pro musician.  He can do beatboxing, too.  He auditions with his own arrangement of “Say My Name,” originally by Destiny’s Child. Christina likes him right away. Blake gets into it, too, and Pharrell, on the closing lines.  Christina is taken by, “the silkiness, the texture of your voice–I heard the charm!”  Ewing chooses Pharrell, a popular choice this season. Pharrell says backstage, “He had this interesting pocket but was willing to mix stuff up.” Christina declares she wants to steal this guy, too.

Montage No. 1:  Noel Beebee goes to Team Pharrell, Renee De Barge (of the R&B DeBarge family) and James McNiece to Team Adam. We hope we’ll get to see and hear what these singers can do in the next round.

Christina could coach Adam:  Maybe The Voice decision-makers saw Adam Lambert leave the judging panel and audition during that other TV singing competition recently, because now the other Adam (Levine) gets out of his chair and does a blind audition.  His song choice is “Tiny Dancer,” which he sounds very good on. He gets everyone to turn their chairs–Pharrell even pushes the fourth chair’s button, for a four-chair turn. Levine picks Christina.  In an interview, Blake complains all the auditions were very good except for that Adam Levine guy. (His excuse for turning his chair is, “I just wanted to see the freak.”)

Later, when the judges’ choices are recapped, Adam’s counted as a member of Team Christina, so maybe this is going to be a running gag.

5.  Sonic was formerly signed to a label. (Also part of her backstory:  she’s deaf in her right ear.) Despite her punky stage name and the chain between her nose and one ear, she’s got a diva-like voice–she could be compared to Gloria Estefan or Alicia Keys. She sings two notes and attracts two judges–Christina and Adam.  Christina especially likes the way the singer could shoot the scales, noting, “You were goin’ from top to bottom and that’s really hard to do!”  Sonic does pick Christina. Let’s see if Christina coaches her to adopt a punk-alt style or a pop-diva one–or a combination of the two.

6.  Jacob Rummell is a 17-year-old black youth who was adopted into a white family.  He does a Bruno Mars song–except he sounds more like Ellen DeGeneres. He could be a male soprano, or he could be what’s called a counter-tenor. Adam and Blake turn their chairs, and Blake exclaims, “It’s a guy!”  Adam thinks Jacob sounds like “a young Michael Jackson.” Then the singer picks Blake. The next round will show if this “voice” is anything more than a gimmick.

7.  Barry Minnefield, a 52-year-old R&B singer, is a retired chef from the Improv, a famous comedy club in Los Angeles. His voice fits perfectly with classic Motown–or Philly soul like “Me and Mrs. Jones,” which he picks for his audition.  The judges aren’t interested, however–until Adam pulls a buzzer-beater.  He continues to stock up on black R&B singers.

Montage No. 2:  Nicholette Morrette goes to Adam, Clinton Washington to Christina, and Matt Snow (a country singer in a cowboy hat) to Blake.  There ought to be a rule that if a singer’s part of a montage in the auditions, s/he has to be featured extensively in the next round.

8.  India Carney, 21, a black girl who attends UCLA, shows herself to be a powerhouse—but a subtle one–on a jazzy, bluesy “New York State of Mind.” All four judges turn their chairs for her, and the bickering begins. Christina raves, “You’re a vocal beast!” Pharrell says something about, “You could get stolen,” which has Adam saying she won’t, because, “You’re goin’ to the end of this thing.” When India’s asked who she choses for her coach, she says, “A big part of my childhood, Christina!” Backstage Christina raves on about her new acquisition, saying, “She could sing the phone book!”

If I count the slots right, this season the judges only get fifteen team members, so auditions are already almost over.  Here’s the running tally:

Team Christina–Clinton Washington, promising female pop singers India Carney, Sonic, and Trina Gibson, the soulful Samoan-American Joe Tolo, folksinger Gabriel Wolfchild, R&B vocalist Rob Taylor, and (for a laugh) Adam Levine

Team Adam– James McNiece, Nicholette Morrette, alt-rocker Michael Lear, R&B singers Barry Minnefield, Blaze Johnson, Renee DeBarge, and Tonya Boyd-Cannon, and one lonely country singer, Deanna Johnson.

Team Blake–country singers Cody Wickline, Matt Snow, Kelsey May, and Brook Adee, bluesy metal shouter Sarah Potenza, folksinger Joshua Davis, and R&B singer Jacob Rummell

Team Pharrell–Noel Beebee, folksy Sawyer Fredericks, bluesy Mia Z, bluesy beatboxer Travis Ewing, black woman rock singer Kimberly Nichole, James Brown soundalike Anthony Riley, teenage crooner Lowell Oakley, and the country-and-blues (sounds like rock) vet Meghan Linsey





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Beyond Reality – The Bachelor – Chris Soules – Women Tell All Recap 3/2/15

March 3rd, 2015 · No Comments

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Beyond Reality – Amazing Race – Season 26 – Episode 2 Recap – 2/27/15

February 27th, 2015 · No Comments

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Beyond Reality – American Idol – Season 14 Episode 16 Recap – 2/26/15

February 27th, 2015 · No Comments

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Beyond Reality – American Idol – Season 14 Episode 15 Recap – 2/25/15

February 26th, 2015 · No Comments

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Beyond Reality – Amazing Race – Season 26 – Episode 1 Recap – 2/25/15

February 26th, 2015 · No Comments

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Beyond Reality – Survivor – Worlds Apart – Episode 1 Recap – 2/25/15

February 26th, 2015 · No Comments

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Beyond Reality – Dancing With the Stars Season 20 Cast Discussion

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The Voice: Season 8, 2nd Night of Auditions, 2/24/15

February 25th, 2015 · No Comments

The judges kept picking singers on the second night of season 8 Voice auditions, with Blake rubbing it in every time he beat out Adam, and Adam finally getting to return the favor:

1.  In a season of throwback singers, Anthony Riley does a fine job of channeling James Brown’s vocals on one of Brown’s great R&B standards, “I Got You.” In a moment hyped as the fastest four-chair turn ever, all the judges whip around when they hear that first Brown-like note. Riley tells the judges he loves all genres including country but he’s basically a soul singer.  (That makes sense.) He picks Pharrell, who’s probably his best match. Pharrell says after, “His showmanship was different.  I’ve never seen anything like it on this show.”

2.   Gabriel Wolfchild, an indy folk singer raised by alternate-lifestyle hippie parents, sings Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice” in a dramatic heartfelt voice.  (Folk’s enjoying a resurgence, and as a result TV talent shows are getting folksier than ever.) Adam’s in on the first line. Blake’s in halfway.  Then Christina has to join in and ruin what promised to be a Blake-and-Adam quarrel. “You don’t sing into their ear, you sing into their heart,” Blake observes about the way the singer connects with his audience. Pharrell says he sat out the audition because he figured Wolfchild wouldn’t pick him–only to have the singer say he would have. Since Pharrell isn’t an option, Wolfchild picks the pop-friendly Christina over the country and rock guys.  Maybe she’ll coach him to make his style more mainstream, or maybe one of the guys will get a chance to steal.

3.  Brook Adee, a 16-year-old girl from the South, sings a power ballad. This time Adam and Blake are the only judges interested, so they fight over her while everybody else watches. “You guys remind me of Tom and Jerry [the cartoon characters]!” she tells them.  Blake points out a distinctive pitch–a little break–in her voice. Of course this Southern girl picks Blake.  He’s been egging the crowd to chant his name, and now he gets a chance to gloat some more, at Adam’s expense.

4.  Tonya Boyd-Cannon, a big black middle-aged woman with a shaved head, has an especially compelling backstory.  She’s a Hurricane Katrina survivor, and she coaches a prison choir. She also has a degree in music ed. and a very pretty voice.  She auditions with Pharrell’s “Happy.”  Adam turns on the first verse, Pharrell and Christina join in 58 sec. later (Adam times it). Blake sits this one out.  Christina praises the singer’s vocal versatility.  Adam employs some reverse psychology, saying, “No sense to go for me, so I think you should.” Blake gloats that makes no sense, but it must to Boyd-Cannon, because she picks Adam.  At long last he has a singer to coach. How long she stays with him, that’s another question.

5.  Somehow Joe Tolo seems familiar to me.  There’s nothing about him returning to The Voice, but maybe he got a few seconds of face time on Idol or another TV talent show?  He’s a big Samoan-American guy who flashes back to the sixties with a BeeGees’ power ballad, “Love Somebody” (from long before they went disco). Christina turns her chair very quickly, Blake, near the end. Christina appears to be completely enthralled with his very high notes–although I’m not.  Blake appears to be completely taken by his “amazing” voice, too. Tolo says he prefers soul music, so that may be why he picks the pop-friendly  Christina over Blake.

6.  Mia Z (short for Zanini, I think she said) is 15, is part of a family band, and starts singing B. B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone” in a tiny low voice.  That gets Blake interested. Then she hits big showy high notes, and Pharrell gets interested.  Blake critiques her, “Your lower register has sizzle and then you go into that tone.”  All the judges like her high notes. (Adam says something about, “Dogs around the world going, what?”) I’m not sure how isolated high notes are going to win The Voice, but she says she wants to sing more blues. She picks Pharrell, who can certainly coach her in the blues, and who can’t stop talking about her “bottle rocket” notes. “I’ve never heard that tone!” he raves.

7.  Blaze Johnson, a big black man from the Bahamas, lives with his pastor in Columbus, Ohio, and leads his church choir. Adam turns on the first notes (something he does often), then shorty afterwards Blake pushes his button, making for another much-anticipated Blake-Adam showdown. Blake describes Johnson as, “a big ole Teddy bear.” (He’s indeed a big velvet Teddy like Idol 2 champ Ruben Studdard.) Adam says, “You don’t fit the mold.  That’s why I want you on my team.” Johnson picks Adam, giving him two R&B singers who have similar qualities.

8.  Last audition of the night is Deanna Johnson, now 18, who auditioned for The Voice unsuccessfully in season 5. She’s a rodeo queen and church singer, who sings a country-flavored song in her husky alto. Blake, Christina, and Pharrell push their buttons quickly but Adam waits until almost the end. Then he joins in. Pharrell says he would’ve picked her if he’d been on the show on season 5.  Blake praises her, “There’s nobody in the world to compare you to!” Adam’s pitch is, “My goal is to make you better.”  She must agree because she picks Adam, one of the few times in the show’s history a country singer hasn’t picked Blake. Now it’s Adam’s turn to gloat, and that’s where we leave it until next week.

This evening’s tally:

Adam finally gets not one, not two, but three singers:  country-flavored Deanna Johnson and two big velvet-voiced R&B vocalists, Blaze Johnson and Tonya Boyd-Cannon.

Pharrell:  bluesy teenager Mia Z and James Brown sound-alike Anthony Riley

Christina:  Samoan-American Joe Tolo and folksinger Gabriel Wolfchild

Blake:  Southern girl Brook Adee

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