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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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The Voice: Season 11, More Battles, 10/17/16

October 18th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

We’re starting to see who the front-runners of The Voice are this season, but we’re also beginning to wonder why the judges pair, keep and steal the people they do. Do they really just make their decisions while the cameras roll, or is there some behind-the-scenes strategy in play?

1.  Team Adam, Johnny Rez vs. Nolan Neal, which Adam says is a pairing of his two rock ‘n’ rollers, although he also says Johnny’s more a pop singer. He gives them Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer” because he says it’s goofy and funny. Which will Adam keep, the youthful Johnny or the more mature and experienced Nolan? After the performance Blake comments it was a very evenly matched battle but he’d go with Johnny. Miley agrees but Alicia says she’d pick Nolan. Adam, saying he’s going to keep who he feels most connected to, picks Nolan. He thinks he’s one of the best singers in the whole competition. Nobody steals Johnny, even though I thought he might have a better chance of attracting votes.

2.  Team Miley, Darby Roberts vs. Karlee Metzer–two very young indy pop artists. Miley assigns the women a Melanie hit from the seventies, “Brand New Key,” which features super-high singing. Celebrity guest adviser Joan Jett counsels lower harmonies to balance out the highs. After the performance, the other judges suggest Karlee shows more range and versatility, but Miley picks Darby. She says that’s the person she’d love to continue to coach. Blake promptly steals Karlee, saying, “There is some country in there.” Miley says she knew Karlee wasn’t going home. So why’d she let her go to Team Blake?  Maybe so she can steal her back next round?

3. Team Blake, Josh Gallagher vs. Blaine Long, two more guys from Blake’s big collection of country guys. He assigns them “Stranger in the House.” It’s a Ronnie Milsap song, nothing like a song of the same name by Elvis Costello. Blake says he wants them to not just sing, but put themselves in the position of the song, “this guy who’s been betrayed.” The battle shows Long has a more of a blues-rock voice, while Gallagher’s tone is smokier, more haunting. Miley comments afterward, “We’re not allowed to call ties on this show but it was a tie … but Josh should stay in this competition.” Adam adds he’s got the feeling there’s more to be discovered with Josh. Blake says it breaks his heart but the winner is Josh, “I feel like he pushed himself to the edge.” Nobody steals Blaine.

Montage–how can we keep up with the talent cuts amid the editing cuts? At least we know there are no steals, or NBC would probably show us the entire performance.

Team Blake:  Dana Harper vs. Tarra Layne, and Blake keeps Dana.

Team Alicia:  Belle Jewel vs. Halle Thomlinson on “Bennie and the Jets,” and Alicia keeps Belle.

Team Adam:  Simone Gundy vs. J Soul, and Adam keeps Simone.

4.  Team Alicia, Kylie Rothfield vs. Josh Halverson, pitting a Berklee grad against a Texas cowboy. Turns out Kylie was classmates with celebrity guest advisor Charlie Puth–he went to Berklee, too. Alicia says the singers have different styles (he’s raspy, she’s pure) but they both play guitar, and she thinks she’s found the right match for both their styles–the classic “House of the Rising Sun.” Charlie thinks their unison singing is great, with one going low and the other high, and is haunting. Miley describes the resulting performance as, “two separate performances [but] Kylie got to show more range.” Blake and Adam think Halverson’s got a future acting in Westerns. It’s no surprise Alicia keeps Kiley–but Miley steals Josh. He can put off acting in Westerns until the knock-out rounds, at least.

5.  Team Blake, Gabe Broussard vs. Christian Fermin, which Blake calls matching up his two young gun power singers. Broussard’s only 15 and has some musical resemblance to Season 8 winner Sawyer Fredericks. It’s the first time we’re seeing Fermin, a Filipino-American from Orange County, who has a voice well suited for smooth contemporary pop with a little urban or hip-hop mixed in. Blake selects “The Reason,” an alt hit from twelve years ago, that would appear to be more suited to Fermin’s pop than Broussard’s Cajun-flavored country. Blake’s apparently impressed by both singers, however, because he tells the other judges, “I literally need help from you guys.” The consensus is for Gabe, with Adam saying, “the age and voice being such an interesting combination.” Blake keeps his teenage country guy.  Nobody steals Christian, and when he leaves, he takes some of this season’s diversity with him.

6.  Team Miley, SaRayah vs. Aaron Gibson, and SaRayah’s big diva voice blows Gibson’s soft subtle one off the stage. However, Miley keeps Aaron, saying she feels that’s the person she can coach. (Maybe SaRayah makes her feel out of her league.) Blake wants to steal SaRayah and so does Alicia. SaRayah joins Team Alicia, probably breaking Blake’s heart. However, now Alicia has used her steals–and Blake’s still got one.

Adam’s used his steals. Alicia’s used hers, and Miley’s used hers. I think we’re down to the final three battles tonight, and one of the cuts is going to make Team Blake.


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The Voice: Season 11, Three Battles Plus Montage, 10/11/16

October 12th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

The judges (or coaches) of The Voice Season 11 are continuing the battle rounds, cutting their teams by half but at the same time stealing contestants from other teams. Six battles were squeezed into an hour Tuesday–three were extensively featured, the others were compressed into a what-was-that montage:

1.  Team Miley, Sophia Urista vs. Lane Mack, which is an odd pairing because she’s a New York rock singer (who also sings in a show) and he’s Southern Cajun swamp-blues. Miley putting them together is–well, Miley. It’s especially strange considering her song selection, because she goes to classic rock and Pink Floyd’s “Money,” which doesn’t really fit either singer’s style. She should’ve picked something more obviously bluesy–some classic Elvis or Memphis soul, maybe. On the performance, Blake comments he’d pick Lane, while Alicia says she’d pick Sophia. Miley picks Sophia, explaining, “on the basis of who I’d want to be a guide for.” Nobody steals Lane, maybe because he was a one-chair turn, and I’m a little sorry to see him go, because I was looking forward to him adding some more Cajun flavor to the season.

2.  Team Blake, Ethan Tucker vs. Courtney Harrell, who represent different genres of urban/ethnic music. Blake assigns them “Gravity,” because, he says, “This song lands in the middle of who they are.” I’m not sure I see “the middle of who they are” in a John Mayer ballad–I’d have assigned them some reggae or Motown. However, they turn the song into a blue-note cruise, starting tender and ending big. Blake’s rival judges all say they can’t decide which singer is the one to keep. Blake can’t decide, either, but he finally keeps Courtney, possibly because she’s more likely to win audience votes with her R&B-pop style. Ethan, with a more eclectic style, walks.

3.  A montage of three battles that go by so fast, it’s hard to catch who’s dueting with whom, let alone who’s being kept and who’s not.  I had to go to the NBC site to figure out the score. I know this much, there were no steals:

(A) Team Adam, Elia Esparza vs. Ponciano Seoane (they’re both Texans), Adam keeps Seoane.

(B) Team Miley, Josette Diaz vs. Charity Bowden, who gets cut (and Bowden got about one second of face time during the auditions, too).

(C)  Team Miley again, Southern-goth veteran Maye Thomas vs. young lesbian Apache Kalia Kimberly, who gets cut.

4.  Team Alicia, Michael Sanchez vs. Dave Mosian, which makes a brilliant match-up between Alicia’s two geeky keyboardists with glasses. Her celebrity guest advisor, Charlie Puth, says Dave reminds him of John Mayer and Michael reminds him of Randy Newman. I’m not sure whether Charlie or Alicia first got the idea to have the contestants take turns at the keyboards while singing–I think it was a group decision. The assignment is an obscure song–“Valerie” from the British group Zutons back in ’06. The duet makes it a mix of white soul and progressive jazz. Miley raves how it’s a “real” performance. Alicia says, “I already loved what you done” [Dave] but she thinks the big surprise is Michael. She keeps Sanchez, who was a one-chair turn. That leaves Maroon 5 fan Dave Mosian, who was a four-chair turn, available for a steal. Adam wants to steal him. Blake eggs Miley to compete (keep Mosian away from Adam, that is) but Miley stays out of it. Adam gets his Maroon 5 fan.

We still have a large number of battles to go, so tune in next Monday for two more hours of battling contestants and bickering judges.



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The Voice: Season 11, Battle Rounds Begin, 10/10/16

October 11th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Cutting the coaches’ (judges’) Season 11 teams began Monday night on The Voice, with the first battle rounds. Following the customary format, the four judges pair their contestants for duets, then cut the contestant they judge less likely to win. Each judge also gets two “steals” to keep a contestant someone else has cut.

As customary each team also has brought in a celebrity guest advisor, which often makes for unconventional meetings of musical minds. This season Team Blake is working with Bette Midler, Team Adam with Sammy Hagar, Team Miley with Joan Jett, and Team Alicia with 25-year-old Charlie Puth. (Alicia says that while others brought in veterans, she “brought the fresh meat.”)

So here are the battles, cuts and steals of Monday night:

1.  Team Alicia, Christian Cuevas vs. Jason Warrior sing the Adele song, “Hello.” Alicia says she matched them because they both have “powerful, soulful big voices.” She advises them to tell their stories through the music. Christian plainly has the bigger voice (almost operatic) and Alicia keeps Christian. Anybody want an R&B male vocalist?  Adam does! He reminds Jason he wanted him on his team at the audition. Jason finds a new home on Team Adam.

2.  Team Adam, Natasha Bure vs. Riley Elmore, matches up two teen idol types. Adam assigns them Michael Buble’s “Cry Me a River.” Riley’s the 16-year-old with the mature-sounding Sinatra-like voice. Sammy Hagar advises Natasha on how to improve her pitch–so it looks like she’s plainly the weaker singer. After the battle (the duet), Adam keeps Riley, saying, “You’d be the one voice we could all recognize immediately.” Nobody steals Natasha.

3.  Team Miley, Ali Caldwell vs. Courtnie Rameriz in a battle of big-voiced girls. Miley digs up an Odetta song, “Hit or Miss” for them. When Blake comments on the performance with, “Ali, hard to believe you won’t be around ’til the end,” he’s making a good call. Miley keeps Ali (she’d be crazy not to) but inexplicably Blake and Alicia start a steal war over Courtnie. Alicia wanted Courtnie to begin with, so she gets a new home on Team Alicia, but I’d say there are far better singers still on the board.

4.  Team Blake, Dan Schafer vs. Sundance Head, speaking of better singers. Two country-flavored guys, either of whom could go deep in this season, meet in a battle where the weapons are experience and country soul. Blake assigns them some classic Bad Company rock, “Feel Like Makin’ Love” and the result showcases two different vocal styles playing off each other. Alicia comments, “You both did a wonderful job.” Adam likes the way the 56-year-old Shafer rocked:  “Like, look here, Junior! I was partyin’ with Bad Company when you were in diapers!” Which singer will Blake keep?  He keeps Sundance Head, explaining afterward, “It’s just undeniable. His vocal ability is shocking.” Anybody want a country singer?  In one of the more inexplicable actions so far this season, everybody lets Shafer walk. 

5.  Team Adam, Andrew De Muro vs. Billy Gilman is an inexplicable match-up of two of Adam’s biggest guns. Sammy Hagar notes they’re two of the most talented singers on the show and either could win. So what was Adam thinking? When the contestants battle on “Man in the Mirror,” however, Gilman, the former child star on a comeback, outshines De Muro, who’s too much a Billy Joel imitator. Blake says, though, “I don’t know I’ve ever seen a more perfectly matched battle.” Adam keeps Gilman, and nobody steals De Muro, despite his promise.

6.  Team Alicia, Lauren Diaz vs. We McDonald, whose first name is pronounced “Way.” Diaz is influenced by Alicia, and We is the girl with the squeaky speaking voice and big bluesy alto. The two young women are asked to sing the blues–Janis Joplin’s big bluesy “Maybe,” to be exact. Miley thinks McDonald gave the better performance, “You wailed and showed us what you had without taking away from the lyrics.” Adam, though, thinks it was close, he likes how their notes were “climbin’ over the top of each other.” Alicia keeps McDonald but Miley steals Diaz.

Tune in Tuesday night for another hour of battles.


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The Voice: Season 11, Teams Fill Up, 10/3/16

October 4th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Is it just me or did teams on The Voice fill up super-fast this season? Given the number of slots available and the show’s usual pacing, I expected auditions to last through this week. Instead, thanks in part to a major montage, the four superstar judges (actually coaches but we know what they do) completed their teams of twelve on Monday:

1.  Two cute-voiced black sisters, Whitney and Shannon, are (says host Carson Daly) this season’s only duo. They say they sing pop but they want to be on Blake’s team. For their audition, they do sing “Landslide” in a country-flavored style. Maybe because they sound a little breathy, the judges don’t respond until the audition’s nearly over. Then three judges (Blake, Adam, Miley) turn almost at the same time. Alicia joins in on the final line, so it’s a four-chair turn. Blake thinks they sound country and Adam thinks they have beautiful harmonies–but they pick Alicia.

2.  Johnny Rez is from the the South and he’s recovering from drug dependency. His nasal singing may make the judges reluctant–but Blake and Adam turn after a falsetto note in the final line or two. Adam says he’s the person to help strengthen a falsetto. Turns out Johnny loves country but he’s a Maroon 5 fan–so he picks Adam.

3.  Maye Thomas lives in Nashville but her style is more “indy-pop,” as she calls it, and her look is punk/goth. She sounds a little like Lorde, a little like Miley Cyrus. Her audition attracts Adam and Miley, who calls her “the Gothic Dolly Parton” and later says, “She’s a little bit punky.” Maye picks Miley. 

 4.  Courtney Harrell is a black woman in her thirties who’s looking to resume her career now that her son is in college. She has been a music teacher, sung back-up for John Legend, and written songs for Mary J. Blige and others. She sounds a little like Mary J. Blige, but a little like Alicia Keys, too. (I’m looking forward to hearing her do one of those singers’ hits.) Blake and Alicia both turn their chairs for her. Despite appearing to be a natural fit for Team Alicia, she picks Blake. If Blake lets her go, I predict Alicia will consider stealing her.

A montage of about four (?) contestants:  J Soul (a white guy) to Team Adam, Belle Jewell to Team Alicia, Tarra Layne (country singer, probably) to Team Blake, and Charity Bowden (another country singer, I think) to Team Miley. Did I miss anybody? I guess not!

5.  At this point only five slots are left. The judges are getting particular, but some of their last choices may be potential battle-round discards. One that may at least get to the knockouts is Kylie Rothfield, who sings “Wherever I go,” a One Republic song. I’d like to hear her do music from the eighties or nineties, because she’s got a quirky throwback voice. She’s a former Berklee (east coast) student who’s making a comeback from a vocal hemorrhage. Alicia and Blake push their buttons on the last line, and Kylie picks Alicia. That makes Alicia’s team full!

6.  Natasha Bure has star parents. Her mother is actress Candace Cameron and her father, Val Bure, is a famous hockey player. She tries to sing “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” but her squeaky little voice slaughters it. Three judges wisely pass but for some reason Adam puts her on his team, babbling about how she’s “something special.” (She’s “something special,” alright!) It’s a one-chair turn and now Adam is down to his final slot.

7.  Blaine Long breaks from the pack this season–instead of a soft aspirate voice, he’s bluesy. He’s in his thirties and supports his family with a combination of playing music and working minimum-wage jobs. Nashville insiders Blake and Miley push their buttons for him fairly quickly, while Adam takes his time, but eventually all three judges searching for one last team member start arguing over him. Miley pitches her own guitar-playing and songwriting. Blake says he’d like to match the singer with John Prine and John Hiatt songs–and I hope he does. Long picks Blake, and Team Blake is full!

8.  Ponciano Seone (did I get his name right?) is a Cuban-American from San Antonio, TX. He sings Phil Phillips’ “Home” and attracts Adam on his first line, Miley on his second. He picks Adam, who calls his voice “distinctively different, pure and sharp.” Team Adam is now full!

9.  Miley’s the last judge left who can put anyone on her team. She recruits Josette Diaz, a teenager from the Dominican Republic. Diaz sings “Love Yourself” in a pretty voice, but Miley only makes her decision on the song’s last line. Team Miley is now full, and the Season 11 auditions are over!  Now it’s on to the battle rounds, where about half of the singers will be cut, and eight will change teams.

Going into the Battle Rounds

Team Adam:  R&B vocalist Simone Gundy, squeaky-voiced Natasha Bure, former boy soprano Billy Gilman, Sinatra fan Riley Elmore, Billy Joel fan Andrew DeMuro, Maroon 5 fan Johnny Rez, WGWG Brendan Fletcher, Nashville singer Nolan Neal, gospel-flavored Bindy Liebowitz, Texan balladeer Ponciano Seone Selena fan Elia Esparza and unknown quality J Soul.

Team Blake:  various flavors of country in Josh Gallagher, Blaine Long, Sundance Head, Gabe Broussard, and Dan Harper, second-gen TX rocker Austin Allsup, reggae-flavored Ethan Tucker, alto Dana Harper, R&B singer Courtney Harrell, and unknown qualities Christian Fermin, Tarra Layne, and Preston James.

Team Alicia:  sister act Whitney and Shannon, alto We McDonald, Alicia Keys fans Lauren Diaz and Halle Tomlinson, gospel-flavored Jason Warrior, country rocker Josh Halverson, Broadway actor Gabriel Violett, Maroon 5 fan Dave Mosian,Puerto Rican singer Christian Cuevas, former Berklee student Kylie Rothfield, soulful piano man Michael Sanchez, and unknown quality Belle Jewell.

Team Miley:  R&B vocalists Ali Caudwell and Sarayah, Alicia Keys fan Darby Walker, female rockers Sophia Urista and Maye Thomas, teen vocalists Josette Diaz, Khaliya Kimberlie and Courtnie Rameriz, You Tube face Carly Metzer, Cajun singer Lane Mack, WGWG Aaron Gibson and unknown quality Charity Bowden.

Battle-round Steal Predictions

If Alicia lets Dave Mosian go, he’ll likely be stolen by one of the other three. If she lets Christian Cuevas go, somebody else (Adam?) may grab him, too. If Blake lets Courtney Harrell, Ethan Tucker, Sundance Head, or Josh Gallagher go, Alicia or Adam may grab ’em. Miley may want Nolan Neal if Adam doesn’t. Alicia may want Darby Ann Walker if Miley doesn’t.

Update:  Tuesday night broadcast is a recap of the blind auditions. 

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The Voice: Season 11, 4th Night of Auditions, 9/27/16

September 28th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Teams didn’t fill up on The Voice Tuesday night, even though fourteen people auditioned and twelve got on a team. Next week brings the final two nights of auditions, but this line-up of judges is producing some unexpected choices and–very–fresh bickering:

1.  Aaron Gibson fits the white-guy-with-guitar stereotype, and he sings a stripped-down “Losin’ My Religion” in a deep gravelly voice. Alicia and Miley must like that voice, because they turn about halfway through the audition. Then Blake joins the bidding at the last minute. As for Adam, he says, “I’m jealous of your voice,” and I understand, because it’s the opposite of Maroon 5’s vocalist. Alicia hardly gets to say anything while Blake and Miley argue. She’s dominating the debate, saying things like, “For a chick, I’ve got a gravelly voice, too,” and Blake’s asking her, “When do you breathe?” Gipson picks Miley. Blake suggests, “He picked you so you’d shut up!”

2.  Simone Gundy is a black woman from Arlington, TX, but she’s done musicals in Houston. She provides a splendid example of classic old-school R&B with her rendition of “I Who Have Nothing.” She gets Adam and Miley’s attention right away. When the song’s over, they both run up and hug her. The audience is pulling for Adam, and even Blake–in his bickering bro-mantic way–is pulling for Adam (probably to keep Gundy away from Miley). Plus Gundy’s ten-year-old son wanted her to pick Adam. So she does pick Adam, giving him an R&B singer.

3.  Unsuccessful audition–Samantha Landrum, a Mississippi ingenue, if that term may be applied to a singer.

4.  Blake wants a real hard country singer but so does Alicia.  Josh Gallagher is a country singer from Nashville. He looks like a pirate (big guy with a dark beard) but he’s got a soft Southern voice. (This season’s shaping up to be a season of soft, breathy voices.) Blake actually turns around before the final line, but then Alicia turns on the last line. I’m not overly impressed but Alicia and Blake argue hard for him. Alicia says, “Country, the blues and soul are all brothers.” Blake says, “I want to help this next generation of country singers.” Gallagher picks Blake. (Cheer up, Alicia, maybe you can steal him because I predict he’ll be an early cut.)

5.  Gabriel Violett was on Broadway in the musical Spring’s Awakening but now he’s reduced to modeling adult “one-sies” while trying to transition to popular singing. Despite his Broadway experience, he has a soft voice. (Alicia calls it a “beautiful warm low voice.”) Alicia pushes her button and turns her chair right away. Just when it looks like this is going to be a one-chair turn, Blake pulls one of his buzzer-beaters. Blake needn’t have bothered, however, because Gabe picks Alicia.

6.  Piano man Michael Sanchez looks the part–like a member of the Rat Pack back in ’62 or so–but he’s got a low soulful bluesy voice. (He’s white–or Hispanic, if you prefer–but he sounds black, singing Bill Withers’ “Use Me.”) This is a one-chair turn, because the judges sit idle until Alicia pulls a buzzer beater. They’re all astonished by who they see. Miley says, “I thought there was a big beard waiting.”

7.  Darby Ann Walker is a young blonde with a big black Western-style hat, and she’s an Alicia fan. (There are a plethora of Alicia fans this season.) She’s got a soft delicate chirpy voice, and says she wants to be an “indy” artist. (“Indy” used to mean “independent,” as from a record label, but now it’s a genre.) Miley and Alicia turn around for her, but so does Blake. Miley comments how she and Walker both have a shaky vibrato (a little like Dolly Parton) and somehow that turns into them singing “Jolene” together. Does this mean she’s headed for Team Miley? But she’s an Alicia fan–so she sings “No One” with Alicia, too. (The judges have been playing around with Blake’s “I’ll be your Honey Bee” song all evening, but Darby doesn’t sing “I’ll be Your Honey Bee” with Blake. At least, nothing that made the edit.) Walker finally does pick Miley because, “Our voices have a lot in common.”

8.  Austin Allsup is a son of rock history. His father, Tommy Allsup, played back-up for Buddy Holly and was not on the fatal plane flight of Feb. 3, 1959, only because he lost a coin flip for the last seat to Richie Valens. Austin sings “Wild Horses” for his audition but in a way that sounds more like the Eagles than the Stones. Blake pushes his button about three-quarters of the way, and it’s a one-chair turn. Not only that, Blake and the Allsups have a little history themselves. They met at a show several years ago, and Blake played around with his “Austin, I Love You” hit by bro-mancing and kissing young Austin. Adam listens to this story and says, “Sometimes you don’t turn around and don’t know why, and this is why!”

9. and 10. Montage:  two male vocalists, Christian Fermin and Preston James, go to Team Blake.

11.  Khaliya Kimberlie has an unconventional backstory. She’s part Mescalero Apache and lives with her parents on the reservation in New Mexico. She’s also gay, but not boyish, and she’s only 16. She sings country, leading Miley and Blake to push their buttons at almost the same time. Miley likes her low tones, and Blake and Miley argue, but Khaliya picks Miley.

12.  Unsuccessful audition–the guy tried for a Southern-fried “I Would Walk 500 Miles” and the judges weren’t impressed.

13.  Halle Tomlinson is one more Alicia fan auditioning this season. She was once one of the children on the Barney show, now she works at the School of Rock. (Remember Dalton Rappatoni, the Season 15 American Idol third-place finisher? He was a School of Rock employee, too. I wonder if they know each other.) She brings a soft subtle quality to “New York State of Mind” that attracts Alicia and Blake right away. Adam, who sits this one out, comments, “A different approach to the song, but also some things to work on.” Alicia likes Halle’s “unique style” and Halle does pick her.

14. I don’t remember returning contestant Nolan Neal from Season 10 but the judges do. Miley mentioned earlier she expected contestant Sanchez to have a big dark beard, now here’s a guy who does have one. He sings a stripped-down “Tiny Dancer” and he’s got a big pretty voice that at times approaches Elton John’s tones. He attracts Blake and Adam on the “Dancin’ in the sand” line, Miley on “Softly, slowly,” and Alicia on “Count the headlights.” All four judges love him. Adam proclaims, “You’re going to be the first guy who went home last season and won this season.” Miley compares his singing to her father (Billy Ray Cyrus). Alicia comments on his classic sound, and Blake (like Adam) proclaims, “You’re gonna win this thing!” Nolan’s from Nashville so he’s picking Blake or Miley, right? He picks Adam! Obviously he’s going to be on the others’ “steal” lists should Adam fall out of love with him. Adam babbles, “He’s so improved, his high register is ridiculous. I can’t wait to unleash that beast!”

The judges are apparently looking for teams of twelve this season. So far the talent line-up looks like this:

Team Adam:  R&B vocalist Simone Gundy, former boy soprano Billy Gilman, Sinatra fan Riley Elmore, Billy Joel fan Andrew DeMuro, WGWG Brendan Fletcher, Nashville singer Nolan Neal, gospel-flavored Bindy Liebowitz, and Selena fan Elia Esparza.

Team Blake:  various flavors of country in Josh Gallagher, Sundance Head, Gabe Broussard, and Dan Harper, second-gen TX rocker Austin Allsup, reggae-flavored Ethan Tucker, alto Dana Harper, and unknown qualities Christian Fermin and Preston James.

Team Alicia:  alto We McDonald, Alicia Keys fans Lauren Diaz and Halle Tomlinson, gospel-flavored Jason Warrior, country rocker Josh Halverson, Broadway actor Gabriel Violett, Maroon 5 fan Dave Mosian, Puerto Rican singer Christian Cuevas, and soulful piano man Michael Sanchez.

Team Miley:  R&B vocalists Ali Caudwell and Sarayah, Alicia Keys fan Darby Walker, female rocker Sophia Urista, teen vocalists Khaliya Kimberlie and Courtnie Rameriz, You Tube face Carly Metzer, Cajun singer Lane Mack, and WGWG Aaron Gibson.

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The Voice: Season 11, 3rd Night of Auditions, 9/26/16

September 27th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Because of the Hillary and Donald show, aka the presidential candidates’ debate, The Voice flipped its schedule this week. The hour-long show was Monday, and the two-hour show is Tuesday. We saw six singers and five made teams:

1.  Bindy Liebowitz is a girl whose name says Jewish, but some people may wonder if her ethnic background includes an African or Hispanic heritage. She sings in school and gospel choirs and she has a choir singer’s voice. She attracts Adam early and Blake towards the end. She picks Adam because she says he combines different genres.

2.  Elia Esparza, from El Paso, talks about her Mexican heritage, her experience in school theater and choir, and how she’s now in New York and working as a children’s party entertainer. She sings a Selena song (“Como La Flor”) in Spanish, in a soft whispery voice. Adam bites quickly. Blake and Miley turn around very late. The guys may have some trouble with her Spanish name, but Miley gets it right. That may be a point in Miley’s favor but Elia picks Adam, the first judge who wanted her.

3. Lane Mack has a Cajun-Zydeco background, but he sings the blues for his audition. Miley’s the only judge he interests. She says it’s because she heard a resemblance to Jeff Buckley. It’s a one-chair turn so he’s on Team Miley.

4.  Carly Metzer is a business major but she posts her singing on You Tube. She starts out as just another little whisper of a voice, but she shows some range and texture as the song progresses. Miley and Blake both push their buttons and turn around for her. Blake offers some criticism, “A couple of the falsetto notes got away from you.” Miley notices some flaws, too, with, “I could work with you to get to those tricks” of vocal bending. One of the family members says Carly loves Blake. However, she picks Miley instead.

5.  Tonight’s promotion teases a shocking choice of judges. That most likely means a country singer doesn’t pick Blake. Josh Halverson has a hat and guitar and wavy black hair. He’s from a ranch in Texas. He sings the Bob Dylan song, “Forever Young.” He’s not the Nashville sound type of country but he’s twangy and rootsy. At first the judges act like they’re not interested–but at the last line, Miley, Alicia, and Blake bid. We see our favorite man-crush couple show up for the first time this season–because even Adam’s saying, “Blake will be an amazing coach for you.” Except Halverson picks Alicia. He says, “She’s been a major influence.” Funny, I couldn’t hear it. Put this guy on the “steal” list should Alicia cut him.

Running tally: since Blake got nobody this evening, we’ll wait ’til after Tuesday’s show, when some teams are likely to be completely full.


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The Voice: Season 11, Auditions, Night 2, 9/20/16

September 21st, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

How long are will the auditions last this Voice season? How large is each team?  Whatever the answer, the teams are filling up, and the battle rounds will be here shortly. After that–if the format holds–will come the knockouts, judge cuts (maybe with wild cards), and finally the voting rounds. Wednesday night introduced some contestants that have a good chance of being around when the voting begins. From here to the battle rounds, we’ll see Blake, Adam, Miley, and Alicia all continue to bicker and wisecrack as they push their buttons for the talent they want:

1.  Sareyah, a young black mother with a big church-gospel voice, impresses Alicia and Miley. Adam and Blake sit this one out, but Adam tells the contestant, “I felt like I was in church” (and he’s Jewish). Sarayah picks Miley, even though she seemed like a match for Alicia.

2.  Ethan Tucker (black guy, plays guitar but not at this audition) sings “Roxanne” with more reggae than the Police’s arrangement. Adam pulls a buzzer-beater but so does Blake. (One of these days Blake’ll mis-time his buzzer-beater and miss out). Adam says, “You made a reggae-infused rock song more reggae.” You’d think Adam would make the most logical choice for a coach, but Blake starts talking about how he’s got connections to reggae. (People are guessing his primary connection has the initials G. S.) Maybe the reggae connection makes Tucker pick Blake, or maybe it’s because they both play guitar.

3.  We (pronounced “Way”) is young, black, and has an alto deeper than Michael Jackson’s tenor. Miley wants her, but so do the other three judges. It’s a four-chair turn. She picks Alicia. (Another notable alto this season, Dana Harper, is on Team Blake.)

4.  Andrew DeMuro is a Billy Joel fan, he sings a Billy Joel song (“Vienna”) and he sounds like Billy Joel, too. Adam likes Billy Joel, so he pushes his button. Then Blake pulls his usual buzzer-beater. (Blake, don’t let others know you’re interested so soon.) Adam and Blake bicker back and forth, but Billy Joel fan matches with Billy Joel fan, and Andrew matches up with Adam.

5.  Last season former child star Alisan “Curly Sue” Porter was the winner. Could this season see Billy Gilman, another former child star, win, too? Back before 9/11 became a day that would live in infamy, Gilman was the ranking boy soprano in country–actually, in the country. Eventually, his voice changed, his star faded, and he began to publicly identify as gay. Now he’s making a comeback. He sings an Adele song and attracts a four-chair turn. He says he wants to make a new career in pop instead of country–so maybe that explains why he picks Adam instead of the Nashville connections that come with Blake or Miley (despite her pointing out she had to go through the transition from child star, too).

6.  Sophia Urista is a singer with a New York burlesque show. At 31, she’s one of the more mature contestants. She rocks to the Beatles’ “Come Together.” The judges all have to think a little, but Miley and Alicia turn almost at the end. Alicia says, “You sound like Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, combined!” (well maybe not that legendary). Miley calls Urista a “rock ‘n’ roll Dolly Parton” complete with vibrato. This makes for a bit of a set-up, because Sophia is Dolly’s goddaughter. She picks Miley.

7. Brendan Fletcher is what American Idol fans used to label a WGWG (white guy with guitar). He’s been in about twelve bands, been a singer-songwriter, a solo artist, but needs that break. His smokey voice attracts Adam, Alicia and Miley. Adam says he wants somebody who can connect with an audience. Even though Alicia tries hard, he picks Adam. Alicia may have this singer on her steal list.

8.  Dan Shafer, 56, is in a cover band but has been taking many years away from music to support his family. He sings a Train song–but his style more closely resembles the Eagles. It looks like the judges aren’t interested–until Blake turns on the last line. It’s a one-chair turn, so he’s on Team Blake.

9.  So far this season we’ve seen Adam duet with a Sinatra fan, recruit a fellow Billy Joel fan, and lose a Maroon 5 fan to Alicia. Now we see Lauren Diaz, an Alicia Keys fan. She sings an Alicia Keys song and sounds gravelly like Alicia, too. Alicia likes what she hears–but so do Miley and Blake. It’s a three-chair turn but a foregone conclusion. Alicia hugs her, duets with her, and she picks Alicia. Miley and Blake may be looking for a chance to steal–but it’s not likely Alicia’s going to let this one go.

The teams so far:

Adam:  Riley Elmore, Billy Gilman, Brendan Fletcher, Andrew DeMuro

Blake:  Sundance Head, Dana Harper, Dan Shafer, Ethan Tucker, Gabe Broussard

Alicia:  Jason Warrior, Lauren Diaz, We McDonald, Christian Cuevos, Dave Moisan

Miley:  Sophia Urista, Sareyah, Courtnie Ramirez, Ali Caldwell



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The Voice: Season 11 Premiere, 9/19/16

September 20th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

As in every season on The Voice, the four judges (officially coaches but they judge, too) rep the four major recording-industry genres:  for Season 11, it’s Miley Cyrus for pop and Alicia Keys for R&B, joining Adam Levine the rocker and Blake Sheldon the country guy. However, given that Adam’s a soulful rocker and Miley’s got considerable country twang, this season’s panel is more like half-soulful and half-twang.

Auditions are underway as of Monday night and, as always, the judges only push their buttons and turn their chairs around once they hear a voice they want on their team. If more than one judge wants a contestant, that’s when the fun begins. Eleven people auditioned on the premiere, and these nine made teams:

1.  Jason Warrior, 21, a young black man from a rough Chicago neighborhood, sings “Livin’ for the City.” The judges at first appear unimpressed, until Adam likes some high notes and turns. (In a new feature, the judge’s name lights up on the stage floor, so it’s easy to keep track of who’s interested.) On the next run of high notes, Alicia turns. Adam basically talks himself out of the running, spending much time saying the singer’s going to want Alicia, and Alicia gets her first team member.

2. Dave Mosien, a clean-cut glasses-wearing Maroon 5 fan (he’s met Adam Levine backstage at a concert), sings “Sex and Candy” in a jazz-style falsetto. Of course Adam likes him. Unfortunately for Adam, so do Miley, Alicia, and Blake. I don’t find the singer all that impressive, but Adam says, “A falsetto is hard but [you’re] perfectly on key.” The girls sell hard (Miley gets flirty, too) and Mosien confounds expectations by choosing Alicia over the guy he’s a fan of. This may come to a steal, should Alicia’s coaching falter.

3. Courtnie Rameriz, a 17-year-old girl from Texas, has received vocal training from her church camp–but her delivery’s more like an old-fashioned red hot mama than a church type. This choice is between the girls because Miley turns about half-way through the song, Alicia right after her, and the boys stay out. Miley says she likes Ramirez’ swagger and rocker vibe. The girls sell hard again but Rameriz picks Miley, who probably is the best match for her.

4.  Sundance Head (that’s his name), a 37-year-old Texas cowboy, is headed for Team Blake, right? He does muddle the issue a little with his soulful song selection, Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long” from the sixties. (Alicia asks afterward, “Where’d you learn to sing like that?” and he answers, “From you!”) Adam and Blake turn right away. The girls stay out, so–guy fight!  Blake compares Head to Travis Tritt and mentions Southern rock. He chooses Blake without hesitation–but watch for a possible steal.

5.  Adam says he’s looking for a singer that blows the doors off. Next audition, Ali Cauldwell fits the description. Adam wants her but so do Blake, Miley, and Alicia. They all sell hard, but we start to see a pattern developing–it’s not just Adam vs. Blake anymore, it’s Adam vs. the other three.   Ali picks Miley, so the girls are already cleaning up! Will the guys be stuck with their leftovers?

6.  After seeing Sal Valentinetti be such a major part of America’s Got Talent over the summer, we now see another throwback Sinatra-like crooner: Riley Elmore. His vocal resemblance to Sinatra, in fact, may be a hindrance–he may be more Sinatra impersonator than pop star.  Adam turns, but so does Blake. Adam goes so far as to do some coaching before Elmore makes his choice. They duet the Sinatra standard, “The Way You Look Tonight.” Some singers might dump Adam and run to Blake anyway, but Riley stays with Adam.

7.  Dana Harper, a black alto from Texas (and the daughter of basketball player Derek Harper), sings Nick Jonas’ “Jealous.” Her voice and song selection make it difficult for the judges to tell whether it’s a “he” or a “she”singing. Blake and Alicia turn their chairs about halfway through the audition but then Adam pulls a buzzer-beater. It’s a three-chair turn. Somewhat surprisingly, she picks Blake. 

8.  Gabe Broussard is only fifteen but looks, sounds, and acts very mature, very blues-influenced. He’s been to rock camp and has a rock band. He says he’s influenced by Bayou-soul man Marc Broussard (no relation). Gabe gets Blake’s attention right away, and Blake hollers, “No, Miley, no!” when she’s about to push her button. She does anyway. Adam doesn’t signal any interest, but he comments after the audition, “Your face is so sweet and your voice sounds like you’re up to no good.” Blake says, “You sound like such a stud!” Gabe picks Blake.

9.  Christian Cuervos, son of the late Puerto Rican singer Jose Cuervos, is a big guy with a big tenor. Blake and Adam push their buttons almost immediately. Alicia joins in about halfway. Miley explains afterward about not turning her chair with, “I’m not the coach for you.” Cuervos picks Alicia and Adam sulks.

I haven’t heard anybody yet that I think can survive the battles, knockouts, and rounds of audience voting, but maybe tonight’ll be different. Will Adam continue to lose to Blake and the girls? Will Miley show someone how to swing on a wrecking ball? Watch and find out!



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America’s Got Talent: Season 11, Finale, 9/14/`6

September 15th, 2016 · No Comments

by Lyn Jensen

Results of the eleventh season finale of America’s Got Talent:

  • Winner:  twelve-year-old You Tube star Grace Vanderwaal, even though her singing needs work. Simon Cowell predicted at her audition that she’ll be the next Taylor Swift. A substantial number of voters must’ve agreed.
  • Second place:  the team of Thommy Ten and Amelie Tass, collectively The Clairvoyants.
  • Third place:  magician and football player Jon Dorenbos, who’ll have to go back to playing football. Nick Cannon, AGT host, said the vote tally for the top three finalists was within one percent.
  • Fouth place:  gay singer Brian Justin Crum. I suspect he didn’t get many votes in the Bible Belt states.
  • Fifth place:  Italian-American old-school cocktail-jazz singer Sal Valentinetti, who just turned 21. American Idol didn’t give America a chance to vote for him but America’s Got Talent did. On a show where singers must compete with all manner of other talents, he made top five.
  • The remaining top ten contestants were cut without their exact finish being revealed:  punk performance artist Tape Face, juggler Viktor Kee, teenage contortionist Sophie Dossi, teenage opera singer Laura Bretan, and Linkin Bridge, who showed there’s still an audience for old-school street-corner vocal groups.

So it’s all over until next summer, when this same panel of judges is supposed to return.

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