November 20th, 2014 · No Comments
November 18th, 2014 · No Comments
Already the final rounds–when the audience votes for favorites–have started on The Voice Season 7. “The top twelve are fighting to stay in!” announces host Carson Daly. This final field may be the strongest The Voice has ever seen because there are at least six potential winners. Even American Idol hasn’t seen a final twelve like this in several seasons.
1. Sugar Joans of Team Pharrell starts the evening with “Take Me to the River.” Pharrell calls her an Italian girl singing soul. In judges’ comments afterward, Gwen complains she may be too retro.
2. Ryan Sill of Team Gwen is the last of several teen idol types who made a splash early this season. He picks a nineties Duran Duran song, “Ordinary World” and pours emotion into it. Gwen advises him to look like James Dean. After the performance, Adam and Pharrell praise how well rock fits the singer. “The way you gotta go!” Adam says. Gwen adds, “So perfect, I hope everyone understands now why I saved you.” She picked him over her other teen type, Ricky Manning, but will he be able to overcome needing her save last week?
3. Jessie Pitts of Team Blake sings “Don’t You Worry, Child.” Blake says, “Jessie brings something to The Voice that really needs to be here, that indy artist sound.” Of course there are a few other indy artists this season but Jessie is Blake’s artist in that style. He also says her artistry reminds him of his wife Miranda Lambert.
4. Damian is the only black male vocalist left in the field. Adam, in coaching mode, advises him to “do passion” this week. His assignment for the one-time TSA agent: sing “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother.” Adam appears to have a habit of dusting off half-forgotten seventies’ hits, and this one proves to be a great song choice. The performance has a gospel flavor, leading Pharrell to declare, “I don’t know which’ll be prouder, the church or Donny Hathaway!”
5. DaNica Shirey (her name’s more like “Da-nica” than Dan-ica) sings a sultry soulful version of Radiohead’s “Creep.” Pharrell, her team coach, says she has to juxtaposition alt and soul, that she needs to sing it like Al Green. (“Give that record to Al Green!” he admonishes.) Adam in particular loves the result, “Every song ever written, you can sing every one!” he gushes.
6. Carson Daly calls Taylor John Williams pop-folk. Like Pitts, he’s one of this season’s alt reps Adam isn’t the only coach that apparently likes to go back to half-forgotten seventies-era hits. Gwen, as team coach, assigns Williams the haunting rock ballad “If” by Bread. She says it shows his dark side, but she wants him to stay away from his bluesy side. This performance proves one of his best, and one of the best of anyone this season. He conjures up an intimacy that reaches clear out of the TV–like he’s breaking the PA, but in a good way. Afterwards Adam gets technical and says, “A song in a major key!” then adds, “delicate, different, the purity in your voice came through!” Pharrell praises how Williams brought out the tenderness in the song. Gwen sums up, “He’s a great singer and he’s cute!”
7. Reagan James of Team Blake is this season’s teen-appeal girl. She turned 16 last week and Blake brought her some flowers to celebrate. She’s one of several soulful singers–black, white, male, female–this season. Blake assigns her some contemporary R&B, “It Ain’t Over ’til it’s Over” by Lenny Kravitz. Afterwards Adam notes, “Totally different from the original!” Blake adds, “The way you navigate a melody just blows my mind. You don’t copy anything.”
8. Luke Wade of Team Pharrell takes on “Thinking out Loud,” modern R&B with a classic sound. Pharrell advises him to make it like a contemporary record. Wade chooses to play guitar and make it a singer-songwriter type of performance, more alt than he’s previously done. After the performance, the judges spend much time discussing how he came in a few beats early but recovered. Pharrell raves, “Hashtag Luke-ified again!”
9. When Matt McAndrew meets with his team coach Adam, they spend time comparing tattoos. The song choice is very contemporary, the goth-flavored alt-rock “Take me to Church” by Hozier. The geeky-looking rocker turns in a performance that mixes up Elvis Costello and Jim Morrison–but it works. Pharrell and Gwen both rave about how they want to buy the record. Pharrell exclaims, “If I was KROQ [the world-famous alt radio station] I’d be callin’ right now!” Adam proclaims that’s a guy that can win the show. He’s probably not going anywhere for a few rounds at least.
10. This season’s other really-rocks rocker is Craig Wayne Boyd of Team Blake, but tonight he shows his softer, more tender country side, singing George Strait’s “You Look so Good in Love.” Blake coaches that he wants a “full-on heartthrob moment.” Afterward Blake proclaims a “breakout moment, two in a row–every time you get on stage you show a different side, you take it to a new level.”
11. Last singer for Team Adam is Chris Jamison. Adam gives him “Jealous” by Nick Jonas, saying it’s a song the girls will like. Jamison gives it a soulful, bluesy feel, and even wears a suit for a little bit of a cocktail jazz effect. Afterwards Pharrell proclaims, “100% your best performance!” He also notes the singer’s effortless falsetto. (Jamison does sound a little like his coach, so maybe we’ll hear him do a Maroon 5 song.) Gwen calls the song perfect and notes the screaming girls in the audience.
12. Last singer of the night is Anita Antoinette of Team Gwen. I’d picked her to be one of the weaker contestants but tonight she shows some similarity to former Voice winner Tessanne Chin. She takes on the great Bob Marley classic, “Redemption Song” and evokes her memories of life in Jamaica. Gwen says it’s Anita’s chance to share her story with America.
There were so many great performances, I voted for half the field–McAndrew, Jamison, Pitts, Sill, James, and Williams. It’s likely who’s cut tonight is someone who didn’t establish a large voting base last week, but the public could prove fickle. The field will be down to ten next week.
November 18th, 2014 · No Comments
November 18th, 2014 · No Comments
November 13th, 2014 · No Comments
Teams have so far got through Season 25 of The Amazing Race without forming alliances, but now they’re starting to work together, if only temporarily. As this leg begins in Marrakesh, Morocco, six teams get their first clues in the middle of the night. They’re instructed to fly to Palermo, on the west coast of Sicily, but everyone finds no flights are available until the next night.
Everyone has to spend a night and day in the airport, then take a flight to Rome. Teams are then split between two connecting flights. The dentists (Misti/Jim) and the extreme cyclists (Kym/Alli) are on a flight that arrives in Palermo about 8 p.m. The four trailing teams (wrestlers Brooke/Robbie, surfers Bethany/Adam, gay couple T/T, and scientists Maya/Amy) are on a flight that arrives about 40 min. later.
When teams get to Palermo, their clues say to go to a theater. They take taxis there–where they find clues that say they have to return next morning. The clues are written on tambourines, and a traditional Italian dance troupe is having a party for the racers. Everyone’s encouraged to join the dancing. These kind of group activities usually happen earlier in the season, when teams are just starting to know each other. Here it gives the dentists an opportunity to show the cyclists they’re not “Team No Fun” all the time.
The tambourines have different times written on them, so teams are split into three groups the next morning. The dentists and cyclists leave the theater at 6:30, the wrestlers and scientists at 6:40, and the surfers and the gay couple at 6:50. Everyone has to find a taxi in early morning city traffic. Brooke/Robbie take 40 min. to catch a taxi, putting them in last place.
Teams taxi to Mt. Pellegrino, site of a famous auto race. Jim/Misty and Kym/Alli arrive first and find the roadblock for this leg. One team member has to put on racing gear and then run the race course in a go-cart, in less than 4 min. 7 seconds. (The episode doesn’t explain the reason for specifying such an exact time.) Jim and Kym race the go-carts, while their teammates take taxis to a rendezvous point along the beach.
Jim and Kym complete their go-cart runs on the first try. A famous Italian race car driver gives them the next clue envelopes, but they’re supposed to open and read them when they meet their teammates. Pro drivers with beautiful classic/vintage cars take the racers to the rendezvous point along the beach.
Maya/Amy get to the RB. Maya drives the go-cart but she doesn’t make the time. She has to follow the pace car back down the mtn. and take a second run. The go-cart heats run about every 20 min. So by the time she’s back to the starting line, the three trailing teams have caught up. Maya, Te Jay, Adam, and Brooke literally race back up the mtn. This time everybody makes their time, and everybody gets driven back down the mtn. to join their teammates along the beach.
When the reunited teams read their clues, they find instructions for this leg’s detour. The choices are Italian painting or Italian opera.
Only four teams may choose the painting. Four cherubs painted on the ceiling of a local church need restoration. Teams who choose this detour have to re-paint the cherubs the way Michaelangelo is supposed to have painted the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel–while lying on his back on a scaffold. Once teams think they’ve properly restored their cherub, they have to ask a judge. If she approves, the church priest will hand over the next clue envelope.
For the opera, teams have to travel to a local opera house. Ten costumed opera singers sing excerpts of ten arias. Each is singing a bit of their character’s part but it would take a serious opera fan to recognize them all. Once teams have seen the performance, they have to go upstairs to the costume shop, where costumes labeled with the character’s name and opera’s title are on display. Teams have to write down the characters and operas in order. If they’re correct, they get the next clue from the opera’s costume mistress.
Front-runners Misti/Jim and Kym/Alli pick the painting. When the four trailing teams get their detour clues perhaps 40 min. later, three teams dash to the church. Brooke/Robbie decide to try the opera in the first place. The couple understand it’s a memory challenge, but they’re confused when they see the performance. They’re not getting any names, just singing. They consider switching detours but realize the four available painting slots must be filled by now. They check upstairs at the costume shop and are relieved to see here’s where they can find the names.
Maya/Amy get squeezed out at the church, so they soon join the wrestler couple at the opera. At first the teams don’t work together but eventually they agree to. Amy/Maya, however, get the next clue and get out the door ahead of the wrestlers, who aren’t happy about that.
At the church, it must be a hot day with no A/C, because everyone’s complaining about the heat. People are getting the paint in their hair and their hair in the paint. One of the girl cyclists says, “I’m using a muscle in my arm I didn’t know existed.” Jim/Misti (the dentists) and Kym/Alli (the cyclists) are 1st to finish their cherubs. They get the next clue and find it’s for this leg’s pit stop, at an eighteenth-century villa.
The dentists win the leg and a trip to Jamaica. The cyclists place 2nd. Phil comments they’ve been battling for a few legs now. He also tells them this is the 300th leg of TAR.
Maya/Amy, arriving from the opera, take 3rd place. Right behind them are Brooke/Robbie, who place 4th.
Surfers Adam/Bethany finish re-painting the cherub on the church ceiling, and arrive at the pit stop in 5th place. Maybe T/T shouldn’t have been so determined to grab the fourth spot at the church because obviously the painting took longer than the opera. They finish their painting right after the surfers do, but they’re also right behind the surfers in getting to the check-in mat.
Phil tells the male couple they’re last and then, “However, this is a non-elimination leg. Some time during the next leg of the race, you’ll encounter a speed bump.”
One of the guys replies, “If the dentists can do it, we can do it.” Previews of next week show the teams travelling to Malta.
November 13th, 2014 · No Comments
November 13th, 2014 · No Comments
Now we know the final field of twelve singers who’ll be competing to win Season 7 of The Voice. We got some surprising votes and some surprising choices from the judges:
1. For Team Blake: Reagan James and Craig Wayne Boyd are voted through. She’s the Texas teen who sounds a little like Kelly Clarkson, and he’s this season’s redneck rocker. From the remaining three, Blake chooses to save Jewel-toned Jessie Pitts and–big surprise–lets his hardcore country singers go. He says he based his choice on “who can thrive in this environment.”
Team Blake–Reagan James, Craig Wayne Boyd, Jessie Pitts (country flavor but no hard country)
2. For Team Pharrell: white soul singers Luke Wade and Danica Shirey are voted through. Remember the knockout rounds? Pharrell immediately used his steal to grab Sugar Joans when Gwen made her available, so we know he must really, really like Joans, and that’s who he keeps. I’m surprised Jean Kelley didn’t stay. I judged her as Pharrell’s most promising talent. She sounded like she had an inner Gwen Stefani waiting to be channeled, and now that won’t happen.
Team Pharrell–Luke Wade, Danica Shirey, and Sugar Joans (Team Soul Patrol?)
3. Team Gwen: Surprise! Saved by viewers’ votes is Taylor John Williams! That makes him the only alt-rocker in the competition who’s not on Team Adam. Also voted through– Anita Antoinette, so Gwen has some soul on her team, too. Remember when Gwen stole Ricky Manning from Pharrell in the knockout rounds? She exclaimed, “I just won The Voice!” Except now she saves her other teen idol, Ryan Sill. She must have decided for some reason she couldn’t win with Manning after all.
Team Gwen–Taylor John Williams, Ryan Sill, Anita Antoinette (but did Gwen let her strongest contestant walk?)
4. Team Adam always goes last, meaning Adam gets stuck trying to make his final choice as the credits are rolling. Voters selected Damian and Matt McAndrew. Damian is the only black R&B male vocalist left in the competition. McAndrew will be competing for the alt-rock vote against Taylor John Williams of Team Gwen. Adam says he’s going with his gut on who to save. He picks his white soulman, Chris Jamison, as his third team member. Good-bye to Taylor Phelan and Mia Pfirrman.
Team Adam–Damian, Matt McAndrew, Chris Jamison (all guys!)
So who’ll win? Stay tuned for the finals!
November 12th, 2014 · No Comments
For fans of The Voice, this season’s voting has begun. Having seen the semi-finals for Team Adam and Team Blake on Monday, we now get to see Team Gwen and Team Pharrell. Will one of the veteran judges have another winner this season, or will new judges Gwen and/or Pharrell prove to be the better coach of new talent? At this point the judges each have five singers. They’ll have to narrow their fields to three each tonight. Singing for the finals:
1. Ryan Sill is one of the two pin-up guys on Team Gwen. For the semi-finals, his song is “I Live” by One Republic. During judges’ comments after his performance, Adam declares Sill to be one of his favorites this season, and says, “Your pitch is unbelievably good.” Pharrell adds, “This guy really, really wants it.”
2. Team Pharrell has three female vocalists, and the first one this evening is Jean Kelley, who’d fit well with Gwen Stefani’s style. However, Pharrell goes back to the eighties and gives her a soulful, bluesy song, “Piano in the Dark.” He says “Southern ghetto” is the style he’s looking for. He advises a dramatic approach, saying, “There’s an actress in there somewhere.” Maybe Kelley took that advice too well, because after she sings, Gwen and Adam in particular criticize her “believability.” Adam tells her the drama was overwhelming the vocals.
3. Elyjah Rene, black R&B vocalist on Team Pharrell, is assigned a left-field song choice, “Latch” by Disclosure. Pharrell coaches, “Start singing for Elyjuh,” and how the song’s about “your freedom.” The judges collectively praise the result. Adam raves how it was “perfect” and “soulful.” Blake proclaims, “You’re the one to beat!” (Of course he hasn’t heard the whole field yet.)
4. Team Gwen has two young female vocalists. Bryana (that’s how she spells it) Salaz has a dramatic voice similar to Jean Kelley of Team Pharrell. She knows how to score some points, talking about her performance of “Amnesia” is for the vets on Veterans’ Day. Judges Adam and Pharrell agree she has the perfect coach for her voice and style.
5. Luke Wade was the first audition of this season and the first member of Team Pharrell, and he probably fits the “Southern ghetto” description more than Jean Kelley does. He sounds Southern, but not country. He’s a white guy who sounds black (whatever that means) or at least urban. Pharrell assigns him Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it on” and coaches, “Bring every woman to their knees!” He sings it well, considering it’s not much of a song, just an admonishment to “get it on” set to music. The judges all rave about the result, however. Blake wisecracks about how some of the audience sounded like they got it on. Adam comes up with something like, “You Luke-ified it.” Pharrell picks up on that and comes up with, “Hashtag Luke-ified!”
6. Time for Gwen to present her other young female vocalist, Anita Antoinette, who’s from Jamaica and whose style encompasses reggae and R&B. Gwen assigns her “All About the Bass,” explaining, “It’s not straight-up reggae but it leans towards that.” Gwen advises the girl to have fun, and she does. She brings some much-needed youthful appeal to the evening, and may have given voters a reason to keep her.
7. Now it’s time for Danica Shirey, a white soul singer on Team Pharrell. In coaching mode, Pharrell assigns “Help me,” a soulful, jazzy, Joni Mitchell love song from the seventies. He explains he chose it because, “It’s got about 20-gadzillion chord changes,” making it a very difficult song to sing. After the performance, Adam raves, “You turned Joni Mitchell into Chaka Khan!” Blake claims he’d never heard the song before, and he gets some ribbing from Adam, but some sympathy from Danica, who says she didn’t know the song either. Gwen says it’s a good intro to Joni Mitchell for anybody under the age of 20.
8. Last of the singers for Team Pharrell is Sugar Joans. She sounds black but she’s fair-skinned, making it hard to tell whether she’s of African-American or Mediterranean ancestry–or even just plan Black Irish. She sings the sixties song, “Say a Little Prayer,” in a bluesy gospel-tinged style. However, towards the end, her blues-shouting sounds more like just shouting. The judges like it, however. Blake goes so far as to declare it the best performance of the night (when he’d previously said much the same about Elyjuh Rene).
9. Still two singers are left this evening, and one is Ricky Manning, the other pin-up boy from Team Gwen. He sings a contemporary ballad, “Lay Me Down,” that sounds like a combination of old-school soul and cocktail jazz. It may not be the best song choice to show his teen appeal but it does give him the opportunity for big dramatic notes. The judges are positive.
10. The evening concludes with Taylor John Williams, the alt-style guy on Team Gwen. (He’s one of three Taylors in this field, the others being Taylor Phelan and Taylor Brashears.) Host Carson Daly calls him a pop-folk singer. Maybe Williams was watching last season because he picks a half-forgotten seventies hit, “Stuck in the Middle With You,” that Adam dusted off for a trio of his singers last season. He says he selected it to show a lighter side from the darker songs he’s done previously. He wants to modernize the song, make it more bluesy. The judges do like the performance. Adam calls it “killer blues…cool and inventive.” Pharrell thinks he hears some Terrence Trent D’Arby in Williams’ voice.
Just before sign-off, Carson Daly shows a real-time tally of the phone app voting, and it’s the exact opposite of what I expected. Gwen’s girls and Pharrell’s guys are leading. I voted for Gwen’s three guys plus Jean Kelley. We’ll see who makes it through the brutal final cut tonight.
November 11th, 2014 · No Comments
This week on The Voice brings us the most difficult part of the season. The judges spend two nights presenting their five-member teams, but only three singers from each team will get through to the finals. Two finalists are selected based on audience votes, and the third is the judge’s choice. For the remaining two, it probably resembles being cut from Little League (which isn’t done anymore). Team Adam and Team Blake presented their final five on Monday:
1. First of ten singers competing for votes tonight is Taylor Brashears, the remaining female country vocalist on Team Blake. For this round, she plays fiddle and sings the Dixie Chicks song, “Long Time Gone,” about trying to make it in Nashville. She tells Blake that people in Nashville are checking out her songs online now. Her vocal is more polished and shows more range than the Dixie Chicks’ version. If she stays, it’ll be because Blake and/or the voters insist on keeping her classic country sound.
2. Chris Jamison from Team Adam performs Ed Sheeran’s “Don’t” (not to be confused with the Elvis classic) as a little bit of old-school white soul crossed with a little bit of contemporary hip-hop. Adam Levine, in coaching mode, calls the song, “passionate, romantic, meaningful.” Pharrell, Gwen, and Adam all praise the result. Jamison and Levine are a good match–Jamison’s got the voice that could do a Maroon 5 song.
3. Jessie Pitts, from Team Blake, goes back to the eighties for Bonnie Tyler’s hit, “Holding Out for a Hero” and puts her Jewel-like polish on it. She reworks it into a slowed-down stripped-down jazz-flavored arrangement. She gives the song more polish and range than Tyler ever did. Blake compares her to Lorde and says, “She’s not a country singer but she is a storyteller.” After the song, Adam praises, “Your best performance so far.”
4. Blake shows what’s probably his best card–his male country vocalist, James David Carter, who sings Garth Brooks’ very popular “Two of a Kind, Workin’ on a Full House” with more range and polish than Brooks ever did. Brooks was more an entertainer, Carter’s more a voice. During judges’ comments, Gwen praises the way he works the house.
5. Adam shows probably his best card–indy pop artist Matt McAndrew who shows the same kind of range David Cook won American Idol with. McAndrew and Levine go back to the sixties for a Beach Boys ballad, “God Only Knows What I’d Be Without You.” (Both their mothers were Beach Boy fans.) Adam calls it a “perfect song” but I suspect it may be too far outside the singer’s target demographic. The judges all love the result, however. “That was sung perfectly,” comments Blake, “different song choice.” Gwen says, “so much personality,” and Adam sums up, “a huge risk…fearless, unique.”
6. Team Blake has three female vocalists, and the third is the teenage Texan, Reagan James, who brings her crisp Kelly Clarkson-like delivery to an uncommon song choice, “Try.” Blake praises his young teen sensation with, “I think you’re one of the most important artists we’ve ever had.” Given what Blake did with the teenage Danielle Bradbury three seasons ago (and Cassadee Pope in Season 3), this could prove a very good match between coach and singer.
7. Team Adam is stocked with two indy alt-rock types. Whether Taylor Phelan will make the finals (McAndrew is more likely to) is one of the bigger questions of the week. However, coach Adam points out this guy had the highest iTunes chart hit. Phelan plays guitar and rocks out to the contemporary hit, “Cool Kids.”
8. Team Adam has only one remaining female vocalist, Mia Pfirrman. She and her coach discuss her “dark” song choice, “The Young and the Beautiful,” and he advises her to use some theatricality. Her brassy vocals are like a poor person’s Barbra Streisand, but the judges comment on how she’s able to hold the room with very little musical accompaniment. Even host Carson Daly joins in, with, “You’re so sweet and that was so haunting.”
9. Damian, of Team Adam, is the one black R&B vocalist performing tonight. The singer and his coach pick a classic-sounding but contemporary song, “I Know I’m Not the Only One.” The judges all offer praise afterwards. Blake describes the performance as “soft smooth voice with power and range.” Pharrell goes on about “up and down stairs” between head and chest tones, “like an elevator.” Gwen notes, “The audience [response] is the loudest it’s been all night.”
10. By now the show’s in danger of running over, so Carson Daly hurries on the last contestant: Craig Wayne Boyd, the redneck rocker from Team Blake. His team’s coach compares him to Travis Tritt and Montgomery Gentry. (I’d add Bo Bice of American Idol season 4 to the list.) Boyd’s one of the very few rock-flavored singers in the field this season. He sings “Some Kind of Wonderful,” and Blake loves it. “That was the performance of the night!” he declares, also praising the guy’s power and range.
At the beginning and end of the show, Daly talks about a new phone app that allows viewers to vote while the show’s in progress. Before sign-off, he allows us a peek at the results so far. Matt and Chris lead Team Adam, Reagan and James David lead Team Blake. I voted for Matt McAndrew, Jessie Pitts, and Taylor Phelan. We’ll see Team Pharrell and Team Gwen tonight.