December 18th, 2014 · No Comments
December 17th, 2014 · No Comments
After about 90 min. of mostly pointless musical numbers and about 25 min. of commercials, The Voice finally got around to announcing the final results of season 7 in the last 5 min. of airtime last night. Carson Daly called the final four vocalists to the stage and read the results:
- Fourth place: Damian. That was to be expected, as he was probably in fourth place before a “Wild Card” gimmick allowed him to join the men voted into the final three.
- Third place: Chris Jamison. That, too, was to be expected–being a judges’ choice for the final field of twelve probably at last caught up with him.
That left contestants Matt McAndrew and Craig Wayne Boyd anxiously awaiting the final announcement–and McAndrew’s coach Adam Levine and Boyd’s coach Blake Shelton anxiously awaiting it, too. Which would win, McAndrew with his three top ten iTunes performances, or Boyd with his sentimental Heartland backstory? Daly took a dramatic five-second pause before announcing Craig Wayne Boyd was the winner. That meant, of course, that Matt McAndrew was second.
That means Blake Shelton now has four Voice trophies while his arch-rival Adam Levine has two. Afterwards Blake gloated about how Adam missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, having three finalists but no winner.
If next season takes two hours of airtime to make one five-minute announcement, the extra time would be better filled with retrospectives on the top contestants and reprises of the season’s most popular performances, instead of random guest stars and group sings.
Season 8 of The Voice debuts on Monday, February 23 at 8 p. m. on NBC. Christina Aguilera will be back to join Adam Levine, Blake Shelton and Pharrell Williams in the judges’ big red swivel chairs.
December 16th, 2014 · No Comments
It’s the end of The Voice, Season 7, and tonight we find out if a Team Adam member gives Adam Levine his third Voice trophy (tying him with arch-rival Blake Shelton) or Blake extends his overall lead with four. Adam proved an incredible judge (and coach) of talent this year, with all three singers that he put in the final field of twelve making the finale. Of Adam’s three team members, Matt McAndrew’s never been in trouble, making him the favorite. Chris Jamison squeaked into the final field as a judge’s choice, although he hasn’t been in trouble since. Damian’s a sentimental favorite (he ‘ll never have to work for the TSA again) but he’s only still here because of a gimmick that probably won’t be seen next season.
The only threat to Team Adam’s a big one: Craig Wayne Boyd of Team Blake, who could have been representing Team Gwen if she’d only had the spine to not let Blake steal the guy from her. Boyd’s got all the characteristics that attract Heartland votes, and he’s never been in trouble during the voting rounds.
For the final format, the contestants were assigned three songs each. One song was their judge’s assignment, one was a duet between judge/coach and team member, and one was a new original song chosen especially to be the artist’s debut single, immediately available on iTunes. Nobody sang poorly but strengths and weaknesses were clear:
1. Adam’s choice for Damian: an old-school R&B ballad, “A Song for You,” by Donnie Hathaway. Adam comments they selected something the audience would expect. In the judges’ comments after the performance, Blake sums up, “The way you float through a melody with so much force” is what makes Damian’s vocals so strong.
2. Craig Wayne Boyd’s debut single: a romantic country song, “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face” which was originally composed for Blake by Mark Machetti and Stephanie Jones. Blake says he’s never recorded it because it’s “so freakin’ hard to sing” but he considers Boyd up to the task. “This song is meant for you,” the coach admonishes his singer, “That song found its way to you.” Blake’s right–this is absolutely the right song choice.
3. Chris Jamison and Adam Levine duet “Lost Without You.” It’s a Robin Thicke hit and, as Adam says, “It’s got falsetto all over the place.” Both of these guys know all about singing falsetto–this song demonstrates how they have very similar voices. Jamison matches Levine very well. There are no judges’ comments after the duets tonight.
4. Matt McAndrew’s debut single: “(Has Anybody Seen My) Wasted Love” is the title, but the name of the composer(s) and why this song was chosen for Matt is never spelled out. Here he shows a more vulnerable side, with an arrangement that actually leans more to R&B than emo. It’s a good song, sung well, but it doesn’t feel absolutely right the way Boyd’s did. It does, however, share some of the ingredients that made David Cook such a singing-contest success story, and the performance brings the crowd and judges to their feet.
5. Craig Wayne Boyd and Blake Shelton duet “(Goin’ Out with my) Boots on.” It’s an outlaw country-rock treatment, making Boyd more of a rocker than anybody on Team Adam tonight.
6. Damian and Adam duet Elton John’s “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.” I never thought this was one of Elton John’s (or Bernie Taupin’s) best songs–it’s good but so much of the EJ catalog is better. This combination of vocals isn’t nearly as magical as what Adam and Chris achieved earlier in the evening. It’s like they got a wrong key or something–I think I heard at least one flubbed note from both guys. Overall it’s one of the weaker performances of the evening.
7. Chris Jamison’s debut single: “Velvet” is the title, and once again we don’t hear much about the composer(s) or why this song was chosen. About all Adam says is, “You hear Michael Jackson in there.” Actually it’s more Daryl Hall than Michael Jackson but, by either comparison, it’s the absolute right song for Chris. It’s a much, much better match than Matt’s song was. In judges’ comments afterward, Pharrell raves, “A star was born on this show with you…You sang that Marvin Gaye song [“Sexual Healing” a few rounds ago] and we watched something change, something grow.” Adam, who’s doing triple duty coaching three singers in the final round, wishes there could be three winners this season.
8. Matt and Adam duet “Lost Stars.” This is a song Adam sang on the soundtrack of the movie Begin Again. It’s a simple arrangement with acoustic guitars, and Matt’s vocals get much more play here than they did with his earlier performance. He gets to show lots of falsetto, lots of scats and runs.
9. Blake’s choice for Craig Wayne Boyd: Blake comments that Craig Wayne’s an underdog up against an army (of Team Adam) but he could win just the same. He says he chose Craig in the blind auditions because of his power and range. Alabama’s song, “In Pictures” about an absent father’s love for his child, is an excellent choice because of Craig’s relationship with his own young son. Blake advises his charge, “It just needs to be your voice and your story.” That it is, as the contestant just sits and sings this sentimental country ballad. Afterwards Gwen speaks of how the song was magic and made her feel emotional. Pharrell comments that it was the right song choice.
10. Damian’s debut single: Adam’s spending considerable time in the studio coaching his team members this week, and he brings in producer Max Martin to work on “Soldier,” the song selected for Damian’s debut single. Otherwise we don’t hear much about who composed it or why it was selected. Like the Hathaway song that was the judge’s choice, this is an old-school R&B ballad but contains some contemporary elements and features a lively climax.
11. Adam’s choice for Chris: Again we get an absolutely correct song choice–Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River,” that Adam says provides a chance to show off one of the best falsettos he’s ever heard. Chris’ take may actually be better than the original. Adam loves the performance as much as any fan, dancing in his judge’s chair and then leaping onto his chair at the finale.
At this point in the show, Carson Daly announces all four debut singles are already charting on iTunes.
12. Adam’s choice for Matt: At the beginning of the final segment, we hear that Matt’s the only one of the finalists who’s already had three of his performances make the iTunes top ten, an indication of his popularity. We’re also reminded Matt’s a music teacher–so perhaps it’s fitting that Adam assigns him, “Over the Rainbow.” It’s a song a music teacher might assign a student. Adam talks about how he wants the song at its purest and rawest, super-simple. The result isn’t a rock “Rainbow,” it’s a classic vocal performance, reminding us that this is The Voice. Against expectations, the performance achieves exactly what it’s supposed to, with Pharrell speaking for many when he says afterward, “You’re just such a great voice.” Gwen puts it another way, “Such a perfect song choice, you’re so pure and original.” Adam raves about how, “The whole universe just paused for a second.”
I voted for Matt. Will his unorthodox final selection be what wins him the Voice championship for season 7? Or will the Heartland vote be dominant enough to make Craig Wayne Boyd the winner? Or will we get a genuine surprise and see a champ from Team Adam who’s not named Matt McAndrew? Find out who wins tonight–then it’s on to season 8.
December 11th, 2014 · No Comments
December 10th, 2014 · No Comments
Four teams are still in The Amazing Race Season 25: world-famous “Soul Surfer” Bethany Hamilton and her husband Adam Dirks, Jim and Misti Ramen (married couple who are both dentists), Amy/Maya (scientists who specialize in sweet foods, making them the “Sweet Scientists”), and Brooke/Robbie (dating couple who are both pro wrestlers).
As the latest leg starts, teams get clues in Singapore to fly to Manila, the Philippines. Adam/Bethany, Brooke/Robbie, and Amy/Maya get a flight that gets to Manila at 11 p.m. Amy/Maya speak to Brooke/Robbie about how the couple misdirected them during the previous leg, and the couple plays dumb and talks their way out of it.
When Jim/Misti try to book their flight, they find the 11 p.m. flight’s full. They have to take one that gets to Manila at 11:55 p.m. That puts them in last place.
When teams get to Manila, they have instructions to get their next clue from a certain flower vendor’s outdoor stall. When the front-running teams find the location, there’s a sign that says, “Pick up clue at 6:30 a.m.” That means all four teams are waiting when the vendor hands out clue envelopes the next morning.
This clue says go to Rosario Plaza and find Salinas Specials, an informal restaurant. Teams must travel there by public transportation, on a “Jeep-ney” or jitney bus. At the restaurant teams are given clues for this leg’s detour.
One detour choice is to go to a certain beach, wade into the surf, and bring in enough fish from a fishing net to fill three large buckets–about 300 lb. of fish total. Brooke/Robbie pick this detour.
The other detour choice is to go to a motorcycle shop, assemble a sidecar, and attach it to a motorcycle. Adam/Bethany, Misti/Jim, and Amy/Maya pick this detour.
Apparently motorcycles with sidecars are often used as taxis in Manila. Whichever detour teams choose, they have to travel to the location squeezed into a taxi-motorcycle’s sidecar. Amy/Maya miss this part and start trying to walk to the shop. They soon realize their mistake and hail a taxi-motorcycle, but this puts them in last place.
Brooke/Robbie have to wade back and forth through chest-high surf, taking an empty bucket out to where men are holding a large fishing net full of small silver fish, and then carrying the bucket of fish back to shore. It starts raining, making the surf rougher. The couple have to make four trips to fill three buckets with about 100 lb. of fish each. They’re first to finish either detour.
At the cycle shop, Jim thinks he and Misti have their motorcycle and sidecar ready, but the inspector doesn’t approve. Jim and his wife can’t find what they did wrong, and the inspector doesn’t tell them. That allows Bethany/Adam to be the first team to complete this detour.
After two or three more attempts to get the assembly right, Jim looks again at the sidecar and cycle that teams may use as a model. He notices one wheel has two shocks (springs) attached parallel to each other. One of his shocks isn’t properly attached. Once he makes that correction, he and his wife get the next clue, putting them in third place overall. Amy/Maya are the last team to complete either detour.
When teams complete the detour, they get a clue telling them, “Make your way to the rice fields in Naig.” Here’s a challenge that’s neither a detour nor a roadblock. (There’s no RB on this leg.)
Phil appears on-camera to tell us that waiting here is a switchback (a challenge revived from a past season), called, “My Ox is Broken.” This leg features the same challenge teams suffered breakdowns over in Season 5. We see a flashback of hotheaded Colin yelling, “My ox is broken!”
There are four rice paddies, each with an ox hitched to a plow. Teams will have to plow up their next clue while driving an ox. The wrestlers are surprised to see they’re the first to get to this challenge–their first lead of the entire race. Brooke races to get started plowing. In her haste, however, she picks the largest rice paddy. It’s as big as the other three combined, and the rules forbid switching paddies. (The challenge was probably laid out with the assumption that the front runners would take the smaller paddies and whoever arrived last would be stuck with the large one.)
Although Brooke/Robbie have a fair lead, the final three teams arrive within minutes of each other: Adam/Bethany, Jim/Misti, and finally Maya/Amy. Jim/Misti and Maya/Amy plow up their clues at almost exactly the same time. The clue reads, “Search on foot for Phil and your next pit stop.” A foot race ensues. Jim/Misti are first to the mat by maybe 50 ft. They win a trip to a Vietnamese resort. Phil and Jim talk about how now the dentists have one for the thumb–they’ve now won five legs. Amy/Maya place 2nd.
Brooke/Robbie and Adam/Bethany plow up their clues at almost the same time. A second foot race ensues. The leading teams are still at the mat when the trailing teams join them. The surfers outrun the wrestlers by about 20 ft. but this is a non-elimination leg. (TAR fans could predict this, since the dentists never used their “Save” pass and there are normally three non-elimination rounds.)
So TAR Season 25 is still down to the final four teams. One’ll get squeezed out next week, and the race will be down to the final three. Misty/Jim can’t tie the record of nine legs won, set during Season 20, but they could still win seven legs and be one of the five or so most dominant teams ever. Team Soul Surfer is surely the sentimental favorite. Amy/Maya are dark horses but say they’d like to be the third female team to win. The wrestlers are also a dark horse team.
December 10th, 2014 · No Comments
When The Voice revealed its final three last night, it did so with a twist that I doubt survives this season. As the show opened, next week’s final three were announced: Craig Wayne Boyd from Team Blake, and Chris Jamison and Matt McAndrew from Team Adam. The rest of the hour was spent allowing all other singers who made final twelve to sing one song, and then asking viewers to vote on which one would be the fourth finalist next week.
The question, of course, is why not just announce a fourth finalist to begin with? To have people called back who couldn’t even muster enough votes to get to the final eight, and place one of them on equal footing with singers who’ve survived several rounds of tough cuts, defeats the show’s purpose. It’s a whole different concept. Scheduling a sing-off between last week’s final four plus the contestant below this week’s cut line might have made more sense.
Whatever, nine singers and songs were jammed into one hour, and the field for once showed some separation. Here’s what the nine “Wild Card” contestants sang:
Reagan James, “Put Your Records on” (Amy Winehouse)
Jessie Pitts, “Zombie” (the Cranberries, and not a good song choice for her)
Ryan Sill, “Marry Me” (he sang well but the song was lackluster)
Anita Antoinette, “Waiting for the World to Change”
Taylor John Williams, “Wicked Game” (Chris Isaak, and Williams was my choice for fourth slot)
Damian (Lawson), “Grenade”
Sugar Joans, “Back to Black” (she didn’t sing well)
Luke Wade, “Have a Little Faith in Me” (he didn’t sing well)
DaNica Shirey, “Without You” (Badfinger in the seventies, Mariah Carey more recently, and DaNica yelled more than she sang)
Next day: on the Today Show, Carson Daly first interviewed McAndrew, Boyd, and Jamison and then brought out the Wild Card winner: Damian. Thanks to this gimmick, all three Team Adam members are in the final round. I’m guessing Damian was fourth in the results to begin with, meaning we all could have been saved the trouble.
December 10th, 2014 · No Comments
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December 9th, 2014 · No Comments
This week The Voice narrows its field from five to three, with the finale next week. We’re down to five male vocalists, and it’s possible any of them could win. Last week Pharrell lost his entire team and Gwen lost Ryan Sill, who didn’t get the Twitter Save. Chris Jamison did, meaning Team Adam still has all three members. The final five singers did two songs each last night. The first performances featured songs their team coaches chose:
1-A. Adam could have all three of his team members in the finals–not likely, but possible. He begins by assigning his black R&B vocalist, Damian, a half-forgotten Michael Jackson ballad, “”She’s Out of my Life.” In coaching mode, Levine says he wants an “emotionally vulnerable” performance. After, in judging mode, he says when he assigned the song, Damian “looked at me a little funny.” Adam thinks his singer did an “unbelievable job,” though, and the other judges agree. Blake raves, “one of the most perfect performances I’ve ever seen on this stage!” Pharrell agrees, telling Damian, “You tell your story and it never gets old.”
2-A. Blake assigns his one remaining team member, Craig Wayne Boyd, Merle Haggard’s “Working Man’s Blues.” In coaching mode, Shelton predicts, “This guy’s about to blow the roof off the place!” The performance is a lively up-tempo arrangement. The judges all like it. (They’ve been generous with their praise this entire season.) Pharrell declares, “A performance you see from someone who knows who they are!” Gwen gets technical, saying, “You have this flawless way of going up into your head voice.” In judging mode, Blake’s babbling about, “You’re one of the best singers I’ve ever heard,” and “You may be one of the guys that comes out of here a superstar!” Boyd’s probably got the Heartland vote.
3-A. Gwen calls her one remaining charge, Taylor John Williams, a pure artist. Her song choice for him is “Falling Slowly,” the subtle Irish lament that won Best Song Oscar a few years ago for its prominence in the Irish movie Once. I’m not sure whether she said it was one of her favorites, one of his, or both. Blake basically speaks for the judges’ panel afterward when he says, “Everybody’s so much better than ever… I’ve never heard so much strength and range in your voice!”
4-A. Matt McAndrew, who used to teach music at a store in Philadelphia, is being billed as the “Tatoo’ed Teacher” of this season. In coaching mode, Adam assigns him Ed Sheeran’s “Make it Rain,” which was featured in Sons of Anarchy recently. It’s an Irish-flavored lament like something U2 might do–subtle but big and bluesy at the same time. Gwen summarizes the performance with, “You’re a contradiction–sweet guy with glasses, sweet puppy dog, but your voice gives me chills!”
5-A. If you’ve been waiting to hear what Chris Jamison sounds like on a Maroon 5 song, we’ve got a chance to compare his vocals to his coach. Adam assigns him “Sugar,” Maroon 5’s very latest. Actually, Adam explains, Jamison wanted the song assigned to him. Adam, in coaching mode, points out that the song gives Jamison a chance for a “great falsetto on the chorus.” Even Carson Daly joins in the praise afterward, commenting, “That’s not easy–you make it look easy!” Blake likes the falsetto, too, “It’s like the fun part of your voice.” Pharrell agrees, “It’s like we look forward to it every week.” Adam notes that, for Jamison, even making the top five was a battle. He was his judge’s choice for the final twelve, and then he got the Twitter Save last week.
For the second half of the episode, the five singers went back to visit their hometowns, and their songs were chosen for their hometown fans. This field represents a particularly broad cross-section of America: McAndrew is from Philadelphia, Jamison from Pittsburgh, Boyd from Nashville, Williams from Portland, Oregon. Damian (whose last name is Lawson) is from a predominately black neighborhood in Monroe, Louisiana, and of course he also works for the TSA at LAX.
1-B. Damian gives a generous helping of soul to Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Wanna Wait (for Our Lives to be Over),” the theme from Dawson’s Creek. Gwen describes the result as something like Peter Gabriel meets Tribal, and Adam agrees–that’s what the arrangement was aiming for. “What a phenomenal voice…such a touching performance!” Pharrell raves. Blake adds that it’s nice to see Damian do something fun and up-tempo for a change.
2-B. After doing a song with a U2 flavor, Matt McAndrew takes on the Irish rockers directly. He goes big on “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” (I’d have preferred “With or Without You” but that’s not a complaint.) In contrast to Bono’s soft whispery delivery, Matt isn’t soft and whispery at all. “You make it seem so effortless,” Blake raves afterward. The judges agree that Bono would be so happy and proud.
3-B. After starting with a party-hearty song, Craig Wayne Boyd gets serious and spiritual with “The Old Rugged Cross.” Adam comments it shows “a different side of who you are.” Blake likes his team member’s “passionate, epic performance,” too.
4-B. If you’ve been waiting for Taylor to sing Taylor, you’ve got your wish. Taylor John Williams gives a man’s take on Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space.” It gives him an opportunity to show some amazing notes. The judges are positive, but this is the time of night when they’re getting pressed for time.
5-B. Chris Jamison, the white R&B singer from Team Adam, closes the evening with Bruno Mars’ “When I was Your Man.” The piano accompaniment makes the song sound like something Elton John might do. Gwen declares the result to be her favorite of Jamison’s performances. Adam talks about how he made the song his own.
Tonight the final three are announced. (I managed to narrow my vote down to Matt and Taylor.) What’s this Carson Daly is saying and the commercials are hyping about a “Wild Card” choice for a fourth finalist, though? Sounds like a big mistake. Something about the singers who’ve been voted off can compete for a “Wild Card” slot? Why bring somebody back when they’ve been voted off and lost the Twitter Save? I doubt this concept lasts another season.