by Lyn Jensen
Adam’s been wearing a blue-and-ecru striped sweater all season, and Blake’s taken to calling him “Ham-burglar,” a reference to a character in an old fast-food campaign. Last night Gwen gave him a “Ham-burglar” hat. So now that the judges have had their fun, let’s look at the contestants they recruited. After last night’s auditions, teams are almost full:
1. Kenny P is from Nashville and says he sings country–but his audition is seventies-era pop, Todd Rungren’s “Hello, It’s Me.” The judges take their time but Gwen turns around when the audition’s about three-quarters over. Blake joins in when it’s about seven-eighths over. Blake says, “You attack those notes with so much power,” but I don’t hear that much power. We wait patiently for the man from Nashville to choose Blake but he picks Gwen instead. He either wants to be coached by a cute blonde, or he wants to go in a pop direction, or both. Trivia: he’s got a handlebar mustache.
2. Enid Ortiz is in Ragged Old Souls, which she describes as a reggae-soul-funk-fusion band. She has a Southern-Goth look, and a showy Broadway-style voice. It looks like nobody’s interested until Blake pulls a buzzer-beater. It’s a one-chair turn, so she’s on Team Blake. Trivia: she says she has that skin condition that makes her skin two-toned, but it doesn’t show here. I don’t know if it’s in remission or if she’s covering it with make-up.
3. RJ Collins is a young African-American from Chicago, and his brother was the victim of a police shooting. He shows a youthful soulful style on Justin Bieber’s “Purpose.” He hooks Adam about five seconds in. Just when it looks like he’s on Team Adam, Alicia sneaks in. The contestant’s choice? “I love you, Adam, but I pick Alicia.” Trivia: he works at Guitar Center in Chicago.
4? Austin Tyler Jones shows promise, being a church singer from Columbia, TN (a small town for a change, instead of Nashville). He sings Elvis Costello’s “Alison” and there’s a vocal–and visual–resemblance, but no chairs turn. Adam thought he was a little subdued, but I thought he was a Southern-Goth version of Elvis Costello.
4. TSoul is already a You Tube star–his fans call themselves T-Souldiers. He sings a soulful gospel-tinged “Take Me to the River,” showing a style similar to Alicia Keys. Adam turns about five seconds in, Blake, a second or two later. Adam babbles about how he’s glad Alicia didn’t turn around. Blake says, “Your voice is like a fifty-year-old voice, all the herbs and spices!” The results of this Blake vs. Adam showdown? TSoul picks Blake. Alicia and Adam both probably have this contestant on their list of possibilities to steal. Trivia: he’s from Richmond, VA.
5. and 6. We can tell when the auditions are winding up because that’s when some are reduced to soundbytes in montages. Andrea Thomas is on Team Blake (he’s got another country girl). Davina Leone is on Team Gwen.
7. Hanna Erye (yeah, like Jane Erye) is a teen who’s already working as a piano teacher in Laguna Niguel, CA. She shows off a pure youthful soprano on Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space,” although I’ve heard the song done better. Adam turns right away, but Blake turns near the end, and Gwen, even nearer the end. Adam compares Erye to Season 4 winner Danielle Bradberry. Blake thinks he’s heard “just the tip of the iceberg” in her audition. Gwen says, “I want to find a girl who’s sparkly and talented and young.” Just when it looks like Blake–or maybe Gwen–has reeled her in, she picks Adam. If it doesn’t work out with him, Blake or Gwen may steal. Trivia: she’s 15 and studying performing arts in school.
8. Hunter Plake (not “Blake,” Plake) is a church singer from Baton Rouge. He sings with the level of passion and drama that invites comparisons to George Michael and Freddie Mercury. Gwen turns after about five seconds, Alicia on the last lines. He picks Alicia. Trivia: he and his wife are living with his parents because they lost their house and car in a flood.
9. Nala Price is a 17-year-old singer, actress, and dancer. Adam and Gwen both want her. She picks Adam even though her style appears to make her a better match with Gwen. Trivia: she’s performed in musicals and choirs.
10. Sammie Zonana is a wedding singer from Austin, TX. She’s gay, and her female fiancee is with her. She’s got a smoky, husky, bluesy voice. Gwen is the only judge that wants her, so she’s on Team Gwen. Adam says, “I heard so much Gwen in your voice.” Trivia: she wrote screenplays and went to film school before she became a singer.
11. Valerie Ponzo is another singer from Texas. She does a jazzed-up “Ring of Fire” in a tiny aspirate twang. I’ve heard Adam Lambert’s world-music “Ring of Fire,” and I find this to be a pale imitation. Apparently none of the judges have, because they’re all impressed and excited. It’s a four-chair turn, when I wouldn’t have given her a one. (I’d have turned for Austin Tyler Jones instead.) Adam says he heard elements of all four judges’ vocals in her voice. He talks about the Adam part, and Blake has to say the girly part. Ponzo’s got enough of a country flavor that she picks Blake, but I don’t think she’ll last long given the depth of his team. Trivia: she’s also got some Mexican or world-music flavor.
It’s time to start wondering which singers are going to get through the battle rounds–only about half of them can, unless we have a big surprise coming. Tomorrow I’ll post my predictions. For now here’s the running tally:
Alicia: Lilly Passero, Autumn Turner, Felicia “Keys” Temple, Anatalia Villaranda, Lauryn Judd, Missy Robertson make a crowd of female pop/soul vocalists. She now has male vocalists RJ Collins and Hunter Plake, as well as piano man Jack Cassidy and young Michael Jackson impersonator Quizz Swaningan.
Gwen: Rockers Johnny Gates and Troy Ramey, R&B vocalists J Chosen, Brandron Royal, country-flavored Kenny P and female pop vocalists Savannah Leyton, Caroline Sky, Stephanie Rice, Davina Leone, Sammie Zonana, Aaliyah Rose.
Blake: Female country vocalists Allaya Moulden, Andrea Thomas, Brennley Brown, Lauren Dusky, Cassie Joy, Ashley Levin, old soul Josh Hoyer, soul man TSoul, female pop vocalists Enid Ortiz and Micah Tryba, and Valerie Ponzio who’s between pop and country.
Adam: Rockers Jesse Larson, Josh West, Johnny Hayes, Mark Isiah, Julien Martinez, male R&B vocalists Malik Devage and Kawan De Bose, female pop vocalists Gabby Borromeo, Nala Price, Hanna Erye, and country singer Taylor Alexander.