by Lyn Jensen
Let the voting begin–but only if you’ve got an app! Live rounds of The Voice continued Tuesday, with viewers getting their first chance to vote for Team Gwen and Team Adam, but new voting procedures are disenfranchising voters. You have to download an app from the NBC website and then re-tweet tweets while the show’s in progress. You don’t belong to a demographic that’s download-crazy and tweet-obsessed? Too bad!
Obviously confining the voting audience to who’s got an app and likes to tweet, and only during the live broadcast–restricting the vote to mostly the i-Phone gen, east of the Mississippi–is going to skew the results. With the voting window only open for about an hour per team, that also means people will be inclined to vote before hearing all performances.
It’s a singing contest, though, so it’s not like you can just ignore the performances. Six singers from Team Gwen, six singers from Team Adam, and viewers’ re-tweets determine two contestants to advance from each team. Then one more person from each team is advanced by the judge’s decision.
1. Johnny Gates is who Gwen cut and then called back, like an on-again-off-again date. Having him sing for viewers’ votes almost justifies the callback, but the fact remains only two people of six can be voted through, and Gwen’s already got Troy Ramey rep’in’ rock. Plus Gates picks a song (Selena Gomez’ “Hands to Myself”) that doesn’t really work for him, and his voice sounds a little thin.
2. Troy Ramey chooses to show a romantic side, turning Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” into a power ballad. Adam likes the way “you so came into it” and Gwen says, “I could see you at your own show.”
3. Quizz Swanigan (“Quizz” is short for Jacques) and Gwen talk about how she got into ska when she was his age, and he’s into Motown. He sings “My Girl” for his school crush. Maybe Gwen knew what she was doing when she put him on her team, because he’s one of the most entertaining contestants this season. He sounds more mature than some of the adults do, and the one strike against him is that he’s so young. He’ll have other chances.
4. Brennley Brown, originally one of Blake’s surplus country singers, now allows Team Gwen to woo the country audience. Gwen coaches her to adopt a seventies’ flowers-in-the-hair look, with a sound to match. She picks a current country song, “Fly,” that’s probably not familiar to anybody outside the download-app crowd, but that’s this season’s voting demographic. I’ve heard her sing better but Blake still comments afterward how he made a mistake when he let her go. I’d say he had so many female country vocalists, they were somewhat interchangeable.
5. J Chosen sings the H*ll out of “Nothing Compares to U (You).” R&B singers won the first couple of seasons, but they’ve had a hard time since.
6. Hunter Plake fits perfectly with the type of singers that commonly won American Idol (and then faded). He’s a church singer and his spiritual-tinged “I Want to Know What Love is” has already hit top thirty on iTunes–so he’s got the Heartland church vote. When he sings Sia’s “Elastic Heart,” moreover, he shows he has a fine pop-chart voice, with some flavor resembling George Michael, or Adam Lambert. Adam Levine admits he could win. I think I know where this season’s going.
1. Johnny Hayes, Adam’s callback, is still rock ‘n’ roll to me, even though Carson Daly calls him a soul artist. He does show a James Brown style on “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.”
2. Hanna Erye says she wants to be an “R&B pop artist.” She strikes me as more the flowers-in-her-hair type that Gwen coached Brennley Brown to be. Adam says she has the most powerful voice of anyone on the show (“the beast you have inside”) but that’s got to be an exaggeration. She does have a mature voice, with the kind of range that can be soft and subtle for one measure and powerful the next. Unfortunately I found her song choice, Demi Lovato’s “Skyscraper,” dubious, although the i-Phone set may disagree. Against tonight’s competition, she may have faltered.
3. Josh West goes back to seventies’ classic rock with Boston’s “More Than a Feeling.” (It’s fun to hear Adam sing it during rehearsal, too.) Adam tells Josh that he can go on tour with “one of those old bands that needs a young singer.” Josh calls the song “anthemic.” Adam calls it “operatic,” and says it’s one of the “hardest, scariest songs for a male singer.” The “straight-up rock ‘n’ roll scream at the end” (according to Carson Daly) helps makes this the straight-up rock performance of the night.
4. Mark Isaiah is this season’s teen idol, already getting fan mail, and his name’s in Teen Vogue. Adam assigns him “All Time Low,” a dark contemporary adult-rock song, instead of a romantic pop-chart teen-friendly hit, because, Adam says, he doesn’t want a generic performance here. It does provide some diversity–but it may not excite teens with their phone apps. Amazingly, Adam shows his hand when he comments, “Everybody voting, give me more time with this guy.”
5. Lilly Passero, who waitresses about a mile from The Voice soundstage in Universal City, gets to sing for votes. She sings Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” and she’s a far better singer than King. Alicia–who shockingly let her go–says, “Lilly has the ability to draw people in.” Adam says, “She’s a world-class singer … She can win.”
6. Jesse Larson, the oldest and most experienced of Adam’s three rockers, says, “I’m exploring being a frontman.” However, he may have miscalculated by singing Stevie Wonder’s tribute to Duke Ellington, “Sir Duke” (although it’s fun to hear Adam sing it in rehearsal, too). The risk is that he won’t woo fans of any particular genre. He sings a good song well, but it’s off-target somewhere between soul, rock and jazz. Adam likes it, though, Alicia likes it, the other coaches/judges like it–and the audience likes it. Adam proclaims it the best vocal of the night, adding, “The white Cee Lo!”
Team Gwen: Maybe Blake’s fans voted for Gwen’s team, because the top two votes are for her country-flavored singers, Hunter Plake and Brennley Brown. Before Carson Daly read the votes, he asked Alicia who she’d pick, and she answered, Hunter Plake and Troy Ramey. Perhaps Gwen took Alicia’s advice, because Troy Ramey is who she chooses as her third team member to advance.
Adam always goes last, and it’s always after the judge next to him is asked to select one final singer, and that judge has taken five minutes of talking about how wonderful every single team member is and how hard the decision is, before finally answering the question. That means Adam never has time to say much except blurt out a name.
Team Adam: The votes are for Jesse Larson and Lilly Passero. (Take that, Alicia!) Adam then names Mark Isaiah as the third member of his team to advance. So he will get to coach him some more.
Next week: the top twelve live–and I hope online voting returns as an option.