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.
November 11th, 2014 · No Comments
November 6th, 2014 · No Comments
November 5th, 2014 · No Comments
The Voice crammed all seven remaining knockout pairings into two hours on Monday night, finishing the knockout rounds for Season 7. The knockout rounds force the judges to cut their fields from eight singers to four, plus steal one from another team. Blake is the only judge left who can take a singer discarded from another team. By the end of the night, the judges had their teams of five that will compete for viewers’ votes in the semi-finals next week:
1. The evening begins with Blake matching what he calls his two “throwback vintage country-singin’ girls,” Alison Bray vs. Taylor Brashears. They both pick Dixie Chicks songs. Alison picks the uptempo “Sin Wagon,” and Blake points out a pitch problem as he coaches her. Taylor picks “Landslide,” which began as a Fleetwood Mac rock ballad before the Dixie Chicks revived it. Blake warns her about being pitchy, too. Alison gives a performance that’s heavy on the big loud notes. Taylor gives her song a more polished vocal, showing more range, but going for the big loud notes, too. After the performances, Gwen says she’d pick Taylor. Adam likes Alison. Blake does pick Taylor, making her one of three Taylors in this year’s semi-final field.
2. Gwen pairs her two remaining mainsteam pop singers: Ryan Sill vs. Beth Spangler. Both make mediocre song choices. He gives “Miss Independent” (a Ne-Yo song) a boy-band flavor. She picks an R&B song titled, “Too Little, Too Late,” but the hook is, “A little too late.” Gwen coaches Ryan to unleash his inner charisma, milk the girls’ screams, and he does. After the judges watch the performances, Adam advises he’d pick Ryan. Gwen does pick Ryan Sill. Blake says he didn’t steal the Southern-flavored Beth because he’s waiting for an artist he thinks can get him to the finale.
3. Pharrell makes the only pairing he has left to make, and it’s a strange one. His reggae guy, Menlick Zergabachew, goes against Jean Kelley, whose most prominent characteristic is that she sounds a little like Gwen Stefani. There was a reggae edge to Stephani’s old group No Doubt, but Menlick might have paired more naturally against Maya Sykes, and Kelley might have been better off judged against Kariz Trinidad. Zergabachew picks a Bob Marley song, “Could You Be Loved.” Kelley picks the song “Chandelier,” and comes off as the more versatile singer. Pharrell, perhaps thinking about who shows the most versatility, does pick Jean Kelley. We’ll be waiting to hear her do a Gwen Stefani song. Blake declines to steal Zergabachew, explaining that there’s a particular singer he’s waiting for.
4. I’ve been thinking that if Adam doesn’t fill his final two slots with Matt McAndrew and Blessing Offor, he’s crazy. If Adam cuts either guy and Blake doesn’t use his steal, Blake’s crazy. Adam pairs Offor with one of the few vocalists who can make an even match, 20-year-old Chris Jamison. It’s black R&B vs. white soul. Offor shows his versatility by putting a soulful twist on John Mayer’s “Wonderland.” Jamison’s the guy Adam accused of breaking the PA in a previous round. He reaches back to the sixties for “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” Pharrell judges Offor’s performance as a little pitchy and recommends picking Jamison. Adam does pick Jamison, perhaps thinking he may have more contemporary appeal. What’s less understandable is that Blake continues to sit stubbornly on his steal. Of course, given the way the show’s edited, we don’t expect to see Blake’s steal until the last pairing of the night.
5. For some reason the show is edited so that we only get a sound byte of Adam’s final pairing: alt-rocker Matt McAndrew vs. Rebekah Samarin, who viewers never do learn a thing about. We didn’t see her audition or her battle round. We don’t see her now, either. We just get a snatch of McAndrew singing “Drops of Jupiter.” At least Adam does keep McAndrew in his final five.
6. Blake pairs his teens, 16-year-old Grant Ganzer against 15-year-old Reagan James with her Kelly Clarkson tones. Both make poor song choices. He sings “Apologize” as white soul, when he needs a teen-appeal song. She sings a forgettable R&B number, “Hit ‘em Up Style.” Blake advises her it’s a tough song to sing but she sings it anyway. Grant does show he’s got a big voice for a little guy, and Pharrell says he’d pick Grant. However, Blake picks Reagan, and there’s nobody left who can steal Grant. We’ll be waiting to see if James fulfills her promise as a potential teen Kelly Clarkson.
7. Last pairing of the night, last pairing of this season’s knockout rounds, and there’s minimal suspense. We know that Gwen is going to let one singer go, and Blake is going to get his fifth and final team member. Even Gwen admits this pairing’s a mismatch: reggae queen Anita Antoinette against redneck rocker Craig Wayne Boyd. Gwen and guest advisor Taylor Swift persuade him to trim his hair and beard, and change to a more urban-looking jacket. He sings “Can’t You See” (originally by Marshall Tucker). Anita sings a below-average reggae song. Blake’s babbling about Boyd was originally on his team, and he compares him to that girl you broke up with and now she’s hotter than ever. Gwen picks Anita Antoinette, although I wouldn’t. (She’s got great soul but this season’s full of great soul singers.) Maybe it’s because Blake is so vocal about letting everyone know he wants Boyd back, but I’d think that would give Gwen all the more reason to hang on to him, and make Blake take Anita (when he could’ve had Blessing Offor). Blake does get Boyd back. “I got my girl back!” he wisecracks.
Here are the judges’ teams that will sing for viewers’ votes starting next week:
Adam: alt-rocker Matt McAndrew with his voice like David Cook, alt-rocker Taylor Phelan, white soulman Chris Jamison (who broke the PA), young black soulman Damian, and big-voiced Mia Pfirrman.
Blake: redneck rocker Craig Wayne Boyd, male country vocalist James David Carter, female country vocalist Taylor Brashears, Jewel soundalike Jessie Pitts, and Kelly Clarkson soundalike Reagan James.
Gwen: reggae queen Anita Antoinette, aspiring teen idols Ryan Sill and Ricky Manning, alt-rocker Taylor John Williams, and jazz-flavored teen Brianna Salaz.
Pharrell: soulful-voiced powerhouses Danica Shirey and Sugar Joans, white soulman Luke Wade, young black soulman Elyjah Rene, and Jean Kelley with her voice like Gwen Stefani.
November 4th, 2014 · No Comments
Starting in Marrakesh, Morocco, the final seven teams in The Amazing Race Season 25 get their first clue for this leg. Apparently horse-drawn carriages are popular in this city and teams are told to find a certain stable and take a ride in a horse-drawn carriage. They’re to stop at a feed storage yard first, and carry two large bags of hay to the stable. (The bags must weigh 50 lb. each, maybe even 100 lb.) At the end of the carriage ride, teams have to feed the horses apples. (I guess it’s like paying their cabbie, except teams are “paying” their four-legged cabbies.) Then the carriage driver gives them their next clue.
At the front of the pack, bicycle racers Kym/Alli and surfers Bethany/Adam take taxis to the stables. Next to depart are the gay couple, T/T, and the black mother-daughter team Shelley/Nici. They start trying to walk to the stables but eventually they find out it’s too far. They fall behind.
Last to start this leg are wrestler couple Brooke/Robbie, dentist couple Misti/Jim, and scientists Amy/Maya. The wrestlers and dentists take taxis. The scientists try walking. They, too, fall even further behind.
Front-runners Kym/Alli and Bethany/Adam finish their carriage ride quickly and get their next clue from the carriage driver. It tells them Ford Fiestas are parked at a nearby mosque. Teams are to drive themselves to a pottery stand to get the next clue.
Jim/Misti are third to finish the carriage ride, and Brooke/Robbie are fourth. Shelley/Nici, T/T, and Amy/Maya are all having trouble finding the hay and/or the stables.
Kym/Alli are 1st to reach the pottery stand, which is more like a huge pottery yard, with thousands of pots over a large piece of land. When they find the clue box practically buried among the pots, it contains detour instructions.
For one detour, teams may pitch a tent according to the customs of the nomadic Berber tribe. For the other, teams may milk goats in a nearby goat pen, then hand-churn the milk, putting it in a leather bag and shaking it until they get three oz. of goat butter. Kym/Alli choose to make butter.
Jim/Misti are the 2nd team to reach the pottery yard. They decide to pitch a tent because, Jim says, they won’t have to work with animals.
Adam/Bethany and Brooke/Robbie are the next teams to reach the pottery yard. They pick the butter detour.
Around this time the three trailing teams are finishing their carriage rides. T/T are 5th, Shelley/Nici, 6th, and Amy/Maya are 7th. However, Shelley/Nici can’t find the pottery stand. (At one point the camera caught them passing a large amount of pottery, so it’s possible they drove right past it.) They drive a considerable distance and finally stop and ask directions at what looks like a government building. A man who speaks English gives them directions, but one of the women complains they’ve wasted about three hours. That may be correct.
Adam/Bethany arrive at the goat pen. Kym/Alli get enough milk in their milk bowl, but then they find out churning the butter will take 45 min. They decide to try pitching the tent instead. Pitching the tent, however, proves too hard, so they switch back.
The wrestlers arrive at the goat pen. Girl wrestler Brooke starts trying to catch a goat with “big boobs,” as she puts it.
The female scientists find the pottery yard and choose to churn butter. They approach it in a scientific way, talking about how it needs force. When T/T get their detour clue, they choose to pitch a tent.
Dentists Misti/Jim are the first team to complete either detour. Their next clue says to drive to a wilderness recreation area in the Atlas Mountains. When they get there, they find a roadblock that combines daredevil feats with putting a puzzle together. One racer must cross a canyon on a rope-and-plank bridge that’s like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. As if that weren’t enough, the bridge doesn’t even have planks for a considerable length, turning the crossing into a tightrope walk. Racers wear safety harnesses but it’s still amazing that nobody slips off the rope and ends up hanging over the canyon. Next comes a zip line, after which the racer must stop and assemble a sliding puzzle. When the puzzle’s completed, a man must approve it, and if it’s correct, the racer gets strapped to a zip line for the return trip.
The man who unhooks racers at the opposite end hands out the next clue, which is for this leg’s pit stop. Misti does the RB, and she and her husband head for the pit stop, a casbah on the outskirts of Marrakesh. The couple take 1st place for this leg and win a trip to Brazil.
Adam/Bethany and T/T finish their detours. Adam/Bethany get to the RB just after Misti/Jim leave. Bethany has to do what RBs she can–something may come up that she can’t do–so she does this one. Being a surfer, and wearing a safety harness, she has the ability to balance on the high bridge. When she gets to the puzzle, she finds she can’t hold the pieces together with just one hand, so she takes off her shoes and uses her feet.
The three teams still at the goat pen finish churning butter: Kym/Alli, then Amy/Maya, and finally Brooke/Robbie. As the last two teams leave, Shelley/Nici arrive. The scientists and wrestlers know this means another team’s in last place. The mother-daughter team hope they can catch up, but we know the butter-churning will take them about 45 min.
Adam/Bethany get their pit stop clue and depart before T/T arrive at the RB. Te Jay does the RB because he’s good with puzzles–but not with heights. Kym/Alli arrive shortly after and Alli does the RB. She and Te Jay agree to work together to solve the puzzle. They finish and their teams start driving to the casbah.
Brooke/Robbie reach the RB before the scientists do–the scientists miss a turn and have to go back. Brooke does the RB, but she’s getting loud and emotional over the bridge and the puzzle. Maya catches up with her, reassuring her, explaining how the pieces match. Brooke’s able to complete the RB more calmly.
Adam/Bethany get to the pit stop in 2nd place. Kym/Alli are 3rd. (The three top teams are proving to be the dominant teams of this season.) T/T are 4th. Brooke/Robbie are fifth–they make a grand entrance, him piggybacking her and twirling her around.
Maya finishes her puzzle and zips back to Amy. Shelley/Nici haven’t arrived at the RB yet. Amy/Maya are the 6th team to arrive at the pit stop.
Shelley/Nici finish churning the butter. Shelley (the mother) does the RB. They reach the pit stop last and find they’re eliminated. They probably were the weakest of the remaining teams anyway. “The good news is,” Phil tells them, “mother and daughter are connected again.” After that blow-up two legs ago, they haven’t had a major argument since.
Commercials for the next episode tease that teams will be go-cart racing in Italy.