April 7th, 2015 · No Comments
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by Lyn Jensen
Season 8 of The Voice packed its final six knockout cards into two hours on Monday, and then devoted Tuesday to a recap of the season so far. Next week we’ll see the final 20 contestants sing in the semi-finals, when the public will begin to vote. The hype leading up to Monday was about how Christina had the final steal, and we knew she’d only use it on the last knockout. Did she use it wisely? Did the other judges pick their teams wisely? Let’s find out:
1. Team Adam: Tonya Boyd-Cannon vs. Barry Minnefield
Adam matches his two remaining R&B powerhouses, explaining, “I want to see who can outdo who.” Both are mature veterans, but thirty-ish Tonya’s a kid compared to 53-year-old Barry.
1-A. Tonya, a heavyset church singer and prison choir director, picks a gender-inappropriate song, Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish.” Adam advises her about the song’s syncopated rhythm by singing a snatch of the song himself. He then adds, “You gotta be you.” The resulting performance shows off her vocal ability–but we’re left wondering what she could do with a more appropriate song.
1-B. While Tonya goes for the R&B angle, Barry goes for a jazzier side with Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do (for Love).” Adam and guest advisor Nate Ruess (of Fun) suggest taking the arrangement up a half-step. The result has Adam raving about “Barry 2.0.”
After Barry’s performance, Pharrell raves, “America needs to see a 53-year-old black man givin’ it that kind of soul … I wish I had a steal.” (That’s a hazzard of the “steal” gimmick–judges have to guess the best time to use it.) He and Adam both praise how the guy was able to hit the high notes without going into falsetto. However, Adam (after considerable agony) keeps Tonya. It’s possible he looked ahead and thought the public would be more likely to vote for her.
2. Team Blake: Brooke Adee vs. Kelsie May
Blake matches his 16-year-old Southern girls. Kelsie May is a throwback to the traditional hard country style. Blake calls Brooke alt, but he’s using that term from a Nashville perspective.
2-A. Kelsie decides to radically change her style–which probably isn’t a good idea for the knockout rounds. She moves into new country, Taylor Swift’s “Tim McGraw” ballad. (That’s not even her best option for a Taylor Swift song.) During rehearsal, Blake and Ruess notice she’s singing sharp. “It’s worse to be flat than sharp,” counsels Ruess, as if making the best of it.
2-B. Brooke makes a dubious song choice as well, “Electric Feel,” which is gender-inappropriate and a stretch for her style. She explains, “My last songs were ballad-y, this is more upbeat, represents me as an alternate artist.” I’d argue it’s not alternate enough to be alternate and not rootsy enough to compete with Kelsie.
After the performances, Pharrell thinks Brooke sounds like a Motown B-side (which probably isn’t her best element). Christina points out the girls have strength in different areas–Brooke’s strong, Kelsie’s sweet. Adam points out Kelsie’s pitch problems and says he’d pick Brooke. Blake agonizes clear through a commercial break (after he mocked Adam’s agonizing over the evening’s first decision). Blake finally picks Brooke, leaving a country singer for Christina if she wants her–but Christina doesn’t want her. Backstage, Brooke tells Blake she’ll try country, and Blake argues, “We’re not sellin’ out.” Something tells me, however, provided she stays around long enough, that Blake’s going to steer her to country–like he did with Cassadee Pope.
3. Team Christina: India Carney vs. Joe Tolo
Christina says she’s putting Carney and Tolo together because they “both have really great vocal control.” Joe’s a Samoan-American who sings in church, with elements of pop and soul. Carney’s trained in opera but is now looking to start a pop/R&B career. (Quick now, who was the male opera-trained singer Christina almost won season 2 with? Chris Mann, right!)
3-A. Tolo goes back to the nineties for “(What if God Was) One of us,” a song that should be revived on these talent shows more often. Christina comments, “You brought an eye-opening twist to it.” He makes it a song about spiritual questing, not spiritual doubt. His performance is a little strained, however.
3-B. Carney, one of this season’s powerhouses, does a flawless rendition of Jessie J’s “Big White Room” (not to be confused with “Long White Room” for those who remember the sixties). She’s the knockout of the knockouts!
The judges all prefer Carney, although they have kind words for Tolo as well. Christina picks India. Since the other three coaches have used their steals, Tolo must walk.
4. Team Pharrell: Lowell Oakley vs. Jacob Rummell
Pharrell pairs his two teen idol types. Oakley’s the classic crooning pin-up, and quirky Rummell’s 17–but his voice hasn’t changed.
4-A. Rummell’s song choice is the contemporary, “Life of the Party (We Don’t Have to be Ordinary).”
4-B. Oakley says he’s singing the Motown classic, “My Girl,” for his girl back home. Pharrell coaches him to sing it to her picture–in the audience, in the judges’ chairs, and in the cameras, that is. On the first bar of his performance, he cracks himself up, blurting out, “I love this song!” His voice sounds great but, as the judges comment afterwards, he overplayed his performance. Pharrell adds that the rehearsal was better.
That leaves a slight opening for Rummell, but Pharrell chooses Lowell Oakley. Backstage the jazz-flavored crooner admits, “I didn’t execute the way I wanted to.” Pharrell makes a point to come backstage, and issues a warning, “I’ve saved you twice because I believe in you. You’ve got to start believing in yourself.”
5. Team Christina: Rob (not Rod) Taylor vs. Treeva (not Trina) Gibson
Two pop singers with sentimental back stories and (according to Christina) “great falsettos,” are in this bracket.
5-A. Carson Daly announces the start of this knockout round by saying “Treena leaves her heart on the stage.” She sings an Adele song, “Chasing Pavements.”
5-B. Taylor sngs Al Green’s “Love and Happiness.”
So Christina’s choice is between a pop princess and an R&B powerhouse. The Real Xtina picks Rob Taylor.
6. Team Adam: Joshua Davis vs. Lexi Davilla
Since this is the last knockout pairing we know that whoever Adam cuts, Christina’s getting. He’s put together two contestants with completely different styles. Davis is a subtle, soulful latter-day folksinger. Davilla’s a Vegas-y Latin spitfire.
6-A. Davis sings “In the Arms of a Woman” for his wife. The effect is so romantic it has Blake declaring, “I want to spoon with you!” (Adam, the other half of TV’s favorite bro-mance, looks jealous and complains about harassment.)
6-B. Lexi hits some showy big notes on Ellie Goulding’s “Anything Could Happen.” Adam notes she struggles with confidence issues, but she gets off a run that draws Pharrell out of his chair.
Pharrell thinks Lexi won the knockout. Blake thinks Joshua did. Adam keeps Joshua Davis and lets Lexi Davilla go to Team Christina. That’s probably the sensible match–Adam has the singer-songwriter type and Christina has the Latina. Christina thinks the result helps give her the strongest team she’s ever had.
Here are the teams that will proceed to the voting rounds on Monday, Apr. 6:
Team Adam: R&B powerhouse Tonya Boyd-Cannon, folksinger Joshua Davis, country-pop singer Deanna Johnson, quirky Nate Hermida, and Adam Levine fan Brian Johnson. Most likely to win? Joshua Davis.
Team Blake: three female rock vocalists in various styles (Sarah Potenza, Hannah Kirby and Meghan Linsey), one teenage country singer (Corey Kent White) and Brooke Adee, who could be coached into country, alt-country, country-pop, or even rock. Most likely to win? Meghan Linsey–if Blake coaches her the way he coached Cassadee Pope in season 3.
Team Christina (or “Xtina”): R&B powerhouses India Carney and Rob Taylor, Latin singer Lexi Davilla, and two female vocalists who lean rock (Sonic, Kimberly Nichole). Most likely to win? India Carney.
Team Pharrell: teen idol type Lowell Oakley, teen folksinger Sawyer Fredericks, and three women (Koryn Hawthorne, Caitlyn Caporale, and Mia Z) with variations of mainstream pop styles. Most likely to win? Sawyer Fredericks.
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by Lyn Jensen
Last night The Voice showed three knockouts–where the judges compare two contestants’ performances and send one home, unless another judge “steals” to place the contestant on another team. I disagreed with every decision. Maybe the judges were thinking too far ahead–they looked to be stocking up with some easy decisions for future cuts. Here’s who was kept and cut and stolen:
First knockout: Team Blake, Corey Kent White vs. Cody Wickline
Blake matches his two remaining male country vocalists.
A. Cody Wickline shows a sweet voice and romantic side with “Til my Last Day (I’ll be Lovin’ You).” He’s also the more mature and experienced of the two.
B. Country teen phenomenon Corey Kent White sings Tim McGraw’s “Live Like You Were Dying” for his ailing grandfather.
The judges are divided. Christina loved Cody’s tenderness and soul, and Pharrell agrees there were “some interesting colors.” Adam, however, thinks Corey could win because of the “passion” he showed. Maybe that’s why Blake picks Corey and nobody steals Cody. White’s a good singer but he’s an inexperienced singer and I doubt he stands a better chance of winning the season than Wickline would have.
Second knockout: Team Adam, Blaze Johnson vs. Deanna Johnson
Blake calls this match-up “Johnson vs. Johnson” and that’s as good a reason as any for Adam matching these two. He says something about they’re both unique–but isn’t that something that can be said of any contestant? (They’re both church singers, maybe there’s a connection there.)
A. Blaze puts some gospel-tinged soul into a contemporary grunge-rock hit, “You Found Me.” He’s one of the better black R&B singers the show’s featured this season. “Not many guys look like me, sing songs like this,” he says. He shows himself to be a powerhouse comparable to Eddie Vedder.
B. Deanna at her best has a different kind of power, a versatile voice that may be compared to Linda Ronstadt–but she appears far from ready to win this competition. She sings a shaky “Listen to Your Heart.” She accompanied by just a piano, so the judges can hear every flaw.
Blake immediately points out Deanna’s pitch issues. Christina criticizes her performance as well. Pharrell observes, “Blaze, you’re a little more prepared for it.” So Adam picks Deanna and lets Blaze walk. Then he’s got the nerve to hug his contestant good-bye. Levine’s prattling on about “more to discover” and “some kernel of genius.” Was this a pity vote, or was Levine listening with his eyes, or was he simply wanting to make the next round of cuts easier on himself?
Third knockout: Team Pharrell, Hannah Kirby vs. Caitlin Caporale
Pharrell must choose between two girl singers with different styles but neither one’s performance shows much style in this round.
A. TV talent contests almost always have that one contestant who sounds brilliant one round and terrible the next. On season 8 of The Voice, my candidate for that contestant is Kirby. She was so brilliant on classic rock–but she wants to do a pop song this round, so she makes a terrible song choice with the moldy seventies’ oldie, “Higher Love.” Instead of sounding like a blues-rock hurricane, she just sounds loud and shrill. Blaming the song choice is too easy–great singers can sing anything, but Kirby’s plainly not in her element.
B. Caporale, on the other hand, is in her element, with a ballad that shows her great dynamic voice. She works the stage better than Kirby, too.
Adam and Blake both rave about Hannah, however, like they didn’t even see or hear what they just heard and saw. Pharrell notes his choice is between Caitlin, who turns inward, compared to Hannah, who “lets all her feelings out.” He rightfully determines Caitlin is “consistent with who she is.” Pharrell chooses Caitlin Caporale and Blake promptly steals Hannah Kirby back. (He has a history of eliminating people, then changing his mind.) He could have stolen Blaze Johnson or Paul Pfau, and singers like Lowell Oakley and Tonya Boyd-Cannon are still on the board. Maybe Blake’s already thinking he wants to keep Sarah Potenza, Meghan Linsey and one of his country girls, and is going to let the rest of his team walk?
Final knockout rounds continue for three hours next Monday and Tuesday. Christina’s the only judge left who can steal. We know it can’t be from her team, and she’ll sit on it ’til the last knockout of Tuesday night, if previous seasons are any indication. A look at the board shows she’ll only have a chance with five singers. Which five?
March 24th, 2015 · No Comments
Now season 8 of The Voice enters the knockout round, with the judges once again matching up contestants and halving their teams. Each judge only gets one steal, meaning they need to figure out which one singer is a must-have.
First knockout: Team Christina, Ashley Morgan vs. Sonic
Christina must choose between her two female pop vocalists.
A. Ashley goes first and presents herself as a belter, flashing back to the eighties with Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker.”
B. Sonic goes second and shows a bluesy, sultry side with an Alicia Keys song. Actually this might have been a better match if both women had shown the same style–either edgy retro-eighties pop-rock or something soulful and bluesy.
Christina picks Sonic, explaining later that, “Ashley could have given a showstopper performance and she fell just a little bit short.” Nobody steals Morgan.
Second knockout: Team Blake, Sarah Potenza vs. Brian Johnson
Blake says, “These two singers are so powerful it wouldn’t be fair to put them up against any other vocalist.” He later adds, “Whoever can show control over their power” is who he’ll keep.
A. Potenza explains she can relate to “Wasted Love,” a song introduced on The Voice by season 7 finalist Matt McAndrew, because that’s how she felt when she and her husband were separated for six years. She milks drama out of every word of the power ballad, giving it more of a barroom feel than McAndrew did.
B. Maroon 5 fan Johnson goes in the direction of British singer James Morrison (not to be confused with Jim Morrison), picking “Nothing Ever Hurt Like You,” giving it an upbeat hip vibe.
Blake picks Sarah but Adam steals Brian. The good thing is, one Maroon 5 fan is united with his favorite frontman. The bad thing is, it’s only the second knockout and Adam’s out of steals.
Third knockout: Team Adam, Nate Hermida vs. Clinton Washington
Adam pairs two of his edgier male pop vocalists. He says Nate’s reserved and needs to let it out, while Clinton needs to rein his power in.
A. Hermida choses gay singer Sam Smith’s ballad, “Leave Your Lover (Leave Him to me),” turning his performance into a statement.
B. Washington says that, with so many R&B singers on Team Adam, he wanted to go with something different, so he takes Hunter Hayes’ contemporary country hit, “Wanted,” and gives it a jazzy pop-style delivery.
Blake comments afterwards, “Nathan just sang a duet with himself,” noting the way that Hermida can move in and out of his falsetto range. Adam says he liked how Clinton showed his versatility but, “Nathan, you finally opened up” and “you showed your heart to everybody.” Adam keeps Nathan Hermida. Washington is out.
Third knockout: Team Pharrell, Sawyer Fredericks vs. Mia Z vs. Paul Pfau
Pharrell calls Sawyer, Mia, and Paul together and tells them Anthony Riley had to drop out “for personal reasons” so three singers will have to compete, with two being kept and one cut. (He’d probably planned to match Paul against Anthony.) All three singers’ song selections show a bluesy side.
A. Mia Z sings “Hold On, I’m Comin'” which was a Sam and Dave song back in the sixties. She’s shrill and nasal and already sounds like she’s got no chance to win–not against this season’s competition.
B. Maroon 5 fan Paul shows a great classic blues-rock groove with “I Don’t Need no Doctor.”
C. Sawyer, who at 15, is breaking out as a great natural talent, generating much of this season’s buzz, performs the song “Collide” with his own distinct style. The song isn’t impressive, but his vocals are. Adam praises the result, noting, “the way you filled the room.”
For some reason the judges prefer Mia. First Pharrell makes certain nobody else will get Sawyer Fredericks. He’ll keep this guy as long as he can, knowing this is someone every other judge wants. The audience is shouting overwhelmingly to keep Paul, but Pharrell keeps Mia and cuts Paul anyway. Afterwards he makes some kind of explanation about how he didn’t have anywhere he could go with Paul. (I’m not sure he has anywhere to go with Mia, either.) Adam can’t steal Paul because he already stole Brian Johnson, this season’s other Maroon 5 fan, and neither Christina nor Blake show any interest.
Fourth knockout: Team Blake, Meghan Linsey vs. Travis Ewing
Blake pairs Meghan Linsey, who he knows from her days as a signed country artist, with bluesy Southerner Travis Ewing.
A. Linsey gives “Natural Woman” a country-rock makeover.
B. Ewing gives Gavin DeGraw’s “I Don’t Want to be” a classic rock flavor, turning it into a story-song.
Ewing’s performance was his best of the season but Blake picks Linsey and nobody steals Ewing.
Fifth knockout: Team Christina, Kimberly Nichole vs. Koryn Hawthorne
Christina must choose between her female R&B vocalists. Nichole’s more like a rock singer in the Tina Turner mold, while Hawthorne’s a case of classic gospel-tinged “old school.” We know both of these singers will be kept because we’ve been teased about a steal.
A. Kimberly, despite her rock style, picks a ballad, Sting’s “If you Love Somebody, Set Them Free.” She plays up its reggae aspect, and the result shows some resemblance to Season 5 winner Tessanne Chin.
B. It’s the 16-year-old Hawthorne who demonstrates she can rock, showcasing her big powerhouse voice (for such a slender body) with Pink’s “Try.”
Christina keeps Kimberly Nichole, thwarting Pharrell’s desire to get that contestant back on his team. Then she runs to Blake and begs him to use his steal. (Who’s she to tell another judge what to do?) Pharrell pushes his button and steals Koryn Hawthorne. If he can’t have Kimberly, he’ll take Koryn.
Tonight we’ll see six more singers, with three going home, unless Christina or Blake steal one.