THE VOICE Recap: The Final (Please, God) Blind Auditions

Good evening, folks! After three long days of Oscar coverage, we’re returning to the warm embrace of Cee Lo and friends. (You know what, poor choice of words. I’m still a little punch drunk.) Anyway, it’s nice to be watching something else. Let’s dive in!

Carson introduces us to “the most exciting singing competition on television,” which shows that the Voice producers are enjoying the hell out of beating Idol in the ratings. (Me too, guys.) “America fell in love with the blind auditions,” Carson continues, and I’m here to report that we’re falling out of love. Let’s wrap this up. Adam, Blake and Christina need 2 more people for their teams, and Cee Lo needs 3. Dear God this recap piece is endless, it feels like an Oscar montage. I may need to get my head around a new topic.

First up is Whitney Myer, a 25-year old from Reno. She tours around with her bandmates – her dad and uncle – and I’m waiting for the tragic backstory but it never comes, unless you consider that she has to share a tour bus with her dad and uncle. “What does this opportunity offer you?” Carson asks her, and I’m thinking that it’s the chance to get the hell off of that bus. Whitney is singing “No One,” and it’s much jazzier, more up tempo than the original. She’s got great pitch and tone, and Adam turns right around. I would like Adam to gaze happily at me, as he does at the contestants he likes. The rest turn in short order, and Whitney goes 4 for 4! There is nearly a fistfight going on for her, but she chooses Adam. Looks like her dad and uncle will need a new lead singer.

Hey, you know what I’m really looking forward to? Seeing the judges in different outfits. It’s like watching Ghost, and getting really sick of the burgundy shirt and jeans that Patrick Swayze wears throughout the entire movie.

Next is handsome Texan David Dunn, and hi there, David! Oh, he brought along a pregnant wife. Stand down, folks. His father is an engineer who is not thrilled that his son is pursuing music rather than the family’s engineering business; “We’ll see how long it lasts,” Dad says supportively. David sings “The Man Who Can’t Be Moved” and the judges look intrigued by his voice; it’s kind of Coldplay-ish. More importantly, the girls in the audience are screaming like they’re on fire, but it’s pretty clear that isn’t entirely – or at all – due to his vocal prowess. A few wonked notes and a late-innings pickiness keep anyone from choosing him, but it was clearly close. Don’t the judges realize that he has to be an engineer now? David’s dad gives him a comforting hug, with a clear “I’ll have my secretary clear an office” expression. Poor David.

Next up, we have Rory and Tristan, otherwise known as the Shields Brothers. They live on a farm in Virginia, so we get the requisite b-roll footage of them riding a tractor. In a nice counterpoint to our previous contestant, their father desperately wants them to succeed at music, but his main concern is getting them the hell out of the house. Tristan and Rory vow to “punch American in the face with rock ‘n roll,” which is an unfortunate statement in the age of Chris Brown. They take the stage to sing “Dancing with Myself,” and it’s really quite cool; the farmboys rock some great harmonies and tons of energy, though it borders on manic. Cee Lo claims them, and their dad unleashes the joyful celebration of a man about to reclaim his garage.

After the break, Cheesa (pronounced “Chessa”, though I’d imagine she took some ribbing as a young one) shares the story of her cash-strapped family moving into the garage of their home so that they could gain income by turning the house into an elderly care facility; as Voice tragic histories go, this is definitely a new one. Cheesa sings Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy,” and reinforces that Beyonce has a much bigger range than we think she does; though Cheesa has a nice voice, the opening of this song is way too low for her, and as she hits the big notes, some pitch issues emerge. Cee Lo turns at the last possible moment (he doesn’t seem to realize that the song isn’t over, until Adam reminds him), but I wish he hadn’t. Cheesa dearly needs some training first, and I predict a quick exit once we (finally) get to that boxing ring of singing thing. (Spoiler alert!)

You might wonder, b-rollers, how do I spend my commercial breaks? Learning to use the “search keyword” function of my DVR so that I could see when John Carter‘s Tim Riggins Taylor Kitsch will be on the talk shows and record ALL OF THEM, perhaps? Um, maybe.

Anyway. Let’s meet Preston Shannon, a 64-year old from Memphis who tells us that he “needs some training” and wants to learn, God love him. Honestly, how refreshing is that to hear, since most of our 21-year old contestants act like they’re God’s gift to microphones? I’d dearly love for Preston to nail this audition. He sings “In the Midnight Hour” – while playing the guitar like a FIEND – and has a soulful, gravelly voice and loose, groovy stage presence. Come on, someone turn. (I actually say this aloud.) Blake is tempted, but no one turns, and I honestly think that I am more crushed than Preston, who takes it like a champ. God, I hope he gets some gigs out of this.

Next up is music camp counselor Lex Land. (She will later be told, “That’s a cool-ass name!” by the judge called CEE LO.) She performs “I Can’t Make You Love Me” in a very whispery jazz voice, and is clearly nervous. Cee Lo and Adam turn around almost in unison, followed by Blake, and my frustration boils a bit; I know that Lex is petrified, but her pitch is sporadic and her voice is really thin, and when she swings for a big note she spectacularly whiffs (Christina actually grimaces). My point being: They passed on my friend Preston for this?!?! Adam astutely notices that she’s trying to be Adele (she is) when that’s not really her range, and that’s exactly the type of insight that you won’t get on Idol. But Lex picks Blake, either because she still thinks she’s Adele (she isn’t) or she has a crush on Blake. It’s unclear.

We briefly meet Orlando Napier, a blues singer from Los Angeles, as Carson delivers Orlando’s Voice invitation on foot. (Did his Kia break down on the freeway?) We’ll see Orlando’s audition shortly, which in Voice-speak means, “Orlando, good; next person, bad.”

“Next person” is Cameron Novack, who looks about 7 feet tall and calls himself a “jack of all trades” who sings everything, including opera. You know how people who try to do everything end up doing nothing well? I fear that is Cameron’s fate. He freestyles (not well) then sings opera (loudly and ditto) and yup, right on the money. Cameron calls himself a triple-threat “if that’s as high as you can go,” and I officially dislike him with the same fervor with which I adore Preston. He sings “You Oughta Know” and it’s a mess at the fast parts, though he can hit big notes. The judges look befuddled and amused, and while I normally don’t condone judges laughing at a contestant, I’m thoroughly enjoying this. When the song ends – without any judges selecting him – he freestyles rather than letting the judges critique him, and my dislike only deepens. Cee Lo wishes that he picked him (why?), and lobbies the producers to break the rules to let him be on Cee Lo’s team (oh, please God, no). But either Cee Lo sees reason or the producers step in – probably because they’ve already seen the interview footage – and they send Cameron on his narcissistic way. Don’t let the door hit you, pal.

Before we go to the ad break, we are forced to watch have the privilege of seeing Betty White sing “Let’s Get It On” until a Lorax thing turns around in an animated swivel chair. This is to promote the film The Lorax. It is as deeply unsettling and time-wasting as it sounds.

Back to Orlando Napier, who partied and was once thrown in jail for a barfight. (It’s sad when you hear that on television and think “boring!” but in real life, if I knew someone who spent two months in jail for a barfight, that would make them the most tragic and damaged member of my social circle.) Orlando took over his father’s band – not in a royal succession kind of way, more like a bloodless coup – but his father seems sweetly zen about it. Orlando starts at a piano singing “Waiting on the World to Change,” and it’s really strong and soulful; Adam turns around immediately and gets him. I’m surprised that no one else turned; Blake was tempted, but scared off by lack of higher register (admittedly a problem). I predict Orlando will go far, though.

Now we get a look at Adam’s completed team. You don’t need me to name them all, right? You’re not formulating a scorecard or anything? Cool, we’ll get into that next week.

Lee Koch works with his wife in a bakery (it’s kind of appropriate, he looks like a taller, semi-stylish Keebler elf). He takes on “Like a Rolling Stone” with a cool, bluesy, raspy tone, and he’s taking a few (brave) liberties. His upper register gets a little whiny so the judges hesitate, but Adam lobbies hard for someone to select him. Lee starts to play the harmonica – and as impressed as I am by the ability to play the harmonica, the harness-around-the-neck thing always looks rather “homeless busker” – and Christina turns around for the last few notes. Meanwhile, Lee’s family nearly collapse from joy/heart failure.

After the ad break we meet Wade, who is so paralyzed by nerves that it looks like his aunt and grandmother are holding his hand just to keep him upright. Wade shocks me, displaying a great soul voice with a huge range, and creatively singing “Rehab” as if it were a Stevie Wonder song. Wade’s downfall, though – one which I could’ve predicted from his interview package – is that he has absolutely no stage presence. Cee Lo selects him (and it’s clearly an impulsive decision), and had better put “confidence” at the top of his coaching to-do list for our young Wade.

Just an aside: It is my duty to inform you that Cee Lo’s cat apparently has its own Twitter account. I’d rather not comment on this further. Anyway, we get the requisite look back at Cee Lo’s team now that it is set. Lots and lots of pretty girls, with a smattering of guys.

Next up is Adley Stump, a 22-year old country singer from Oklahoma, and so help me Lord, she made that name up. Her outfit is very cowgirl Flashdance – sparkly cowboy boots, a big curly updo – and she’s got a deep, sultry speaking voice; I’m dying to hear how it translates onstage. She sings “Last Name” and sounds like a much less polished Carrie Underwood, but with training to tame her wildness and pitch, she could be pretty damn good. Adley’s mother is a holy wreck in the green room (which is entertaining), and when Christina and Blake finally push their buttons, she LEAPS into a stunned Carson Daly’s arms, and it’s my favorite visual so far this season. For the record, I totally think Christina baited Blake into this; she knows Adley will pick him (which she does; like, duh), and this girl has a lot of work to do.

Blake’s team is now complete. You will be stunned to learn that it is at least two-thirds country singers.

Now that Christina is the only one with a slot left on her team, we get a montage of people she doesn’t choose; they’re all good, but not phenomenal. Meanwhile, I have the utmost respect for Christina in that she’s giving people helpful feedback, but not settling. Again: It’s like American Idol, only exactly the opposite.

Before the ad break: Another Lorax cross-promotion, this one with Danny DeVito both singing AND voicing the Lorax judge. This movie opens soon, correct? Because I’m anxious to never see these interludes again.

As we come back, Carson recounts Christina’s team so far. Slowly. Seriously, we need to get on with this.

Finally, we meet Sera Hill, who will undoubtedly be Christina’s last team member since it’s 9:52pm. She sings “I’m Going Down,” which is wickedly hard, and brings a nice R&B tone and really good pitch. I’m a believer. Anticipating the song’s vocal runs, Christina waits for her to nail them and then turns around (yet another example of why it helps to actually know music when judging these shows; well done, Xtina). A delighted Sera and the other judges encourage Christina to duet, and Christina promptly blows her sweet, dumbstruck new pupil right off the stage, which is not a reflection of Sera’s talent; folks, lest we all forget, Christina Aguilera is one HELL of a singer. And, you know what? A pretty damn good judge. So far.

Next week: We move on! Praise the Lord. First, we head to the singer’s homes; Blake takes his team to a ranch, and Christina has an animal-print ottoman and is coaching from a chair the size of a monarch’s coronation throne. Are you surprised by either of those developments? Nope, me either. We see a montage of guest coaches: Lionel Richie, Kelly Clarkson, Ne Yo, Jewel, Robin Thicke, Alanis Morissette, Miranda Lambert, Babyface, and I think I’m missing someone but that preview just flew on by. And then, the singers will battle in an ACTUAL RING.

So, who’s excited? More importantly, are we all awed by Christina’s sparkly black dessert-plate hat? It’s glorious, I can’t wait to see more of it. We’ll have lots to talk about next week, b-rollers. See you then.

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