THE VOICE Recap: I’m Starting to Hate the ’80s

Welcome to a whole new week of The Voice, b-rollers! A few important lessons learned from this week’s Team Adam and Team Cee Lo performances:

  1. Mortals should not attempt to sing Adele’s music; or, as Adam more eloquently states, “Adele is a freak.” We all think that “Starry Night” is a masterpiece, and some may even be able to paint it by numbers, but there was only one Van Gogh.
  2. Cee Lo really, really wants to host VH1’s I Love the ’80s: Volume XVI. He knows there was music made after 1988, right? He’s made some of it, that’s kind of why he’s a mentor. Maybe his contestants will be eligible to sing something from the last 20 years soon? Just wishing on a star here.
  3. Adam Levine should stop trying to make “polo shirt buttoned to the tippity-top” a fashion trend.
  4. Jamar Rogers will win The Voice, because that is how reality television works.

Let’s dive right in.

After some clever banter from our mentors about “being the best that you can be” (this comes from Cee Lo, who clearly doesn’t mean “sartorially”) and “not giving a crap about [Adam’s and Cee Lo’s] teams” (from Blake, who actually does), it’s time for a recap of the fourteen ways you can vote! Two things on this: First of all, if it takes Carson Daly ninety uninterrupted seconds to convey this information, it’s too complicated. Secondly, each voting number has “U-Love” in it like it’s an after-dark hotline.

The more you know, b-rollers.

Anyway, our first contestant this evening is office worker Katrina Parker, who has chosen the Smashing Pumpkins’ song “Tonight, Tonight.” (It is my duty to inform you that when you Google “Tonight Tonight” you get Hot Chelle Rae first. Ponder that.) In rehearsal footage, Katrina and Adam talk decisively about not copying Adele (who Katrina looks and sounds kinda like), which makes total sense – see above – until Katrina walks onstage styled exactly like Adele. She could be her blonder Madame Tussaud’s figurine. She sings the song quite well – though I’m distracted by the ranting monologue of “WHY would you talk about not wanting to be Adele…” that is playing on a continuous loop in my head – though she could use more presence, as Christina astutely (!) notes. Cee Lo calls it a “commendable effort,” thereby redefining the term “faint praise.”

Next up is Cee Lo’s first team member, the Hawaiian teenager Cheesa, for whom he has chosen Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me this Way,” and while I’m impressed that Cee Lo ventured out of the ’80s for this selection, please note that he went backwards. Cheesa talks about making the disco hit modern, but the arrangement is identical to Thelma Houston’s, and her backup dancers are flat-out Saturday Night Fever-ing it up, so when Blake later says “That was like watching Solid Gold!” he is right on the money (and apparently means that as a compliment). Cheesa’s pitch is eons better than it’s been before, and when she’s actually singing the notes correctly, her muscular, powerful tone really shines. I look forward to her next performance, for which Cee Lo will probably assign her a Debbie Gibson song.

Before we get back to the singing, Christina Milian takes us to the the Sprint Lounge, where Jamar Rogers is convening an Oprah-style lifeclass. He reaches out not to his “fans” – we are his “family,” and none of us should ever be hopeless because he’s come back from so much adversity in life. It is very earnest, but I nearly barf onto my smartphone as Christina Milian urges me to tweet.

Moving on to former Mouseketeer Tony Lucca, who has chosen “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel even though “falsetto’s never been [his] strong suit.” (Then by all means, pick a song with a ton of it for your live audition for vocal stardom.) I like his voice and presence, but I just can’t get over how much I dislike this song, which is monochromatic and trails off more than ends. I didn’t think it was bad, just kinda boring, and yet Christina tears into Tony about his lack of versatility (clearly forgetting that wispy Lindsey and can-only-sing-arias Chris are still in play for Team Xtina) in a manner so harsh that you have to wonder what secrets linger in the Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. I didn’t hate that as much as the world did; fellow Voice watchers, what did I miss?

Next up for Team Adam is Chaka Kim Yarbrough, who wants to sing “Rolling in the Deep.” Kim tries her damndest to make the song a little more gospel-rock than Adele’s version, but just to reiterate, no one else should really sing Adele. (Hilariously, though, Cee Lo’s main critique is that the song is too modern and current for anything less than a stellar interpretation. He’s not incorrect, but since he’s saddled every one of his contestants with an oldie, it’s like looking through a semi-glazed window into his thought process.) Kim actually does a respectable job, it just buckles a bit under the weight of the expectations of the original and Kim’s crazy talent, which I hope is enough to advance her on a night of uneven performances.

Cee Lo’s next contestant, Will Hunting-lite James Massone, is being classified as a “ladies man” despite the ominpresent headband and varsity jacket (this one resembling a tuxedo, I kid you not). He’s assigned Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why” with the goal of making it more R&B than lullaby. Now, let’s talk about what goes wrong with this performance: 1) Pitch, which is sporadic at best, painful at worst/all other times. 2) “Ladies man” stage presence, in which he smiles awkwardly at the (clearly ordered to be) screaming audience members and staggers from clump to clump of teen girls. 3) PITCH, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD. So on a night when the judges are critiquing like overbearing stage mothers, they will rip James to shreds, correct? Of course not. They love it. Christina praises him and actually says the words, “When you do hit the notes, it’s really dope.” I’m sorry, when?! This is not baseball; 30% is not an acceptable average. I’m going to need someone to be good soon, a little sorbet for my palate. Anyone?

Rocker girl Juliet Simms, maybe? I really like her voice, so that bodes well (though she shares that she had five record deals that never stuck – FIVE. There has to be more to THAT story.). She will sing The Police’s “Roxanne,” so I don’t even need to tell you whose team she’s on, right? Right. She starts very slow and theatrically, singing a ballad-y version with more growl and grit than Sting’s, and dare I say but…I like it more than the original, which always sounded more to me like a car alarm than a hit record. (I know, blasphemy.) When it’s time for the critiques, Adam hilariously says, “Well that just pisses me right off!” and notes that it was the best live performance so far. And I’m just going to have to concur; well done, female Rod Stewart.

Next up is Team Adam member Mathai, who has convinced everyone that she’s a phenomenal talent except for me. She sings John Legend’s “Ordinary People” – yet another sleepy little song that I’ve never had a desire to add to my iPod – but actually performs it really well. Her pitch is better, her vibrato and phrasing are lovely, and since she’s standing in one place, she avoids all of those quirky little “damn, I’m cute” mannerisms. Though there are random glamour shots of Mathai on the screens behind her throughout the song – it’s truly bizarre, like the opening credits of the old Beverly Hills, 90210 – it’s my favorite performance of hers to date, and the judges agree. Congrats on finding your lane, Mathai – now please stay in it.

Cee Lo’s next contestant is Tony Vincent, the Broadway guy whose heart is really in rock ‘n roll, and yet who inexplicably decided to turn his performance of the Tears for Fears song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – I know, it’s a parody at this point – into a workshop staging of 1984: The Musical. (I may have seen too many Smash previews this evening.) He sings it perfectly fine, but the judges wish that he could have chosen a song that showcased his voice a little more; at this point, they could just put that line onto index cards and politely hand them to each contestant, since that’s an overarching theme.

Hey, The Today Show tomorrow will feature a cure for cellulite, so they tell us to “forget diet and exercise!” You know what, don’t. That sounds like an awful idea.

Moving on! Karla Davis of Team Adam will attempt to bring out “Bertha,” her inner belter, on her version of “Airplanes” by B.o.B. I am pleased to note that she is wearing a mini dress that is sparkly and not plaid, which is a welcome change-up. I am less pleased to note that her performance is terrible. While it’s a cool song, it’s lightning quick, and she has neither the technique nor vocal ability to pull it off, and sounds constantly out of breath (which you’d think might have come up before now). Adam tries to rationalize that the song was so much better “in the room” (ie, rehearsal), but on behalf of voters everywhere, I don’t really give a solid damn how good it was in rehearsal. That’s not unreasonable, right?

Guys, I’m flagging. This has not been a stellar evening for vocals or coherent criticism. Who’s next?

Oh dear God, it’s bouffant-ed model Erin Martin who cannot sing and is dressed like Cleopatra. Oh man, this is happening. She is singing – on a stack of Bibles, I swear – “Walk Like An Egyptian” by the Bangles. I commend Cee Lo on picking a kitschy, four-note song that allows Erin to wear a skimpy costume, which is smack in her wheelhouse, but you know what? It still stinks, because she cannot sing. Even the half-naked, Roman-styled male back-up dancers – Blake will later call them “male strippers” in this evening’s Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell Memorial Vaguely and Needlessly Homophobic Moment – cannot save it. When Christina says, “I know you want to be judged more for your voice than your looks, so I’ll be honest…” I start a slow clap. Let’s send Erin home now, AMERICA, okay? Deal.

Sidenote: When Carson is suggesting we vote for a certain contestant, why does a Riverdance-style jig play? Just a thought. Maybe I’ll tweet it to the Sprint Media Lounge.

Next is our little friend Pip, who has chosen The Killers “When You Were Young.” His mentor Adam gently reminds him that he wears a bow tie and looks ten years old, so “rock god” isn’t really his strength, but…never mind, he doesn’t say that, it’s just what I would have said to Pip. Adam allows him to take the stage and add a leather jacket to the bow tie for that slight hint of badass (unsuccessful). Pip tries, bless his heart, but his voice is just too Broadway for this; there’s no swagger or grit to his performance. But if they do a Broadway revue of Killers music – and in Smash-world, they staged a Broadway revue of Bruno Mars for some inexplicable reason, so it’s not far outside of the realm of reality – Pip’s our man.

Our final contestant this evening will be Jamar Rogers, who is following up his self-help seminar with the showcase slot. He will be singing “Are You Gonna Go My Way” by Lenny Kravitz, and unlike our dear Pip, he has the swagger and voice to actually rock it. More importantly, he manages to look like he’s having the time of his life while still giving a flawless vocal. Though the judges are correct that the lady guitarists on stilts are distracting (in the way that you are probably distracted by that mental image right now, and need a moment to process…I’ll wait…), Jamar’s is the powerhouse performance that we’ve been waiting for, and the audience goes nuts. Combined with his sweet demeanor and by-the-bootstraps backstory, he’s a mortal lock for the finals.

Up next, the results show! (For which my recap may be late, apologies). I’m ready, let’s cut some of these unimpressive youngins loose. Who ya got moving on? I’m guessing that Adam/AMERICA is sending Mathai, Katrina and Tony Lucca (and saving Kim), and Cee Lo/AMERICA keeps Jamar (duh), Juliet and Cheesa (and saves Tony Vincent, putting this stupid “James and Erin are good!” nonsense to rest). What say you, folks?


  1. With hindsight, at some point that Voice shifted away from running good reality stories and rewarding a bit of actual talent. So, no, Jamar got cut. These things happen. Stories only stretch so far before the audience tunes out.

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