THE VOICE Recap: One More Time

Welcome to The Voice, b-rollers! We’re back for take 2 of Team Adam and Team Cee Lo, but before we get to any singing, we spend six solid minutes watching Carson Daly beg the entire judging panel to focus and use their words, as they’re giggling like teenagers with helium bottles because Cee Lo is apparently battling some epic flatulence. I’d comment more on this, but I’m trying to erase it from my long-term memory. Adam and Cee Lo will be performing with their teams onstage tonight, so hopefully, Cee Lo’s, uh, issues will be under control before then.

Onward to the singers! Thank you, God.

Our first singer is Jamar Rogers, who will take on “It’s My Life” by Bon Jovi. Lest you think “Oh, that Cee Lo, picking an ’80s Bon Jovi song,” this is from Bon Jovi’s recent oeuvre, but don’t think Cee Lo wouldn’t have snapped up “Living on a Prayer” if it hadn’t already been performed, particularly since Jamar and Cee Lo are tying this performance – really, really subtly – to Jamar’s well-documented health and addiction battles. Even though they basically give away the arrangement in the extensive rehearsal footage – it will be a slowed-down, power-ballad version of this pulsing stadium rock song – Jamar still owns it, though I find the performance drags a bit until it hits the soaring chorus. However, Jamar is the frontrunner for a reason, and no judge will challenge that; Cee Lo even goes into an extended poetry jam on inspiration and dedication before offering to die with Jamar, which may be a touch over the top, methinks.

Next, we get our first Christina Milian social media lounge thing interlude; since we are whittling down our contestants, we get more and more of these per episode, and in terms of entertainment value, they’re only slightly better than Cee Lo’s flatulence. On the upside, we can see that not only is James Massone intent on wearing that damn headband again, but he’s added a bit of Mad Men flavor with a Peggy Olsen hair flip. No wonder he makes the girls go wild.

Our next contestant is Katrina Parker, who has hopefully forgone her Adele-lite styling this week. She’s chosen “Jar of Hearts,” by Christina Perri, which she performs in the midst of a giant lit-up heart, so again, the Voice producers are just killing it with the subtlety. Her whispery, jazzy tone is perfect for the song, and she takes some nice liberties from the original version, making it her own with a nice, emotional rasp. Though she punts a bit on the big note at the end, it’s an excellent performance, and her mentor Adam looks delighted. Blake calls the performance her breakout, and I thoroughly agree.

When we return from the ad break, Carson is dressed like an American Bandstand host. Is this an obligatory (and well deserved) Dick Clark tribute? No, it’s just an intro to Cee Lo’s team singing “Dancing in the Streets” (which they also sang as a group number on Idol last week, but whatever). Cee Lo is wearing a pageboy wig and some “groovy, baby” pajamas – it’s as interesting but much less trashy than Christina Aguilera’s group performance get-up last week, frankly – and it’s a lot of fun. Not shockingly, James is the weak link in the contestant solos. His appeal continues to elude me.

Our next contestant for Team Adam is Mathai, who I’ve finally come around to, so watch her screw this right up. And she does! It’s not entirely her fault; Adam is convinced that she will slay Nelly Furtado’s “I’m Like A Bird,” and if by “slay” he means “slaughter the higher sections of the song in a serious of off-key bleats,” then he is correct. Also, there is a Cirque du Soleil acrobat swinging through the rafters like – you guessed it – a bird! (Honestly, producers.) Mathai is clearly having a great time, even if I’m not; she prances around the stage with admittedly impressive abandon, and her “infectious energy” means that the performance gets sincerely overpraised by the judges, who criticize not the performance but the distraction of the swinging “Captain America” (Blake’s words). How much are they getting paid, again?

Also, Christina Millian tells us Mathai is trending on Twitter (awesome, that’s so interesting), then turns “roommate” into a verb. I’m not saying that I could do her job better, but maybe no one has to do it at all. We can check Twitter ourselves, right?

Let’s move onto our little buddy James, who needs to be removed from Cee Lo’s influence before he goes full Liberace with these customized varsity jackets (this week’s: silver sequins and studs. Really.). James is also impressed with himself for his last performance, and take it from me, James: You shouldn’t be. He will desecrate sing Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” carrying on that current trend of cute boy pop singers/bands singing songs about how their tween girlfriends are amazing and should never change, in a very idealized, Edward-in-Twilight kinda way. (Young girls of America: Lower your expectations.) Lord, but Cee Lo is trying to make us believe that “James is a ladies man!” is a real thing. Although the song is perfect for James’ tinny voice and his pitch is pretty steady, there’s no dynamism or energy to the performance. And the judges finally call him on that! That’s exciting, I was waiting for some real live criticism to make an appearance. Well done, millionaires!

Our next batch of filler: Cee Lo Green’s old hip hop crew Goodie Mob has reunited to sing a new song called “Fight to Win.” They are all dressed in gold lame warrior outfits with capes, and Cee Lo’s teeth are actually, vibrantly glowing, which I have been waiting for since I was first blinded by them in the audition rounds. The song is not very good, in a “Maybe I’ll use this time to get up-to-date on my Words With Friends matches” kind of way.

And now, a quick segue right to Tony Lucca, whose song choice is apparently top secret, but, Adam says, “might just be crazy enough to work.” We’ll be the judge of that, friend. When the music starts, we find out that it’s a rock/funk version of fellow Mouseketeer Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time”; it’s faster and edgier than the Fountains of Wayne rock cover (lest you think this concept is completely original), and I kinda dig it. Sure, Tony’s not as vocally dextrous as Juliet or Jamar or even Katrina, but I would actually download this version, particularly since the mp3 wouldn’t have the terrifying hooded backup dancers who look like the result of a Project Runway KKK challenge. (Don’t make it work. Just don’t.). The applause is thunderous, and while Christina still (fairly) seems underwhelmed, I think Tony’s gamble paid off.

Next up is Cheesa, who says that she has “come to play” ever since the elimination show (in this context, “come to play” means “oversing like crazy.”). Cee Lo has already crowned her the next great power vocalist, which tells us that not only is he prone to hyperbole, but he’s also not watching this season of American Idol. (Jessica Sanchez, dude. Google it.) In a “Why God” moment, Cheesa will sing Whitney Houston’s “I have Nothing,” which should be retired from the universe; who has the power to make this call, besides God? Simon Cowell? Anyway, the staging indicates that Whitney is singing this directly from heaven – I don’t mean to be blasphemous, but Cheesa is in silhouette backlit by every white light that’s ever been manufactured –  and Cheesa does a very respectable job, diva-ing it up right down to the plaintive outstretched arms (TM, Celine Dion). Her pitch wobbles as she hits the key change, but of course no one mentions this; they all think she’s Whitney Junior. One benefit of this line of judging, though, is that Cee Lo mentions that he wants stronger, powerful female vocalists on the scene rather than just the “auto tuned fairy princess” pop singers, and I actually find myself saying “PREACH!” aloud to the man who just publicly donned a pageboy wig. I can’t believe that just happened.

Anyway, let’s move on to our old buddy Pip, who has learned his lesson about singing British rock anthems and will do the Keane song “Somewhere Only We Know” this week! Oh no, wait, that’s the exact opposite of what he should do. His bad. Adam counsels him to “hit the notes” rather than riffing (which is both hilarious and misguided, since someone who goes by Pip and wears bowties probably hasn’t embraced the “less is more, just sing well” philosophy in life). And Pip starts okay – though the rotating piano/camera combo is making me slightly nauseous – before he can’t help himself and tries to riff, and the song goes completely to hell. Pip, darling, they have actually made a Broadway show out of Newsies.That is your destiny; rock god-dom is not.

Before we get to the Team Adam performance, Christina Milian haltingly tells us that Cheesa is trending on Twitter. She probably tells us this because she needs something to say, but for the record, I am on Twitter and Cheesa is not trending. So not only is Christina Milian unnecessary, she’s factually incorrect. This was a great idea.

Team Adam time! They’re doing the John Lennon classic “Instant Karma” with Adam at the drums, Pip at the keyboard, Tony on guitar and Katrina and Mathai out front. It’s oh-so-very Partridge Family. It’s not terribly interesting, but does allow me to contemplate the following: If we were to rank our “mentor performs with his/her team” collaborations from least to most narcissistic, it would go Adam Levine (not singing at all, just doing his best Animal impression at the drumset while his contestants take the lead), Blake Shelton (cool, laid back, harmonizing on the chorus but not taking a solo for himself), Cee Lo Green (dead center stage in all his glory, but giving his contestants prime cuts), and then Christina Aguilera (only judge to sing her own song, treating her contestants as backup dancers and marooning them in the far corners of the studio). And if you’d asked me to rank them before the performances…yup, that’s exactly the way it would’ve gone.

ANYWAY. Our final pre-elimination singer will be rocker Juliet Simms, who is now honey blonde and 17% less edgy because of it. She will be singing Aerosmith’s “Crying,” which is probably Cee Lo’s way of saying “ha!” to all of us mockers about his ’80s nostalgia, because this song was released in 1993. Take that! Anyway, Juliet takes the stage in a huge set of black angel wings – I don’t know either, but they look exactly like the fallen angels in Dogma, which is distracting – and her performance is edgy and fun and completely all over the place. It’s still pretty good, since Juliet is that far above most of the other contestants and “all over the place” is kind of a staple of rock ‘n roll, but it’s not nearly as strong as her “Roxanne” cover. Also, feathers fall from the ceiling; not quite the “flying acrobat” in terms of WTF moments, but it’s up there. The judges love it unequivocally. Blake talks about duck hunting and Cee Lo calls her a “red corvette,” so clearly we’re nearly at the end of the show and the meds are wearing off.

Finally we’ve reached the eliminations! Cee Lo is up first, and on behalf of the world, please send James home. But before we get to that, Cee Lo has written some thoughts that he will read from his BlackBerry. No, really. It’s a kind of incomprehensible poetry mad lib read from a BlackBerry (made all the more hilarious when he ends with, “I hope that sums up how I feel.” Sure, okay.). After ninety uninterrupted seconds of Christina Aguilera Memorial Babbling, Cee Lo sends our headbanded Boston mechanic home. Ladies of Boston, he’s all yours. Thank you for taking him off of our hands.

Next is Adam, and if he sends anyone but Pip home, I WILL BURN THIS PLACE TO THE GROUND. Do the right thing, man. Adam also babbles for a while – I know this must be tough, but as I watch the clock inch towards 9:59, I wait for Carson to leap into the frame, bodyslam Adam and demand a decision – and finally, it’s Pip. That’s exactly right.

And now, to vote! I will not vote, but I may download a few songs, which is apparently a way you can vote. (Also, Starbucks is somehow involved in voting, and if that is true, I have inadvertently voted for this show approximately 9,582 times.) Goodnight!

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