Adam, CeeLo, Blake, and Christina sat through the final Blind Audition rounds of this "Voice" season on Monday, which meant by the night's end, they'd all solidified their respective team lineups. Looking over how the teams stand going into next week's Battle Rounds, I'd say Season 5 is either CeeLo Green or Adam Levine's season to lose — and also, that it's literally Christina Aguilera's season to lose. That is, Adam and CeeLo have recruited some very strong singers; Christina, once again, has not chosen so wisely.
Below is a rundown of Monday's successful auditions, followed by my self-declared-expert rankings of each finalized team:
Matt Cermanksi – Matt auditioned last season, doing that gender-flipping shtick that so often works wonderfully on singing shows by covering Katy Perry's "Teenage Dream." It didn't work in his case, though. Matt's big mistake? He didn't play his guitar. Duh! Obviously this guy never watched the David Cook or Kris Allen seasons of "American Idol." Anyway, Matt took some vocal lessons, packed his guitar, and returned to "The Voice" this week — but not before suffering the indignity of having to rewatch his failed Season 4 audition and an old home video of him singing on the toilet as a toddler. Eek! Honestly, I didn't think Matt's cover of "Have a Little Faith in Me" was so amazing; I'd heard better singers get passed over this season. That's why I was flummoxed when Blake Shelton, Adam, AND CeeLo all hit their buttons for Matt. Matt went with Adam, who called him this show's "most improved player." But Adam has one of the strongest teams, if not the strongest team, this season, so it's likely that Matt's teenage dream of winning "The Voice" will be crushed in the Battle Rounds.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam
Tamara Chauniece – This ministers' daughter took "The Voice" to church with her powerhouse performance of Beyoncé's "1 + 1." Her style was a little conservative and old-fashioned, but there was no denying this diva's vocal fire. Christina buzzed in first, but CeeLo, the fallen son of ministers himself, also wanted Tamara (in the most carnal, least churchy way possible, of course). CeeLo's gross flirting usually backfires with female contestants…so when he asked Tamara to "save" him and then purred to her, "Damn, Jesus looks gooood," I was convinced he'd have Tamara reaching for her cross the way Scotty McCreery did when he was mentored on "Idol" by that heathen Lady Gaga. But for some reason, Tamara picked sinner CeeLo anyway. Hmmmm…I wonder if her parents would approve.
MEMBER OF: Team CeeLo
Brandon Chase – This kid came to the show with not one, but two compelling backstories. He almost died as a baby, and he's some sort of prodigy who graduated from college at age 17. (Really? Shouldn't genius Brandon be off finding the cure for cancer or inventing the perfect sunscreen that doesn't run into my eyes, not slumming in Nashville bars?) His cover of Hunter Hayes's "Wanted" was smooth and sweet, with a lot of country-crossover potential. But apparently, Brandon doesn't want to cross over: CeeLo tried to woo Brandon by namedropping Michael Jackson (while dressed in red "Thriller" leather, natch), but Blake appealed to Brandon's country-purist side and sealed the deal. Maybe Brandon was way more spooked by CeeLo than Tamara was.
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
Lupe Carroll – He delivers floral arrangements for a living and is married to his cellist, so already this guy was as likable as can be. Come on, who doesn't like flowers and cellos? I liked Lupe's vocals, too; I wouldn't have expected such a sweet, trebly voice, or a song choice like "If I Were a Carpenter," to come out of this stocky everyman. Only one chair, CeeLo's, turned around, but sometimes one chair is all a contestant needs. This may be Lupe's time to blossom.
MEMBER OF: Team CeeLo
Grey – This 25-year-old Berklee grad, currently struggling to make ends meet as an Anthropology salesgirl by day and a wedding singer by night, technically nailed Kelly Clarkson's "Catch My Breath." It was no surprise that three coaches turned for her (although it was a little surprising that Christina was the lone holdout). Grey came across as very commercial and very marketable, but here's the issue: Is she unique enough? CeeLo actually described her voice as "matter-of-fact" and "plain and simple," which he meant as compliments, but still. I was hoping, actually, that she'd sign up with CeeLo, because he might give her a little edge. "Nobody does different better than me," he pointed out. But apparently Grey didn't want "different." Instead, she became the final singer to sign on with Adam. Adam has some quirky, almost Red Zone-esque contestants this season himself, so Grey may have some trouble standing out on such an, um, colorful team. We'll see.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam
Michael Lynch – Not to be confused in any way with the Season 9 "Idol" contestant of the same name, this "100 percent Irish" crooner with a Latin culture fixation (he went to music school in Mexico City and sings in Spanish) certainly was hard to categorize. Was his bilingual singing just a gimmick? Was he trying to be something he's not? Would a Latin music audience ever really accept him? But his cover of Enrique Iglesias's "Bailamos" came across as sincere; he did seem to connect to the material. Unsurprisingly, Christina, a Latina who's recorded in Spanish herself, buzzed in first. Blake and CeeLo also spun, but of course, Michael went with Xtina, who called him a "match made in Heaven" and a "kindred spirit." Christina was so excited, in fact, that she ran up onstage for an impromptu duet, at which point she drowned out poor Michael with all of her usual grunty showboating. Michael looked terrified, as if he'd just realized what he'd signed up for when he joined Christina's team. Good luck, señor.
MEMBER OF: Team Xtina
Brian Pounds – Although Blake has tried to diversify his team lineup this season and not keep it too country, he of course couldn't resist filling his last remaining team slot with an all-American, baseball-playing good ole boy. This Austin folky had a really nice tone and a lot of heart, and he covered "Wagon Wheel," a song Blake's own Swon Brothers did last season. Brian was also clad head-to-toe in denim and plaid. I don't even know why CeeLo bothered to turn. Brian was obviously Team Blake material, through and through.
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
Shawn "Big Sexy" Smith – With only CeeLo still looking for a singer to complete his team, Big Sexy had a big challenge. Several other unsuccessful auditioners, who may or may not have been edited out of order, were shown performing to CeeLo's unturned back, before Shawn finally came along. I didn't think Shawn was all that exciting, which made me wonder if anyone was left backstage at all, and if producers had tipped off CeeLo that this was his one remaining option. However, I imagined that Blake was bummed that his buzzer was already deactivated, because I bet Blake would've totally turned around for Shawn, a class-clown type who covered "Chicken Fried" by the Zac Brown Band. This was a nice audition, and Shawn's backstory as an eight-year military veteran who lost 80 percent of his hearing in one ear in an Iraq explosion will surely resonate with viewers. But I'm not sure if he's strong enough to stand out on Team CeeLo, nor am I sure if CeeLo is the right coach for him. Maybe Blake can steal Shawn away in the Battles.
MEMBER OF: Team CeeLo
So now that we have our final teams of 12, it's time to figure out which coach has the best lineup of Season 5. Here's my overall ranking, from strongest team to weakest, with the individual contestants ranked within each team:
Ashley DuBose – Fierce indie-soul diva who shone bright with her "Diamonds" performance
Tessanne Chin – Supercool Jamaican lady who did Pink's "Try"
James Wolpert – Endearingly dorky Apple Store employee who belted some Jack White
Preston Pohl – Ex-Christian band guitarist who funkily covered MGMT's "Electric Feel"
Nic Hawk – Kooky cutup who sang Blu Cantrell and flirted shamelessly with Adam
Will Champlin – Son of Chicago's keyboardist; quirky pop guy
James Irwin – Triumphantly returning contestant from Season 4; his "Losing My Religion" performance inspired all four chairs to turn
Grey – Promising young female pop singer, Berklee grad
Donna Allen – 54-year-old former Miami Sound Machine soulstress
Matt Cermanski – Another returning contestant; total textbook-case WGWG
Barry Black – Gimmicky guy who made weird horn sound effects with his mouth
Justin Blake – Country singer passed over by Blake; Adam was the only one who turned for him
Juhi – Sassy, spunky, blue-haired teen who slayed "Mercy"
Jonny Gray – Likable, lank-haired rocker who covered the Killers
Cole Vosbury – Bluesman who awesomely reworked the "Jeffersons" theme
Kat Robichaud – Rad rock chick who loves Broadway and Queen
Caroline Pennell – Adorkable band-camp girl
Tamara Chauniece – Fiery ministers' daughter who could put CeeLo in his place
Lupe Carroll – Sweet flower-delivery guy with sweet tone
Shawn Smith – Country-singing war hero
R. Anthony – Gospel guy with crossover potential
George Horga Jr. – Average singer who tried to do "Treasure"
Keaira LaShae – Montaged also-ran
Anthony Paul – More montage fodder
Holly Henry – Ethereal, quiet indie girl with real star quality; this season's Dia Frampton?
Ray Boudreaux – Soulful hipster-nerd who covered Bill Withers
Shelbie Z – Feisty, ish-kickin' country filly
Monika Leigh – Sultry Fiona Apple type who did "The Thrill is Gone"
Justin Chain – Extremely commercial, recordable, likable country dude
E.G. Daily – Pee-wee's Big Adventure/Valley Girl actress
Emily Randolph – Montage contestant whose performance of Poison's "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" showed promise
Brian Pounds – Likable baseball boy
Brandon Chase – Or maybe this one is the likable baseball boy; I'm getting Brian and Brandon confused already
Austin Jenckes – Everyman who dedicated Skynyrd's "Simple Man" to his late father
Cilla Chan – Another montage contestant; likely fodder
Sam Cerniglia – Geeky wedding singer/Groupon office worker
Matthew Schuler – One of this season's standouts; was featured in pre-season NBC promos
Stephanie Anne Johnson – Sassy, soulful cruise-ship singer with an India.Arie vibe
Destinee Quinn – Ex-pageant-circuit country singer; gorgeous and commercial
Timyra-Joi – Child prodigy, former "Kidz Star" contestant
Jacob Poole – Rocker dude who got little screentime, but was intriguing
Michael Lynch – Irish guy with Latin flava
Jacquie Lee – Sweet teen who sang "Back to Black"
Josh Logan – Former "Rock Star: Supernova" contestant; somewhat generic rock singer
Briana Cuoco – Less talented sister of "The Big Bang Theory's" Kaley
Amber Nicole – Fodderific montage contestant
Lina Gaudenzi – Goat-throated girl who ruined "Landslide"
Olivia Hencken – Barbie-blonde country girl with passable voice
Do you agree with my assessments? Feel free to post your own rankings in the comments section below!
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