With "The Voice" teams' available dozen slots filling up, by this week's fourth Blind Auditions episode it was understandable that Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, and Blake Shelton were starting to get a little choosy. As a result, some contestants who may have been shoo-ins earlier this "Voice" season, or on other singing shows (like John-Hughes-character-sprung-to-life Ducky, who sang a perfectly fine version of the Black Keys' "Tighten Up," or charismatic theater kid Dylan Chambers, who belted out the Amy Winehouse version of "Valerie"), were surprisingly passed over this Monday. Oh well. There's always "The X Factor," right?
In all seriousness, though, some contestants did get picked that I honestly didn't think were all that awesome. This was, frankly, not the most impressive array of "Voice" auditions so far this season. Luckily, though, there were a few true standouts in what was otherwise just an assortment of so-so singers. And of course, even a so-so episode of "The Voice" is so, so good. There was still enough talent here to keep me, and presumably millions of NBC viewers, entertained.
Here's who got through this week:
Jonathas - This 23-year-old Brazilian immigrant and father of two, who was a blink-and-you'll-miss-him contestant on "American Idol" Season 10, auditioned with Usher's "U Got It Bad," and Cee Lo had the audacity to say, "I thought that was a prank; I thought that actually Usher!" Um, no. I didn't really think Jonathas was all that great. On a show when the judges were being so freakin' picky, I didn't quite understand why both Cee Lo and Christina would be so willing to allocate a spot on either of their teams to this seemingly fodderish contestant. Perhaps they were listening more to the screaming of the females in the audience than they were to Jonathas's actual voice. "It is clear that the ladies love Jonathas!" noted Xtina, adding slightly lasciviously, "I want to mold you and package you and do the right things by you." ("She's got packages on her mind," Cee Lo joked, grossly.) At that point, Jonathas confessed that he'd had "the hots" for Christina since boyhood (awkward, considering his wife was watching from the wings), and so of course he chose to go with Madame Aguilera. I wonder if Mrs. Jonathas will be hanging out at the "Voice" rehearsals to keep an eye on these two?
Monique Benabou - This 23-year-old sure had some guts to cover future Season 2 guest mentor Kelly Clarkson's "Mr. Know It All." She sang it well (her performance started shakily, then improved by the end), but certainly not as well as Lady Clarkson, which made Monique seem like another fodder contestant. But overeager, trigger-fingered Xtina and Cee Lo once again slammed their buzzers. And while Monique seemed overjoyed to be picked at all (her incredulous reaction was reminiscent of Taylor Swift's response whenever she wins an award), Monique also chose to join Team Xtina.
Naia Kete - This 21-year-old ragamuffin L.A. street performer delivered an adorable performance of Bruno Mars's "The Lazy Song," even if her vocals were not quite of the powerhouse variety. Blake, whose tireless championing of last season's Dia Frampton and Xenia proved he has a real soft spot for feathery-voiced indie-girl types (Christina in fact compared Naia to "one of Blake's artists"), and Cee Lo, who almost always spins his chair for a quirky contestant, both wanted Naia. And when it came time for Naia to decide, a bit of icky flirting ensued. "Earth angel, I pushed my button for you," cooed Cee Lo. "You push all my buttons," Naia purred back. (Yuck!) But in the end, flirting got Cee Lo nowhere, and Team Blake instead acquired its first indie girl of Season 2.
Charlotte Sometimes - Being a MASSIVE Cure fan, I of course perked right up when I heard this girl's name (which ain't her real name, but who cares?). Charlotte didn't sing any Cure, sadly, but I truly enjoyed this former Geffen artist's sultry, torchy, Fiona Appley cover of OneRepublic's "Apologize." It was compelling enough to make me not even take into account her sob story (she was stricken with a rare disease at age 14 that almost caused her jaw to disintegrate, and she started writing songs on guitar while her jaw was wired shut and she couldn't sing). Adam was the first to turn his chair, but eventually all four judges hit their red buttons. But Charlotte went with Blake. Looks like Blake really has his Season 2 equivalents of Dia and Xenia now.
Tony Vincent - This flamboyant theater vet and former boy-pop singer, whose credits include Rent, American Idiot, Jesus Christ Superstar, and We Will Rock You, definitely was a standout for me, since I love me some outlandish theatery types who cover Queen songs (in Tony's case, the possibly prophetic "We Are The Champions"). Shockingly, only one judge, Cee Lo, wanted Tony--maybe because he was "too Broadway." (Sorry, Betty Buckley, don't hate me.) "Are your guys' ears burned up? Was it not obvious he has a wonderful voice?" exclaimed Cee Lo. Well, at least Tony found one coach who believes in him. I believe in Tony too.
Anthony Evans - This 33-year-old gospel singer and son of famous pastor Tony Evans showed up with both his dad and crossover-gospel star Kirk Franklin for moral support, but I thought his blah performance of Marvin Gaye's "What's Goin' On" was nothing to testify about. I was genuinely surprised anyone picked him, but for some reason Christina was feeling it. What's goin' on, indeed? I can't imagine Anthony will go far, unless Christina selects songs for him that allow him to belt it out with a little more evangelical oomph.
Jamie Lono - Jamie was my favorite performance of the night, and I think I was as shocked as the judges were when this shaggy sandwich maker delivered such an amazing performance. I was utterly wowed by his husky, thoroughly original take on Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues." Again, just like with Charlotte, Jamie's sob story (half of his lung was removed due to pneumonia, and his family went bankrupt trying to pay all the medical bills) didn't even matter here, because his performance was good enough on its own. Adam swiveled his chair for Jamie before the chorus even kicked in, and I think Jamie and Adam would have been a good match, but when Cee Lo told this sandwich slinger, "We should hook up, because I eat sandwiches!"--well, apparently Jamie could not resist that argument. And so, Team Cee Lo gained a VERY worthy player. And possibly a personal chef!
Justin Hopkins - Justin used to play guitar in Carson Daly's house band. Yes, Carson Daly, as in the guy who hosts "The Voice." I guess it's all about who you know in this biz. Well, at least the show wisely didn't try to hide Justin's connections, which would have only led to a TV scandal of Stacy Francis proportions. Anyhoo, Justin's performance of David Gray's "Babylon" was nice and soft and raspy, but not a true standout for me. It was a little flat. However, easy-to-please Cee Lo buzzed in (the guy is like the opposite of Mikey from Life Cereal: he likes everything!), and since Justin had openly declared his desire to join Team Cee Lo anyway, everyone was happy with this outcome. But since Cee Lo has a pretty strong group already, I suspect Justin may be one of Team Cee Lo's weaker links. Justin may want to ask his old buddy Carson to pull some strings for him.
Nicolle Gaylon - Declaring her mission to be the "first piano-playing country star" (really? there's never been one before? come on...), the classically trained Nicolle tickled the ivories during a cover of Kenny Chesney's "You Save Me." It was nice. Just nice. Maybe she should listen to all those Music Row execs in Nashville--the ones who keep telling her to take up the guitar--after all. This was another contestant who surprised me by inspiring anyone to buzz in. I hope Adam doesn't regret his decision, especially since he pointed out her obvious nerves, but he also called Nicolle "so special," so maybe he knew what he was doing here.
The Montage - Like last week's poor cutting-room-floor contestants Nathan Parrett, Brian Fuente, and Moses Stone, this week's Ashley De La Rosa (Team Xtina), Jordan Rager (Team Blake), Karla Davis (Team Adam), and Alyx (Team Blake) barely received any screentime on Monday. Of the four, I'll keep my eye on Ashley just for covering the wonderful VV Brown's "Shark In The Water," and on Jordan because he's a "genuine country singer" that Blake seemed especially excited to recruit. But I reserve full judgment until I see more of them--assuming I even see more of them, that is.
Mathai - Singing last in the coveted pimp spot was this adorable 18-year-old, whose semi-sob story was she comes from a proud family of doctors and nurses who expected her to go into the medical field as well. But her relatives all seemed to be pretty accepting of her decision to pursue music instead, so I guess it wasn't such a sob story after all. Anyway, once I heard Mathai's voice, singing a very make-it-her-own cover of Adele's "Rumour Has It," I realized why her family has been so supportive of her unorthodox career choice. The girl can SING! It's not easy to do Adele, and even less easy to put one's own stamp on Adele, but that's exactly what Mathai did. "We are looking at a star right here! I really, really like you a lot. You don't sound like anybody else I've ever heard before," raved Blake, clearly hoping to recruit a third quirky girl for his team. Cee Lo wanted Mathai too, calling her "the total package," and Adam went so far as to proclaim, "I'm really desperate to have you on my team!" Usually desperation is a turnoff, but obviously not to Mathai, who chose to go with Team Adam in the end. Blake looked utterly crushed, and it was easy to understand why. Mathai is definitely going to be his "one that got away."
So my personal favorites of the night were Charlotte Sometimes, Mathai, and especially Jamie Lono and Tony Vincent, meaning that everyone except Christina gained at least one strong player for their respective teams this week. The four teams are definitely filling up nicely, and next Monday will be the coaches' last chance to finalize their lineups. It's getting hard to keep track of the teams at this point, but to recap:
Team Cee Lo now consists of Tony Vincent, Jamie Lono, Justin Hopkins, and previous recruits Sarah Golden, Erin Martin, James Massone, Jamar Rogers, Angie Johnson, and Juliet Simms. Cee Lo has three slots left.
Team Adam has Nicolle Galyon, Karla Davis, Mathai, and previous recruits Pip, Katrina Parker, Chris Cauley, Nathan Parrett, Kim Yarbrough, Angel Taylor, and Tony Lucca. Adam has two more slots to fill.
Team Blake has Naia Kete, Charlotte Sometimes, Jordan Rager, Alyx, and previous recruits Jordis Unga, Brian Fuente, Erin Willet, Jermaine Paul, Gwen Sebastian, and RaeLynn. Two openings remain.
And Team Xtina has Jonathas, Monique Benabou, Anthony Evans, Ashley De La Rosa, and previous recruits Geoff McBride, Moses Stone, Lindsey Pavao, the Line, Jesse Campbell, and Chris Mann. Christina also has two more open spaces on her team.
Looking at the roster above, I'd say Cee Lo has the strongest team, followed by Adam and then Blake. Christina has seriously diluted her lineup in the past couple weeks with some questionable picks, but then again, she has the amazing Lindsey Pavao, and all she really needs is one great singer to win this thing--so don't count her out just yet.
Tune in next Monday when the teams are finalized, and when those magical red-buttoned chairs take one last spin.