With the "Voice" mentors only having one night left to finalize their team lineups before the Battle Rounds, this Monday it seemed likely that Adam, Blake, Cee Lo, and Xtina would get a little desperate, with Aguilera resorting to her Keane-painting-eyed begging shtick and Levine breaking out his hardest-core used-car-salesman pitches. But then again, each team had just two or three openings to fill, so the coaches couldn't be slap-happily whacking their red buzzers every time they heard an auditioner with a passable ability to stay in tune. This was, at least hypothetically, the time for them to get super-choosy. And yet, I definitely felt a couple of the coaches made some questionable under-duress decisions in their 11th hour.
Here's who got through, for better or worse, on "The Voice's" final Blind Auditions episode, when those magical red-buttoned chairs took one last spin:
Whitney Myer - A button-cute curly girl who fronts a "soul-pop-funk" family band with her dad and uncle, Whitney went on "The Voice" in hopes of launching a music career that actually makes her some money. I instead suggest that the Whitney Myer Band not spent any cash they might already have on a Partridge-style TOUR BUS, and maybe they'd be less in the red. But this ain't Yahoo! Finance, so enough with my amateur fiscal advice. Aside from her lack of money-managing skills, Whitney definitely had some vocal skills (enough to inspire all four judges to buzz in), tackling Alicia Keys's extremely difficult "No One" and turning it into a jazzy coffeehouse number. Christina told Whitney, "You made me forget it was an Alicia Keys song!" before resorting to some serious begging and pleading. But Adam, who turned his chair first for Whitney and was quick to point this out, laid it on even thicker, comparing Whitney to the great Mary J. Blige and boldly declaring, "You could win this thing." I think it was those words of confidence that sealed the deal, and thus, Whitney decided to join the already strong Team Adam. Is Adam on his way to a second consecutive "Voice" victory? Having someone like Miss Myer on his team certainly won't hurt his chances. And if she wins, maybe then she really can justify that hefty tour-bus expense!
The Shields Brothers - I am sure it will come as no surprise to my regular readers that I love me some Shields Brothers, since I have a soft-as-weathered-motorcycle-leather spot for over-the-top rockers. These bros already have a catchphrase ("Punching America In The Face With Rock 'N' Roll") that'd look great on a T-shirt, preferably in some sort of Olde English glittery font. Plus their singer possesses a lush head of poodly, asymmetrical hair that even Mike Score from A Flock Of Seagulls would envy, and both of these rawkin' farmboys look like extras who wandered off the set of Rock Of Ages or The Wedding Singer. They even covered Billy Idol's "Dancing With Myself," and they had me dancing with MYself all over the office when I watched them audition. The brothers' freaky performance had a freaked-out Xtina stage-whispering, "What's going on???," and only Cee Lo Green, the one judge who invariably goes for weirdos, turned around for them. But judging from Cee Lo's own penchant for studded moto-jackets (and Billy Idol), this seems like a match made in reality-television Heaven (and by "Heaven," I mean in the Warrant/Bryan Adams sense of the word). "That's what the world needs now: good old-fashioned rock 'n' roll!" Cee Lo declared. I'm already thinking of all the Darkness and Motley Crue songs that Cee Lo could make these guys cover. Bring on the Battle Rounds, I say. And there better be pyro.
Cheesa - I didn't quite get this girl. Sure, she is an exotic Hawaiian beauty whose subtly tattooed face would look lovely on an album cover, but the facing-away judges didn't know that when she began singing "If I Were A Boy" and kind of sounded like a boy. That is, she started off WAY too deep, as if in the wrong key, and I found her voice downright unpleasant to my ear. When she finally got to the big chorus, which seemed much more in her range, her performance greatly improved, but I still expected all four judges to pass--and they almost did, until Adam encouraged a hesitant Cee Lo to "push it!" and then Cee Lo impulsively pressed his button during Cheesa's final line. I'm not really sure if Adam was helping Cee Lo or sabotaging him--I don't think Cheesa was a very strong addition to Team Cee Lo--but Cee Lo certainly seemed happy when he turned around and saw Cheesa. "Hello, you wonderful thing, you," he cooed. (I swear, Cee Lo is worse than Steven Tyler sometimes when it comes to the icky contestant flirting.) Hopefully Cee Lo can pick songs for Cheesa that better suit her vocal range.
Lex Land - Okay, this one I TOTALLY did not get. I was impressed that Lex hails from the music-centric hometown of Season 1's Nakia (Austin, Texas), and that her day job is working at a Girls Rock camp. (Love that!) But her cover of the great Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me" was so mush-mouthed, I wouldn't have been surprised if she'd confessed that she'd just woken up from a Novocain-intensive dental procedure, or at least from a very long nap. No, Lex couldn't make me love her--not with this performance. I could NOT figure out why all three male judges spun their chairs for her, and when Adam actually insanely compared Lex to Adele and Sade, I was convinced that he not only has the moves like Jagger but the foggy brain of Keith Richards circa 1974. (Seriously? Adele? Sade? No.) Eventually, Lex went with Blake Shelton, who clearly likes soft-spoken girls, judging by his team picks last season. But this soft-spoken? I just don't know if Lex was such a wise pick. Lex is no Dia or Xenia.
Orlando Napier - A 25-year-old former juvenile delinquent from a broken home, Orlando showed up with his once-estranged dad, hoping to making him proud. And he sure did. Of course Adam immediately turned around for a piano guy covering John Mayer's "Waiting On The World To Change." ("I think before you even sang, Adam knew you were good," Blake joked.) All of the other judges refrained, but I bet Orlando probably would have chosen to go with Adam anyway. And thus, with 53 minutes still left in the episode, Team Adam was complete.
Lee Koch - Lee is to "The Voice" Season 2 as Paul McDonald was to "American Idol" Season 10: a raspy-voiced, shaggy-haired indie guy with a distinctly Mumfordian vibe. Plus, Lee BAKES! Come on, what indie girl doesn't fantasize about having a cute rocker boyfriend who can woo her on a nightly basis with acoustic folk songs and homemade red velvet cupcakes? Swoon. I really liked Lee's cover of Bob Dylan's "Like A Rolling Stone," and I was surprised that only Christina wanted him. (Especially since Cee Lo once suggested that he was a good match for sandwich maker Jamie Lono because "I eat sandwiches." What, Cee Lo doesn't eat sweets?) But I think Xtina gained one of her strongest team members yet when she snagged Lee. And what a lucky girl--maybe he'll even bake for her.
Wade - This young R&B powerhouse did a cool rendition of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab" that Cee Lo (who, judging from his own music, obviously has a fondness for retro soul sounds) described as a "Stax Records version." Cee Lo was the only judge who picked Wade, but they could be a really good match, so it was just as well.
Adley Stump - I was stumped about Miss Stump. On the one hand, I was impressed by the fact that this country-singing ex-sorority girl, after performing live for only 10 months, seemed so at ease on the stage. And she didn't have a bad voice at all. But I found her performance of Carrie Underwood's "Last Name" to be totally generic. I understood to some degree why Blake wanted her, but not why Christina also buzzed in, or why the two judges fought so hard to get this girl. Adley eventually picked Blake, a fellow country artist who would be the one most likely to help her. (Although as a man, Blake unfortunately may not know enough about styling to advise her to quickly ditch that Bonnie-Tyler-goes-to-Xanadu headband.) Anyway, Adley seems like fodder to me right now, plain and simple.
Sera Hill - Saved for last was this feisty hotel worker, who grabbed the final spot in the top 48, on Team Xtina, with her impressive cover of the Mary J. Blige/Rose Royce classic "I'm Goin' Down." Sera was great, but of course her mentor Christina had to have the last note, as it were, by joining her onstage to duet on the chorus. It was a move that was probably prophetic, since my one major complaint about "The Voice" is that the show has always been more about the coaches than the contestants (and more about Xtina than anyone else). So watch out, Sera--your team captain just may try to steal your thunder this season!
So there you have it, "Voice" fans: your top 48, the singers who will officially move on to next week's sure-to-be-thrilling Battle Rounds. Of course, that's a lot of keep track of, especially since some of these contestants auditioned weeks ago and haven't been seen on TV since. So to help you brush up before next week, below is a full list of all 48--sorted in overall order from my favorite team to my least favorite team, and then within each team list in my additional order of preference--with handy crib notes next to each:
TEAM CEE LO
Juliet Simms - the Automatic Loveletter frontwoman and all-around badass rock chick
Jamie Lono - the shaggy sandwich-maker who covered Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues"
Tony Vincent - the Queen-style Broadway powerhouse who was in We Will Rock You and American Idiot
The Shields Brothers - the campy, hairy, awesome rawk duo
Jamar Rogers - the HIV-positive recovering drug addict, also known as Danny Gokey's best friend and a former "American Idol" contestant
Erin Martin - the raspy ex-model who covered "Hey There Delilah"
Sarah Golden - the androgynous folky who did an acoustic cover of Lady Gaga's "You And I"
Wade - the old-school R&B boy who covered Amy Winehouse
Angie Johnson - the Air Force veteran and YouTube sensation
Justin Hopkins - the former guitarist for Carson Daly's house band
Cheesa - the Hawaiian R&B singer with the deep, deep voice
James Massone - the Boston boy who covered Drake
Pip - the bowtie-and-suspenders-wearing Joey McIntyre lookalike
Katrina Parker - the retro-chanteuse, blonde office worker
Angel Taylor - the gorgeous pop-R&B girl, once signed to Columbia
Chris Cauley - the newsboy-capped heartthrob who covered "Grenade"
Mathai - the teenager from the family of doctors
Kim Yarbrough - the 50-year-old, Chaka Khan-style diva
Whitney Myer - the cute family-band girl
Orlando Napier - the ex-delinquent piano guy
Tony Lucca - the former Mouseketeer that Christina didn't recognize at first
Nathan Parrett - a montage contestant who's gotten no screentime, but seems to have potential
Nicolle Galyon - the piano-playing blonde country girl
Karla Davis - cannon fodder, only seen as part of another montage
Lindsey Pavao - the amazing girl who covered Trey Songz's "Say Aah"
Lee Koch - the scruffy, Paul McDonald-esque baker boy
Sera Hill - the diva who held her own next to Christina in an impromptu duet
Chris Mann - the handsome opera singer and "Glee" Warbler
Jesse Campbell - the formerly homeless, single-dad soulman who sang "A Song For You"
Monique Benabou - the girl who dared to cover Kelly Clarkson's "Mr. Know-It-All"
The Line - the platonic boy/girl country duo
Moses Stone - "The Voice's" first rapper
Ashley De La Rosa - another barely-seen montage girl, the one that covered VV Brown
Geoff McBride - the 51-year-old, old-fashioned soulman who sang "Higher Ground"
Jonathas - the boy-band type who got compared to Usher
Anthony Evans - the gospel singer who showed up at his audition with Kirk Franklin
Jordis Unga - the amazing "Maybe I'm Amazed" belter who was once on "Rock Star: INXS"
Charlotte Sometimes - the quirky former Geffen artist who almost lost her jaw to a rare disease as a teen
Naia Kete - the cute hippie street musician with dreads
RaeLynn - the sassy blonde country teenager who covered Pistol Annies' "Hell On Heels"
Erin Willet - the rock-soul girl whose father has pancreatic cancer
Adley Stump - the country-singing sorority girl with little stage experience
Alyx - another montage girl who got no screentime
Brian Fuente - another montage guy who got no screentime
Gwen Sebastian - the 37-year-old country singer who put off having children to pursue music
Jermaine Paul - Alicia Keys's overconfident, shouty backup singer
Jordan Rager - the son of a preacherman
Lex Land - the mush-mouthed girl who covered Bonnie Raitt, badly
Looking at these lists, yes, it's totally obvious to me that Cee Lo has the strongest team. (Blake's got a possible frontrunner in Jordis, but overall, I think his team is still the weakest.) However, the disadvantage of having a very strong team on "The Voice" comes during the Battle Rounds stage, when inevitably two excellent singers must be pitted against each other and only one can survive. (I'm thinking of last season, when Cee Lo made two of my favorites, Nakia and poor Tje Austin, battle each other.) I am already mentally preparing myself for the heartbreaking possibility of Jamie Lono battling Jamar Rogers, or Tony Vincent taking on the Shields Brothers, but hopefully Cee Lo--and the other three coaches--will choose their Battle Rounds pairings very carefully and wisely. And then I will ultimately get the Juliet/Jamie/Pip/Katrina/Lindsey/Lee/Jordis/Charlotte top eight live show that I am dreaming of.