After Team Xtina and Team Blake competed on last week's first live competitive show of Season 2, this Monday on "The Voice" it was time for Team Adam and Team Cee Lo to face each other and (to borrow an "X Factor" catchphrase) face the music. Adam Levine and Cee Lo Green had what seemed like the strongest teams going into this season's top 24 semifinals, and so this week, when Cee Lo boasted, "Someone from my team will win Season 2," and Adam countered with, "I don't think there's anyone on my team who can't win this"...well, it was hard to argue with either of them.
And even after this Monday's episode, my opinion hasn't really changed: I do think someone who competed this week has an extremely good chance of winning, particularly a couple of Cee Lo's contenders. But that doesn't mean I approved of all of Cee Lo's song and staging choices this week. Sometimes I thought this episode might as well have been sponsored by Greyhound, because Cee Lo really threw a couple of his team members under a giant bus--and if he keeps making weird decisions like the ones he went with this week, he might even ruin the chances of his team's biggest frontrunners.
But thankfully, talent for the most part prevailed on "The Voice" this Monday. Here's how everyone did, along with my predictions for which three contestants per team will win America's vote, and which will be saved by their respective coaches as bonus fourth contestants, on Tuesday...
Katrina Parker - Katrina, Adam's dark-horse contestant who surprisingly beat out Angel Taylor in the Battle Rounds, started off the night with a totally unexpected orchestral cover of Smashing Pumpkins' "Tonight, Tonight." It's a fact that Billy Corgan is NOT the greatest singer in the world, but he is an iconic frontman with a very unique and recognizable voice, so this was a challenge for a smooth crooner like Katrina. (Especially since, once again, THE BAND WAS TOO LOUD. The capslock in the previous sentence was meant to simulate the house band's crazy decibel level.) However, I loved Katrina's classy version of the Pumpkins' bombastic ballad, which coaxed out all of the song's theatricality and grandeur. Adam's fellow coaches were a bit critical--Christina Aguilera, no stranger to tight-fitting attire herself, oddly said, "I kind of wanted you to rock out a bit more, and I think your dress restricted you a bit," and Cee Lo said, "There's something so genuinely tortured about Billy Corgan's voice, and I don't think this song should ever be a showtune." But I disagreed, particularly with Cee Lo--I don't think Katrina came off as Broadway-ish at all. And it's not like the Pumpkins were ever a subtle band anyway, you know? I thought Katrina was simply smashing tonight.
Tony Lucca - Christina's former fellow Mouseketeer covered Peter Gabriel's amazing "In Your Eyes," one of his coach Adam's all-time favorite songs. I thought it was a nice, solid effort--I especially enjoyed the ending, when he sang semi-a cappella and his raw emotion really came out. But this performance didn't exactly have me holding a boombox above my head in salute, and even Adam didn't look too excited, although he did tell Tony he was proud of him and said, "I'm so happy with the way this room felt." Christina was the most brutally honest, however, proving that she harbors absolutely no favoritism for her ex-"Mickey Mouse Club" castmate. "I thought that was a good performance, but I just find you to be very one-dimensional. You have me and your old Mouseketeer buddies behind you, especially Justin Timberlake [Justin tweeted his support for Tony on Monday afternoon], but I just hope this show is about the voice. I think there are better voices on the show, and it shouldn't be on celebrity sway." Ouch. I agree, Tony was not the BEST--but he didn't deserve that sort of critique, especially from an old friend. Does Xtina hold some sort of grudge against this guy from their "MMC" days?
Kim Yarbrough - This season's 50-year-old Chaka Khan soundalike took on Adele's "Rolling In The Deep." Oh gawd, really? Why did she have to do one of the most overdone reality-show songs in recent times? ("American Idol's" Jimmy Iovine even proposed a moratorium on Adele songs, and I'd co-sign that.) Kim sang the hell out of the song--albeit with a minor pitch issue or two--and hey, Kim was one "Voice" contestant who was able to actually out-sing that damn over-amplified house band. But I do wish Adam had suggested another song for her. Cee Lo griped that the song was too safe and "the [Adele] comparisons were just too close. I don't know if I loved it--though I do love you." Blake pointed out the pitch problems in the early part Kim's performance. Even Adam was surprisingly honest, conceding, "I'd be remiss if I didn't say that there were some problems. I don't disagree with all the things that were said [by the other coaches]. But for the most part, that was fantastic. This just shows everyone your potential." But will that potential be realized? I'm not so sure, as I don't know if this performance will be enough to advance Kim to the next round.
Mathai - Mathai looked like a Disney princess (she wore that Jasmine headband well) and sang like R&B royalty on her cover of John Legend's "Ordinary People." What a gorgeous, MATURE performance from such a young girl! Sometimes her sweet smiling was a little off-putting, given the sad and serious nature of the song, but she infused the heartbreak ballad with a new sense of hope and youth that I ultimately appreciated. Christina thought it was "a little loungey," but liked Mathai's choices as to where to put the runs and ad-libs. Blake adored Mathai's confidence. And Adam said, "I couldn't possibly be happier with that moment that I just witnessed." Mathai seemed happy too--she was understandably still smiling long after the song was over. Hopefully she will be smiling on Tuesday's results show, too.
Karla Davis - Karla wanted to do B.o.B.'s "Airplanes," and just like the case when Kim Yarbrough wanted to do "Rolling In The Deep" and Adam didn't stop her, Adam let this protégé have her way, too. Adam really seemed to have the opposite problem of Cee Lo this week: While Cee Lo kept forcing his contestants to sing terrible song choices, Adam just didn't make his contestants do anything. Adam really should have steered Karla in a different direction here, because "Airplanes" totally crashed and burned (pun intended). Hayley Williams of Paramore, who sang the hook on B.o.B.'s original, is such a powerhouse singer, and Karla just could not compare; she actually seemed out of breath and out of her depth right from the start. (Interestingly, she fared better when rapping B.o.B.'s parts.) Adam didn't look too thrilled watching Karla, and he didn't object much when Blake criticized Karla, either. "I think you did as good as you could do with that song, but it was so wordy. I don't think that song allowed you to explore. It was such a rapid-fire lyric," said Blake. Adam praised Karla for being "in the pocket" on the song, but I cannot imagine that Adam will save her on Tuesday night if America doesn't vote her through. And he shouldn't. This girl started off on the show as fodder, and while there seemed to be hope for her after she beat Orlando Napier in the Battle Rounds, she sadly went back to being fodder with this uneven performance.
Pip - I was surprised that this sweet, angelic theatre gleek did a rock song, the Killers' "When You Were Young," but I was impressed that he was able to rough it up a bit. I thought his voice really worked on this song, and I even thought he actually seemed kind of COOL in his skinny red Rod Stewart trousers. (I'm glad he kept his trademark bow-tie, though--and how cute was it that his parents in the audience were rocking bow-ties, too?) But anyway, you know what was more surprising than Pip doing a Killers song? The fact that none of the coaches, not even Adam, thought his performance was killer. "I appreciate your vocal ability....but it just came off as trying too hard, and I wasn't connecting to it. It seemed you were having trouble hearing the band," said Christina. (Um, trouble hearing the band? More like trouble hearing anyone trying to sing OVER the band.) Adam lamented, "I didn't want to trust you--I wanted you to be more dangerous." I think it might have been a bit too much to expect Pip to get all edgy and dark, but I do think he made a good effort here.
TEAM CEE LO
Cheesa - I was never really all that into Cheesa. Back during the Battle Rounds, I thought she should have lost to Angie Johnson, an opinion shared by so many viewers that both Cee Lo and Cheesa addressed this controversy during Cheesa's rehearsal interview. But when Cheesa covered Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes' "Don't Leave Me This Way" (doing the Thelma Houston-inspired disco version), I thought she seemed to finally hit her groove. She became a full-on disco diva, from her flashy attitude to her Donna Summer ringlets, and for once she sang a song that suited her deep voice. "I loved that! That was like watching 'Solid Gold'!" raved Blake Shelton. Adam liked it too, although he said, "The only problem is there are so many great singers; the competition is crazy. What's gonna make it so distinct that it pops out? I'm not sure that happened." I understood what Adam was saying--Cee Lo has a strong team this year, and I don't think Cheesa did enough to make his final four--but if Cheesa does go home this week, she will go out with her diva-ringlet-topped head held high.
James Massone - Cee Lo, whose last album was The Lady Killer, picked a song for this Boston boy that he thought would create some sort of "ladies' man" image for him. Instead, Cee Lo might have killed James's chances of getting voted through to the top 16. Cee Lo had James sing Norah Jones's "Don't Know Why"--and you know, I really don't know why he thought that song was a good fit for James. James's performance started off okay, even if he looked a little awkward sitting on a park bench under a street sign that said "James Lane"--but the only street signs that really should have been on the stage are "STOP" and "CAUTION," because once James got to the high notes, it was a disaster. "When you do hit the notes, it's really dope," said Christina. (Too bad those moments were very few and far between; I really didn't understand why Xtina was so hard on Tony Lucca, when she gave James such a free pass here.) Blake then said, "I almost threw my panties on the stage"--and I swear, I thought he was about to say, "I almost threw up." (I really did.) I am sorry, James seems like a nice guy and he does have some vocal talent, but this was a horrible song choice for him, and his only hope now is to coast through to the top 16 on his likability alone.
Juliet Simms - Well, at least this time Cee Lo made a great song choice. The Police's "Roxanne" was a perfect fit for Juliet's rocker growl--her rendition actually reminded me a bit of Dilana's from "Rock Star: Supernova" a few years ago--although, to be honest, Juliet is such a ROCK STAR, she probably could have rocked out on that Norah Jones cover, too. Juliet was amazing--sexy, fierce, cool, androgynous (she didn't alter the song lyrics' gender)--basically, she was awesome, and even rival coach Adam had to admit that this was THE performance of the night up until that point. "Well, this just pisses me right off," Adam said. "I really wanted you on my team. You're the best performer I've seen so far, as much as I hate to admit it." Christina agreed: "Your voice is DOPE. I am jealous of this one!" And anyone who doesn't vote for Juliet is a REAL dope.
Tony Vincent - This stage star, a man who's had his wicked way with Queen and Journey songs already this season, was assigned Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule The World"--a song that totally brought out his '80s Anglo tendencies, and is undoubtedly a great song, but was not the best showcase for what he can do with his amazing, range-y voice. Additionally, Cee Lo had Tony singing on a stage that disturbingly made him look like a Russian dictator. Way to help Tony connect with America, Cee Lo! I personally liked this over-the-top performance (even if the vocal wasn't so over-the-top), which kind of reminded me of The Wall, but I am VERY concerned that much of America just won't get it. "I don't know how to feel about the thing that was going on up there--it was a little bit evil, hellish," said Blake, probably speaking for many conservative (or just plain confused) viewers. Cee Lo tried to explain his bizarre vision, saying, "I believe that Tony is a lover and appreciator of art and originality, so I would vote for Tony if he decided to rule the world. Nothing evil about it, it's all about love!" But I don't know if this is a performance that America will love. Then again, America voted for Lindsey Pavao's creepy-clown Gotye performance last week, so perhaps there is hope for scary General Tony after all.
Erin Martin - Cee Lo called out Erin's many "naysayers" (of which I am one) who had wanted the Shields Brothers to beat her in the Battle Rounds, and he thought having her sing the Bangles' "Walk Like An Egyptian" in a Cleopatra headdress would be the way to win over all those haters. In this case I did appreciate the theatricality of Erin's spectacle--she emerged onstage in a golden carriage drawn by shirtless Greek-god himbos, which sort of reminded me of one of Prince Poppycock's iconic "America's Got Talent" performances. This was undeniably fun. But you know--Prince Poppycock could SING. That's the difference. Erin looked as pretty as Susanna Hoffs in her bejeweled warrior-princess gear...but since she repeatedly claimed that she wanted to be judged for her VOICE, not her looks, I just have to point out that, sorry, her voice was not up to par. And Blake wasn't even appreciating her theatricality. "Here we go again with the male strippers! What the hell does that have to do with this show?" Blake griped. "I think that Blake just bought a one-way ticket to Bonertown!" Adam retorted, taking their TV bromance to a whole new icky level. I don't know about that, but Erin should get a one-way ticket home. Let Tony Vincent, a showman with a big voice to match a big production, stay on, and let him get the golden carriages instead.
Jamar Rogers - Okay, the entire episode--and this entire article--was really leading up to this moment. Let's just fast-track to Season 2's finale, because Jamar Rogers has pretty much already won "The Voice." This kid's powerhouse performance of Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way" was simply stupendous, and I have every reason to believe that things are gonna go his way this season. This was a performance in which everything worked--the wild staging (female guitar players on stilts!), the wardrobe (a red leather "Beat It" jacket and skunk-striped Colton Dixon hair!), and, of course, THE VOICE. Jamar slayed, nailed, killed, and insert-whatever-other-adjective'd this. Blake was his usual surly self ("I don't know what people in stilts have to do with anything; Jamar is too good to have all that crap onstage," he grumbled), but another rival judge, Adam, could not hide his amazement. "This moment proves us that--forget about teams, ego, competition--you embody what this show is about," Adam told Jamar. I agreed. Jamar Rogers IS the voice.
So now, it is prediction time. I think for Team Cee Lo, Jamar and Juliet are shoo-ins, and as much as I hate to say it, I think America will still vote for the lovable (if less talented) James--in fact, people might even vote for James because they feel sorry for him after he was forced to sing such a horrific song choice. As for whom Cee Lo will save as his fourth contestant, I REALLY hope it's Tony Vincent, but I am afraid Cee Lo will vote with a body part other than his ears and save sexy Erin. We shall see.
As for Team Adam, I think Katrina and Pip will get through despite their mixed reviews from the judges, and that Tony Lucca's MMC/Timberlake fanbase will vote him through as well. (The guy has more than half a million Twitter followers!) If that happens, it seems obvious that Adam would save Mathai as his fourth contestant--but all it would take is one redeeming performance from Kim Yarbrough to change his mind, so you never know.
Tune in Tuesday to see if I'm right, when the second live results show of Season 2 determines who will complete in this year's top 16 alongside Team Xtina's Jesse Campbell, Chris Mann, Lindsey Pavao, and Ashley De La Rosa, and Team Blake's RaeLynn, Jordis Unga, Jermaine Paul, and Erin Willett.