Long before Kelly Clarkson officially joined The Voice panel five seasons ago, the show’s producers were already in complete denial when it came to the rival talent show that launched her career (and arguably created the blueprint for The Voice itself). Kelly's American Idol pedigree was not mentioned when she was a Voice guest adviser way back in 2012, and later, when recognizable Idol alumni like Sundance Head (who actually won The Voice in 2016) and Jon Peter Lewis competed on The Voice, they too saw complete erasure of their Idol history. When Jennifer Hudson became the first ex-Idol contestant to join The Voice as a full-time coach in 2017, she never mentioned her TV past either — not even when Kelly was her Battle Rounds adviser, and not even two seasons later, when she and Kelly were Voice coaches at the same time. Sure, they might’ve vaguely referenced their previous singing show experience in an attempt to recruit a potential team member, but the words “American” and “Idol” never, ever left Kelly or J.Hud’s lips.
Kelly has been on The Voice for so long now that she almost never needs to allude to her status as the O.G. American Idol champ. She has three coaching wins as a Voice champ that she can brag about instead. But on Tuesday’s Blind Auditions episode, Kelly must have been feeling a bit desperate — after getting a “rough start” to the night and being mercilessly teased by her onscreen nemesis, Blake Shelton — because there were two instances during the merely hour-long episode when she brought up her talent show credentials. She told one contestant, “I’ve obviously navigated a singing competition myself before, so I do think there is some strategy to it,” and urged another to join Team Kelly and “pick someone that won a vocal competition!” Even Voice host Carson Daly got in on the act, defending Kelly against Blake and the other coaches by noting, “She’s won a show just like this! Arguably she knows more about this than any of you!”
Of course, The Show That Shall Not Be Named was never mentioned specifically. But Blake knew exactly which program Kelly and Carson were talking about, and so he flatly retorted to Carson, without a missing a beat: “That show was canceled!” Oh, snap.
Yes, the Fox network did cancel American Idol in 2016. (Kelly actually played a big role in Fox’s farewell season, appearing as a guest judge and/or a guest performer on two episodes, as well as singing on the grand finale.) But it only took two years for Idol to be successfully rebooted on ABC, so Blake’s comment was extreme. If Kelly had wanted to get back at Blake, she could have mentioned his pre-Voice judging stint on Nashville Star, a show that was, in fact, permanently canceled long ago. And if Blake had really wanted to insult two of his fellow Voice coaches at once, he should have made a dig at Duets, ABC’s long-forgotten 2012 ratings-disaster singing competition, which was judged by both Kelly Clarkson and John Legend! That’s a show that probably everyone wants to erase.
Anyway, it was amusing to witness a bit of that old Idol/Voice rivalry; it took me back a whole decade, back to spring 2011 when The Voice premiered and was the shiny new show everyone was talking about. Otherwise, there wasn’t much to talk about this week; Tuesday’s Voice episode was uneventful, never really getting past its “rough start,” with two no-chair auditioners even receiving a bizarrely generous amount of screentime. But these were the few successful singers of the night:
Connor Christian, 23: “Bright Lights”
This bluesy everyman attempted to honor his hero, Gary Clark Jr., but both his voice and presence were too light to do Gary’s song justice. Connor’s performance was utterly lacking in fire, and the song was all wrong for his distractingly goaty vibrato. I have no idea how this guy turned three chairs, or why the delusional Blake was “blown away” and compared Connor’s pedestrian guitar playing to that of Angus Young. (Um, what?) Ironically, Connor seemed disappointed that John, who has dueted with Gary, was the one coach who was not impressed by this by-the-numbers bar-band number.
Who turned? Blake, Nick, and Kelly.
Result: Team Blake. Maybe Blake will have Connor cover AC/DC and Connor will have better luck, but I doubt it.
Bradley Sinclair, 22: “Say You Won’t Let Go”
This nerdy ex-Apple Store worker quit his day job a month ago to pursue a music career in Nashville, but I’m not sure that was a great idea. He was quirky and likable, but his performance was a mess, ahead of beat and shouty throughout. However, Kelly somehow mistook Bradley’s shouting for “passion,” and coach Nick Jonas thought Bradley had “an amazing foundation vocally to build on.”
Who turned? Kelly and Nick.
Result: Team Jonas. Nick has a strong team, so I suspect Bradley won’t survive the Battle Rounds, and might even get montaged.
Gihanna Zoë, 17: “She Used to Be Mine”
This teen sounded nervy and whiny, but she belted from the heart and eventually pulled it together enough to turn a couple last-minute chairs. Kelly noted that Gihanna was “a little bit pitchy” and Nick noted the nerves, but both still heard potential. Meanwhile, John, who was being extremely selective all evening, explained that he didn’t hit his button because Gihanna was too “shaky,” although he praised her strong finish.
Who turned? Kelly and Nick.
Result: Team Kelly.
JD Casper, 28: “How to Save a Life”
I commend this one-man-band dude for accompanying himself with a crafty handmade kick-drum that he operated with his foot, which was a neat gimmick. But it was just that: a gimmick. If I saw him busking on the street I’d toss a couple dollars in his guitar case, but if I were a Voice coach I’d never turn for him. I was surprise Kelly did. His Fray cover was pretty much unrecognizable until he got to the chorus (even Kelly, who’d toured with the Fray, wasn’t sure what song JD was doing), it seemed in too low a key, and he emotionally flatlined throughout. Kelly actually seemed frustrated by JD’s lack of range, pointing to the ceiling and whispering, “Go up, go up!” But she later told him, “Where I wanted you to go, you ended up going at the very end. You pushed your range a little bit.” She also warned him, “I’m gonna push you.” JD needs pushing.
Who turned? Kelly, who seemed happy to get an “Americana” artist on her team by default.
Result: Team Kelly. “Guys like you that look cool never choose me, and you have no choice,” Kelly chuckled, though JD claimed she was his first choice anyway.
Deion Warren, 28: “Shallow”
Taking on such an iconic duet solo was a tall order for Deion, and he stayed more in the Bradley Cooper range, never hitting those Lady Gaga high notes. But he didn’t need to. He had a rich and gorgeous tone, and his less-in-more subtlety worked. Kelly loved that Deion didn’t showboat and showoff, thinking he merely served as “the perfect vessel” for the song’s message. “Picky” muso john was very impressed without how Deion made the A Star Is Born ballad his own, raving, “It takes skill to pull that off. It takes musicianship. It takes artistry.”
Who turned? Kelly, John, and Nick. Interestingly, Blake didn’t turn because he was keeping his promise to Team Blake member Cam Anthony to “keep that lane open” not recruit any similar soul/pop/gospel singers. Wow! For once, Blake did not lie!
Result: Team Legend. John’s “pickiness” paid off.
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