Christina Aguilera and "The Voice" went up against Britney Spears and "The X Factor" Wednesday night, in possibly the most exciting televised competition between the former "Mickey Mouse Club" starlets since they vied for Madonna's affections onstage at the 2003 VMAs. Back then, Xtina had to settle for sloppy seconds, but this time she came out on top, so to speak, as "The Voice" surprisingly prevailed in the ratings. I say "surprisingly" because, honestly, "The X Factor" was the better show of the night. But clearly "The Voice"--after establishing itself as a consistent source of entertainment (let's face it, "The X Factor" wasn't quite so consistent, or so entertaining, in Season 1)--has an extremely solid fanbase. And apparently it's a fanbase that can't be lured away for even an hour, not even by Simon Cowell or Britney Spears.
This is not to undersell "The Voice"--it does what it does very well, which is present one normal, humble singer after another, for all the family to enjoy. So while "The X Factor" paraded out a drag-queen cake decorator in a wedding dress, a 50-year-old breakdancer, and a pair of smack-talking mean girls, "The Voice" kept things positive and relatively gimmick-, and drama-, and schadenfreude- free. Unfortunately, this made for a somewhat dull episode. Until the end, that is. That's when a contestant named Domo, who I swear must've gotten lost on her way to her "X Factor" (or "America's Got Talent," or "Gong Show") audition, showed up. But more on her later.
Anyway, in case you were watching "The X Factor" Wednesday night and forgot to set your DVR for NBC, here's what you missed:
Samuel Moulton - This reggae-lovin' pizza chef and "loser" gave a performance of "Redemption Song" that sounded like an eerily dead-on Bob Marley impression. But that was precisely the problem: It sounded like an IMPRESSION. It just didn't sound authentic to me, at all--come on, this dude, unlike Monday's Anita Antoinette, didn't grow up in Jamaica. Heck, he didn't even grow up in Jamaica, Queens! However, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine, and Christina, who all hit their buttons, all thought that Sam sounded like the real deal. Cee Lo said he was "not a copycat"; Adam said, "I can tell you're a scholar of reggae music"; and Xtina told him, "You seem like a real artist with something to say." (To quote "American Idol's" Jason Castro, I think that something was, "I was thinkin' Bob Marley!") Sam went with Adam, which I think was the best choice, but Adam better teach this kid how to sing in his own voice, and in his own style, or Sam's shtick is going to get old real fast.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam
Chris Trousdale - I felt really bad for this down-on-his-luck ex-member of Jesse McCartney's old boy band Dreamstreet, as he talked about the humiliation of being recognized by his former fans while he's waiting tables at a sushi restaurant and waiting to get another break someday. I was even hoping that "The Voice" would provide him with that break. But when Chris started singing the Wanted's "Glad You Came"--kind of a dumb song choice, if he was trying to distance himself from his boy band past--it soon became obvious why his career has stalled, while Jesse's has thrived. Chris just wasn't that good, and my guess is, back in his Dreamstreet days he was the one who danced in the back and never got to sing any leads. The best thing about his performance was his moonwalk, but really, all his dancing compromised his vocals even more, and he sounded a bit winded throughout. When no chairs spun around, he looked devastated--but not as devastated as his mom, who was seen backstage crying on Carson Daly's shoulder. Sad.
MEMBER OF: Team No One
Nelly's Echo - This 32-year-old Nigerian refugee, whose real name is Nelson, came to this land to pursue the American dream, which apparently is to become a singing star via a TV talent show. His "Ain't No Sunshine" performance was perfectly pleasant, and his backstory was moving, but he kind of seemed like a Javier Colon 2.0 to me, so I do not think this will be his year. Xtina and Adam apparently thought differently, though, since they both turned their chairs. For some reason, Nelly went with Christina, not with the more obvious choice of Adam. I honestly have no idea what Xtina is going to do with this guy.
MEMBER OF: Team Xtina
2Steel Girls - This mother/daughter country duo, who warbled "Idol" sweetheart Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats," were a mixed bag. I thought the mom (either Allison or Krystal, I get them mixed up) was much better than her daughter, and I wondered if there'd be some drama when the coaches suggested that Mommy ditch her kid and go solo. But of course, "The Voice" is not that sort of show, so it was one big family-style lovefest instead. Interestingly, Cee Lo wanted the Steels, but of course they decided to go with Blake Shelton. I still think Blake should consider ordering Mom to go solo, but I know he's way too nice a guy to ever do that.
MEMBER OF: Team Blake
Lisa Scinta, MarissaAnn & Loren Allred - These poor ladies all got relegated to a blink-and-you'll-miss-it sizzle reel, which does not bode well for them. Historically, most montage contestants end up with very little screentime before they're quickly cast aside in the Battle Rounds. But all three women showed promise--particularly Lisa, who had an interesting tone--so maybe NBC editors are saving one or more of them to be a big surprise later on. We shall see.
MEMBERS OF: Teams Xtina, Xtina, and Adam, respectively
Domo - Ooh boy. Here we go. This Bronx-bred pop dancer came to her audition with half a pantleg and about 10 Xtinas' worth of ego. "In China, I am like Lady Gaga," she boasted. (Hey, Chinese readers out there: Any of you want to back up Domo's claim?) "I am Domo. I AM THE VOICE," she declared, before naturally singing the most bragalicious song in the female pop songbook, the Pussycat Dolls' "Don't Cha." I am not sure if most men out there actually wish their girlfriends were hot like Domo--really, she should have changed the lyric to "Don't cha wish your girlfriend was a hot mess like me?"--but the one judge who did buzz in for Domo, Cee Lo, sure seemed THRILLED when he spun around and got a look at her. A private, almost lapdance-style concert ensued, as Cee Lo whooped it up and Domo basked in his undivided attention. I do have to admit, the girl was fun, and entertaining, and while I'd expected her to be a trainwreck after all her bragging, I should have realized this is "The Voice," and there are no real trainwrecks on this show. So it turned out she actually COULD sing. Cee Lo was delighted to have Domo all to himself, and the other coaches seemed more than happy/relieved to let him have her. "That's a handful right there," laughed Christina. I think when Cee Lo gets his hands on Domo, it's going to make for some fantastic TV.
MEMBER OF: Team Cee Lo
Nicolle Nelson - Nicolle was positioned at the end of the show as the episode's big breakout star, but honestly, I found her annoying. Her whole earth-mama thing (she lives with an artists' collective in old Burlington, Vermont, shoe factory; she honed her craft at open-mic jams; she makes her own tinctures and grows her own food) was so over-the-top, I could practically smell the patchouli wafting off my TV screen. And when she revealed her song choice, I was like, REALLY? Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"??? Again? There are other songs out there to sing on TV talent shows, you know. But I have to admit, the woman could really belt it out. So all four judges turned around and soon got embroiled in an all-out begging war. I'd say Adam looked like the cat that ate the canary when Nicolle eventually joined his team (especially since she admitted she'd originally wanted to go with Blake)...but I have a feeling that Nicolle is vegan, so I'll refrain from saying that.
MEMBER OF: Team Adam
So for those of you keeping track, so far Team Cee Lo has Domo, Mackenzie Bourg, Trevin Hunte, and Daniel Rosa; Team Blake has 2Steel Girls, Casey Muessigmann, Julio Cesar Castillo, Terry McDermott, and Gracia Harrison; Team Xtina is way ahead with Nelly's Echo, Lisa Scinta, MarissaAnn, Aquile, Adriana Louise, De'Borah, and Devyn DeLoera; and Team Adam has Samuel Moulton, Loren Allred, Nicolle Nelson, Bryan Keith, and Joe Kirkland. So far the only contestants I'm really excited about are Mackenzie, Terry, De'Borah, Aquile, Joe...and, for comic value, I guess, Domo. But since "The Voice" is extending its Blind Auditions this season, there is probably much more talent to come.