‘The Voice’ Recap: Blind Auditions #3

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Another two-hour Blind Audition episode of The Voice hit the airwaves last night. In sum, twelve contestants ended up making a team and moving on to the Battle Rounds. One of these individuals has a huge celebrity connection that will either make you instantly a fan…or cause you to scream in outrage that strings were pulled. After the jump, you’ll find out who I’m referring to, as well as my complete thoughts on the other eleven chart-topping hopefuls that found their voice on, well, you know…

First to kick things off was 25-year-old father Ray Boudreaux, a man who clearly knows how to handle a guitar. Ray’s delivery of “Use Me”” was slinky and slimy, just the way his soon-to-be coach Blake Shelton likes it. Blake called the performance “swampy,” and to me that assessment is pretty dead on. Ray’s Southern charm and provocative on-stage persona will certainly get people “stuck” on his bandwagon, but the inverse could also happen: Ray might be too comfortable in his Southern rock wheelhouse for his own good. As soon as he’s thrown a serious curve ball, a la contemporary pop track, he might reveal himself as a one-note bar singer, and not much else. He’s got a Windex-clean voice, but without it being distinctive enough, I’m afraid he’ll have a tough time making an impact this season.

Performance Review: (★★)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=QZCQleOFN7I

The next audition came courtesy of singer Lina Gaudenzi. While Lina picked what I consider to be one of the most beautifully composed songs of all-time — Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” — her vocal narration of it was anything but exquisite. Lina’s quivering, goat-like voice obliterated Stevie Nick’s classic hit and turned it into a lamb hee-hawing before their tragic slaughter. Naturally, Christina turned around for Lina and scooped up the warbling, Opera-trained little sparrow that she can now mold thoroughly. Xtina loves a challenge, but Lina might be a Mission: Impossible if this audition is any indication.

Performance Review: (★★)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=crFVkOZ_rCs

Juhi Pathak, 16, is quite the little ball of energy…but can she sing?! That question was difficult to ascertain since her song choice of “Mercy” heavily corresponded with her bubbly, free-spirited self. Juhi hit her notes just fine; however, her voice is a bit thin and nasally, which means she’ll sound strained if she’s asked to show more range in future performances. I know a lot of fans will probably see this girl as the embodiment of joy, but this is a competition that’s supposedly about finding the best talent America has to offer. I’m not sure Juhi comes close to qualifying, if I do say so myself. And yet, I had fun and I’m sure the audience at home did as well. If Juhi can evolve her technique, she’ll be an instant fan favorite. But for now, my enthusiasm is muted.

Performance Review: (★★½)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=G5bSgSL1Iks

Props to grassroots country artist Justin Blake for having the balls to sing a Blake Shelton song in front of the main man himself. But instead of reciprocating his appreciation with his support, it was Adam — not Blake — that turned their chair around for Justin. Personally, I’m not sure Justin is a strong enough vocalist to move on in the competition, but his rare breed of country artist makes him extremely valuable this season. The guy just has to work on adding some punch to his notes, otherwise they’ll be as flat as the chopping block he’s currently laying on. I’ll be shocked if Adam keeps this cannon fodder contestant past the Battle Rounds.

Performance Review: (★★½)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zhRaXV0XeVY

Finally we arrive at an audition worth a replay or two! 15-year-old singing prodigy Timyra-Joi echoes talent throughout the studio with her ambitious, if it at times overwrought, rendition of Alicia Key’s “Girl on Fire.” When she hits those power notes on the chorus, you can feel the muscle behind them. Vocally speaking, Timyra is even more impressive than Alicia on the song’s big anthemic note. She’s got the potential to be a world-class pop sensation if she concentrates on fixing her vocal issues before they become second nature problems. Her runs are extremely sloppy, and she frustratingly changes her pitch when holding notes. Hopefully Christina can help Timyra on the path to stardom she deserves to walk on. For such a young age, she’s got all the tools. Now it’s time for Timyra to build her Empire State Building.

Performance Review: (★★)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ANYztCSFA3M

Monika Leigh gives such an effortless rendition of “The Thrill is Gone” that you’d almost think she was from another era. Soulful, sultry, and mature in every sense, Monika is the real deal and was born to make the musical equivalent of comfort food. Aside from jitters that may have affected her pitch, Monika drew us all in by her professionalism and syrupy-warm tone. Also, how spectacular was it that she ended with a falsetto note that extended well past the ball park? I would like to see a bit more life in her face when she performs, but that’s just a minor criticism. Barring any competition from younger vocalists whom the judges feel are more “commercial,” Monika Leigh should have an easy time making it through the next few rounds of this competition as a part of Team Blake.

Performance Review: (★★½)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=c2tl3AgMjRg

Now here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for, folks! The celebrity connection happens to be in the form of one moderately talented Briana Cuoco, assistant and sister to The Big Bang Theory’s Kaley Cuoco! Clearly NBC has decided to merge their highest rated show with CBS’ highest rated show in an effort to — you guessed it — drive ratings! This is clear-as-day producer manipulation, and it wouldn’t hurt so much if Briana was a discovery of a lifetime. But she’s not, unfortunately. She’s just a decent songstress that has the same dilemma so many singers do: horrendous low notes, stupendous high ones! The one thing going for Briana is taste in music; Lady Gaga’s Haley Reinhart’s “Yoü and I” was a nice alternative to the overcooked pop and/or classic rock tunes that often get performed. At the very least, it shows that Briana is fully aware that introducing yourself from outside the box will always get you into the loving arms of the coaches. If we can look past that nervous, off-pitch opening, Cuoco might be able to offer something special to Team Christina. Cuoco’s lungs were bred to make splendid noise for those rare Mt. Everest notes. If Briana wasn’t so inconsistent, I’d call her a contender. But as of now, she’s on borrowed time unless she can master her lower register.

Performance Review: (★★½)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ipBt_MwEyX8

While his voice has the maturity of a toddler, I somehow preferred George Horga Jr’s version of “Treasure” to the Bruno Mars original. There was a sweetness imbued that made the song more accessible to the masses. George had command of the chorus segments, but like so many others last night, got lost in the woods with those first few verses. Just once I’d like a singer to start off their performance at a sprint. All this tip-toeing around until you find your confidence has become such a predictable pattern this year. And the coaches fall for it every time! George’s tonal variations are confounding as well. I’m not sure what “sound” he’s going for, but if he’s going for the squeaky Boy Band sound then he must stay on that beat throughout the song. Right now, I’m indifferent but hopeful when it comes to George Horga Jr. Maybe his coach, Cee Lo, can focus on the young man’s main brand…whatever that may be.

Performance Review: (★★½)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=2oa0SSnAISQ

We interrupt this program for a not-so-special announcement: CANNON FODDER MONTAGE!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=oUkqTOUH1Nw

And…we’re back! Wow, that’s a twist — these guys actually aren’t too shabby. Anthony Paul was unremarkable, but Cilla Chan and Jacob Poole both have voices I wouldn’t mind hearing again. Hopefully next time they won’t be a footnote!

Performance Reviews: Anthony (★★½), Cilla (★★), Jacob (★★)

We close the evening with Preston Pohl, an irrefutable natural that puts soulful wannabes like Taylor Hicks and Danny Gokey to shame. Every note he hit in “Electric Feel” was melodically splendid and technically flawless. I could see how Preston may seem too old-school for a youth-driven music market, but I have a feeling if given the chance Preston could be the Michael Bublé of R&B. Adam and Preston are a great combo that I’m sure can come together to produce a stage show unlike any other. If Preston makes it far in the show, Adam surely won’t resist pulling out all the stops to ensure victory.

Performance Review: (★★½)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=9AjFGO3F-54

While the majority of Blind Auditions were disappointing, two individuals stood out as serious threats moving forward. Tell us what you thought of last night’s proceedings in the comments section below!