‘The Voice’ Recap: Blind Auditions #4

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Monday night’s Blind Audition episode of The Voice was a bit of a disaster from a quality standpoint. The bar has since been lowered, so last night’s show has nothing to fear, right? Find out below if Adam Levine, Cee Lo Green, Blake Shelton, and Christina Aguilera can get back into the groove of recognizing major talent.

First up to redeem the show was Los Angeles native Will Champlin, who proved that Gavin Degraw’s “Not Over You” could pull heartstrings without piano accompaniment. Will never got too sappy with the lyrics — he played it cool throughout and used the raw purity of his voice to sell the song’s deeper themes. He needs to work on his breathing, as his vocal delivery got a bit out of sorts in the first few verses, but once he tore into the chorus it was calm waters the rest of the way. Will Champlin might get lost in the diverse roster of contestants this season, but I for one feel he’s got massive recording artist potential. Let’s see if Adam shares my sentiments in the next few rounds.

Performance Review: (★★½)

Stephanie Anne Johnson may have brought the attitude and spunk to her cover of KT Tunstall’s “Black Horse and the Cherry Tree,” but it was far too karaoke for me to handle. Johnson didn’t experiment with the notes, offer up any original phrasing, or take advantage of the track’s dynamic arrangement. I think back to when Katharine McPhee dominated this song back in Season 5 of American Idol, and how she beamed relevance with her contemporary song choice yet still delivered the goods when it came to technique. Stephanie has a serviceable instrument, but it is severely limited. Even her high notes were relatively unimpressive. Maybe Christina can turn Stephanie into a contender, but right now I’m thinking this self-described professional lounge singer might want to keep said job.

Performance Review: (★★½)

Our first major slice of seasonal cheese comes by way of Sam Cerniglia, whose rendition of “It’s a Beautiful Day” was so corny and old-fashioned that I almost had a heart attack when I learned this track was released this past February. Michel Bublé cover or not, there’s no excuse for a song to come off like it’s well past its expiration date, ready to give you food poisoning if you listen for too long. Cerniglia doesn’t embody Bublé’s crooner charm or sophistication; he seemed even-keeled but not exactly enthusiastic throughout. The verses before the chorus were sung flatly and had little meat to them. Cerniglia hit his closing note with silky-smooth prettiness, but it wasn’t enough to undo his former crimes against the home audience. Naturally the Master of Cheese himself, Blake Shelton, snatches up Sam, forcing us to endure what’s likely to be a long affair.

Performance Review: (★★)

James Irwin is one of those contestants who starts off so strong — he got all four chairs to spin around after just a few bars — but nosedives once they hit the all-important chorus. Going back to the beginning, I appreciated how James’ version of R.E.M.’s “Losing My Religion” wasn’t as whiny-sounding as most covers. He sprinkled some smooth, soulful R&B flavor in his opening verse that gave the song a different yet still powerful feel. But man oh man did James tank when he unleashed the Kraken! Shouty, disconnected with his lyrics, and nowhere close to hitting his notes, James delivered one of the weakest vocals this season has seen. It’s clear he needs a ton of coaching, and I’m not sure he’ll be ready enough to give us a good showing in the Battle Rounds. But if anyone can cover up crappy technique with unique song arrangements that distract pleasurably, it’s Adam Levine.

Performance Review: (★★)

Miranda Lambert’s doppelganger, Olivia Henken, is up next with a rousing and angry-pretty rendition of Carrie Underwood’s “Two Black Cadillacs.” What Olivia lacks in risk-taking appeal and originality, she makes up for with a keen sense of drama. She knows how to put emotional weight behind each note, making us care much more about this silly song than we thought possible. While a bit bland and unmemorable, I’m happy she is on Team Christina. If nothing else, the pop diva can spice up her image and maybe even her vocal stylings. I want a bigger, bolder, badder performance next time from Olivia Henken, and hopefully Christina can help accomplish that.

Performance Review: (★★)

Gospel singer turned R&B artist R. Anthony cleansed our souls with his stirring version of “Hall of Fame.” There was something triumphant and life-affirming about his performance that grabbed hold of you. Like his coach Cee Lo said, R. Anthony certainly gave us one heck of an “experience.” But I’m not sure his happy-go-lucky brand of artistry is made for longevity in this competition. I could see R. Anthony pushed to the back of the line in favor of more compelling contestants. So although R. Anthony is likely cannon fodder, at least he did what so many performers last night couldn’t do: sing!

Performance Review: (★★)

Justin Chain has a superstar name, but will Nashville embrace him into their world of country? According to Blake Shelton, they just might! Performing “She’s Country” (which Season 2’s RaeLynn memorably dominated), Justin added just the right amount of sass to kick this monster truck of a song into third gear. I detected a bit of fear and hesitation, but his voice certainly didn’t suggest as much. RaeLynn’s performance was a lot more fun to behold, but Justin did an admirable if slightly stilted job on one of Blake’s favorite tracks. Justin may not be a rarity in the cornfield, but he sure knows his “country” from front to back.

Performance Review: (★★)

Of course, The Blind Auditions wouldn’t be what they are without the montage snippets of contestants that made it through to the next round. I can’t say the ones showcased will evolve from their initial cannon fodder status, but one never knows what NBC or the coaches have up their sleeves. Let’s examine these contestants for what it’s worth.

What kind of tomfoolery is this that Amber Nicole’s entire audition wasn’t shown? She was vocally flawless in her package. Keaira Lashae and Emily Randolph sounded fine, but no one will lose an ounce of sleep if they left the competition tomorrow.

Performance Reviews: Keaira (★★½), Amber (½), Emily (★★½)

Last but definitely not least was Ashley DuBose, 23, who proved her worth with a stunning take on Rihanna’s “Diamonds.” Giving me my first real chills of the season, Ashley’s rendition was so inviting and never ceased to shine with power. I loved her carefree attitude, not to mention her superb diction that really allowed us to hear the song clearly for the first time (no disrespect, Rihanna!). She pumped even more Caribbean flavor into this track than the original version, surpassing any and all expectations of her artistic abilities. There is a richness to Ashley’s voice that could carry her all the way to the finish line. Adam, please don’t let this beautiful, exquisite gem leave anytime soon!

Performance Review: (★★)

Even though this week on The Voice has mostly been a disappointment, you can’t deny the awesomeness of closing with someone as incredibly gifted as Ashley DuBose. And with that said, I leave it you guys! Sound off your thoughts below in the comments section!