Hi everyone! I know you’re used to the intrepid Joseph Braverman guiding you through the murky waters of NBC’s The Voice, but Joseph didn’t want the job this season – can’t blame him – and I decided to use my hate-watching of this reality show to do good…or at least give my hate-watching a wider audience. I originally entered the world of competition shows for one reason and one reason only: Adam Levine. Yep, I’m a Maroon 5 girl from way back and that’s not gonna change, although I’m the first to tell you the man is a horrible judge. Anyway, now you know a little about me and my experience with the show. I’m gonna keep the same format Joseph did, reviewing each individual performances for the most part as well as highlighting flaws of the series and the judging. I tend to be highly critical of this series and its contestants, so abandon hope all ye who enter here.
It’s the third night of the blind auditions and I continue to wonder how they justify a three-hour episode spread over two nights. We get the requisite scene of the coaches waxing rhapsodic about how awesome the show is, and, by extension, how awesome they are. NOTE: In the interest of timeliness I’ve included videos to performances NBC put up immediately after the episode.
Our first contestant is John Martin, a forklift operator by day and house party singer by night. His sob story is his dad lost his job. (You might be irritated at me calling out certain facets of a contestant’s story as a “sob story,” but after the show turned crooked teeth into a personal tragedy for one contestant it’s obvious The Voice looks for people with anything they can dress up as “overcoming the odds.) Back to John. John doesn’t feel driving a forklift is his “calling.” Is it really anyone’s? He sings “Sweet Pea,” complete with whistling. It’s relaxing and melodic with a similar sound to Gavin DeGraw. Blake turns and Gwen “I only make decisions once someone else turns” Stefani also turns which compels Pharrell to turn. Blake tells John he’s good looking, which has to make Adam jealous (we all know he can’t have someone prettier than him on the show!) There’s a lot of emphasis from the judges on John’s looks…you know, because this is “The Voice.” Gwen describes John’s voice as “delicious” and “creamy” leaving me to wonder if Gwen’s hasn’t eaten today and needs a cinnamon bun. John’s eager to sing “cheesy love songs” which causes Gwen and Adam to note they sing those. Is that a compliment to them? John ends up going with Blake.
Performance Review: (★★½)
Next up is Jessie Pitts who, at 18, is practically guaranteed a spot considering The Voice loves the 16-30 set. They tout being “all ages” but whose the last person that’s gone to the finals over 35? Jessie’s a sweet girl who sang in the choir and lived in a barn with a big family. She has a genuinely unsettling history, being severely burned as a child. She sings “The Story” which Blake later points out was his wedding song. Jessie’s got that Norah Jones/Taylor Swift sound a lot of female singers perform with on here. She’s a bit pitchy and her voice cracks at one point. Oh, my God did Gwen just turn her chair unprovoked?! The heavens have opened, people! Blake also turns for Jessie. Gwen says Jessie “sounds like an angel” and prides herself on pressing her button first. Factoring in we’re in night three – and I skipped last week so someone can tell me if this isn’t a first – but I wouldn’t feel so smug about finally making a decision, Gwen. Blake, who must also be hungry, says Jessie sounds like “a bowl of Lucky Charms.” Apparently trying to sway Jessie, Gwen reminds her she’s on The Voice. That must have worked because Jessie picks Gwen.
Performance Review: (★★)
Hoping to prove me wrong on the unspoken age limit is 62-year-old Michael Stein who sings in Hebrew and has a church band with his family called The Rolling Steins. I love this guy! He’s got some serious accomplishments already under his belt, including having played the fiddle for four different Presidents. He’s also lacking a sob story which is refreshing. He performs “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,”complete with fiddle and I hate to say that, while entertainment, it doesn’t allow him to actually sing. Other than rapid vocal skills, there’s no range to test. No one turns their chair. Unfortunately, I can’t blame age for this one, the song just wasn’t right. Blake agrees (yes, with me) that the song didn’t give him enough room to test his chops. Sorry Mike, I was rooting for you! You go be awesome with The Rolling Steins!
Performance Review: (★★★½) Extra .5 for the fiddle
After poor Michael was Ricky Manning who, like Jessie Pitts, also came from a large family and his parents divorced when he was two. (The lack of sob stories in this episode is making me very happy!) He’s given himself a year to become successful in music, but so far just performs on the streets of New York hoping someone will discover him. His father’s freakishly confident he’ll get picked. Ricky performs “Love Me Again” and it’s a bit dull, but the song is so overplayed my ears could just be numb to it. Pharrell and Blake both turn proving Ricky’s dad right. Adam says Ricky looks like “a young Joaquin Phoenix” and I’m getting the sneaking suspicion Ricky has no idea who that is. Pharrell can do no wrong in my eyes, acting incredibly humble and telling Ricky that Blake is just as worthy a coach as he is. Ricky must also like Pharrell’s humility because he picks him.
Performance Review: (★★½)
Up next is Kelli Douglas, a single mom who dreams of inspiring her son by auditioning for The Voice. These are the people I like, free of trying to scour their lives for tragedy, but instead just want to make their family proud and struggle in spite of it all. She’s also one of the first contestants I’ve heard this season who has a college degree. She sings “Danny’s Song” and I get chills. Part of it is the song itself – I give additional props to anyone who sings a song that isn’t current Top 40 – and Kelli doesn’t blow-up the song with excessive vocal runs. Gwen turns, making two unprovoked decisions from her tonight – as does Blake. When Blake finds out Kelli’s from Texas he dates himself by humming the theme from Dallas. Adam thinks he’ll lose Kelli to Blake and proceeds to flirt with her. I can’t argue with that logic and I can’t argue with Kelli’s decision to pick him (the flirt works everytime!) although I’m sure she didn’t pick him exclusively because of the flirting.
Performance Review: (★★★½)
Kelli’s the first performance I’ve been excited for all evening, but can we go for two in a row? Blessing Offor is next and he sparks a revolution for this show. Due to glaucoma and a detached retina, Blessing is blind. Since the show’s inception I’ve been shocked at the lack of disabled people auditioning for the series. I mean, this should be a perfect medium for them to sing without judgement or pity. He’s also been fortunate to play at the Kennedy Center. Before going on-stage he emphasizes that his voice – more than anything else – will be what determines whether he’s chosen or not. He’s telling you what you allegedly espouse, Voice producers. Do the right thing! He starts to sing “Just the Two of Us” and I hate to use comparison but he’s got a real Stevie Wonder quality to his voice. The song, and his vocal stylings are complimentary, and it’s an uncomplicated performance. After absolutely no movement from the judges it looks like Blessing is out and Kristen’s going to throw something. At the last second all four chairs turn and that is the biggest BS I’ve seen on this show! They honestly ramped up “suspense” by making us wonder if they were going to choose a blind person or not?! Gwen mentions Blessing’s voice sounds beautiful and that she was so invested in his singing….which is why she waited till the final second to do anything. Regardless, Blessing picks Pharrell and I’m so excited to see where Blessing goes from here.
Performance Review: (★★★)
We can’t possibly go for three performances I’m genuinely invested in, right? That would be impossible. Well, I think we broke the chain because Troy Ritchie introduces himself by doing impressions of Seth MacFarlane characters and I’m instantly annoyed. He also says he’s into metal and uses words like “shredder.” He starts singing “Out of My League.” Wait, he’s singing a Fitz and the Tantrums song?! Okay, anyone who sings a Fitz and the Tantrums song that isn’t “The Walker” gets my vote. Gwen and Adam are really into it, bopping all around and if they like Fitz and the Tantrums I can’t hate them too harshly….okay, Gwen lacks Adam’s dimples so she still isn’t getting my love. Troy is singing a fun song, maintaining control and even uses the light falsetto tones the song employs. Gwen, unprovoked (you’re really making up for lost time), turns. Adam, who didn’t turn (Boo!), says Troy doesn’t look how he expected. Um, did we not assume he was a white guy?
Performance Review: (★★★★) Gets an extra .5 for song choice
There’s no way The Voice is giving me four performances to praise. Cole Wilkinson, a cute tween whose blonde hair and One Direction looks heavily imply he’ll make it. If I know one thing about The Voice they love young kids who could pass for Disney stars. Cole also lives on a farm making this the third farm resident in one episode. He starts singing “Classic” by MKTO, a song that makes me ears bleed normally. It’s the best choice for him since he looks like a boybander, but what have we learned? NO DANCING! Cole’s voice is okay, but the dancing keeps him from maintaining breath control and the whole thing sounds unrehearsed. Despite all that I’m honestly surprised no one turned. I figured they’d give him the benefit of the doubt and “mold” him. Cole unintentionally starts guilting the judges for not picking him by saying how many family members, pets, and farm animals he has. Adam reminds him that they can’t see him so dancing wasn’t the right course of action.
Performance Review: (★)
We next meet Mia Pfirrman whose parents were in a band called September. I’ve never heard of it either. She sings “Unconditionally” which works with her look as she sounds like Demi Lovato, a far cry from original singer Katy Perry. Mia is a bit heavy on the runs, but she doesn’t start throwing herself around or pushing herself towards blowing a vocal chord. She gets a four-chair turn. This is a pretty standard audition with nothing too spectacular (and I’m not walking into the joke about Adam telling Mia she should pick him because “how much fun can we have?”). Mia apparently likes what Adam’s selling – she’s a teenage girl after all – and picks him.
Performance Review: (★★★)
There’s a brief montage listing three other contestants whose auditions were either unspectacular or their sob stories weren’t sobby enough. I honestly can’t understand why they have to cut any performances – the picked ones at least – considering this is a 2-hour show and tomorrow is an hour. I’ll remember these people’s names if they stick around beyond the battle rounds but Adam, Pharrell, and Blake each took one.
Next up is Bree Fondacaro giving us a little more diversity in the form of her father who’s a little person. I’m really digging these unique stories that eschew tragedy for originality and true diversity. Bree sings “It Ain’t Me Babe,” a song I love normally, but Bree slows it down into a ballad. It’s such a rapid, powerful song that slowing it down may aid her range, but it makes the whole affair somber and doesn’t test her enunciation which I’d have liked to see. Blake is the only one who turns. I’m sure we’ll hear some more pop songs from Bree, but so far I’m excited to see how far she goes.
Performance Review: (★★★)
Our last contestant is Anita Antoinette, a name and performance I recall from season three. Her performance of “No Woman, No Cry” was intense and I never agreed with the judges’ logic in not picking her. Because of the rejection Anita’s been deathly afraid of the stage, but she’s back and performs another Bob Marley song, “Turn Your Lights Down Low.” It’s soulful and she’s adept at giving the vocal cadences Marley did. Gwen and Blake turn immediately, followed by Adam and Pharrell. Blake and Adam swear they remember her (right), and Adam brings up last season’s winner, Tessanne Chin, who is from Jamaica. Anita says she doesn’t want to be a pop star, enmeshed in “glitz and glamour” and I really wish she wasn’t on this show because she’s too good. Anita goes with Gwen (maybe she wasn’t buying Adam’s claims of being a fellow “songwriter” who could help her?).
Performance Review: (★★★1/2)
Very surprised by the unique faces I saw this week. A lot of solid performances and not many strained tales of woe.