‘The Voice’ Recap: Blind Auditions Night Four

VoiceSeason7And we’re back with another round of auditions for The Voice. We have to be getting close to the end of these, right? The show spends so much time with auditions that the Battle Rounds breeze by and we’re in the slog of the finals. I’m just saying pacing remains a problem.

The customary scene of carefree judges is shown as Gwen complains of a “smile headache,” probably because she’s not used to the emotion. I did notice after last night’s episode the amount of times Gwen said someone was “cute.” If you’re 21 or older feel free to create your own drinking game as I’ll be implementing the “cute counter” this episode.

Our first contestant is 15-year-old Katriz Trinidad whose parents are immigrants from the Philippines. She’s got a large family and I’m wondering if she’ll start listing off her immediate family, a la last night’s Cole Wilkinson, if she isn’t picked. She’s looking for a mentor more than anything else, and I hate to tell her but I doubt these judges stay in contact with the winners or runners-up. She tackles the legendary “At Last,” by Etta James. Thank goodness Christina Aguilera isn’t a judge as she tended to go on and on about knowing James. For fifteen Katriz has some great depth and a masterly command of vocal runs for such an iconic song. There’s really no surprise; she’s exactly what they’re looking for in a contestant: young with a confident voice. Everyone turns but Adam. Pharrell is flummoxed by this girl, as are the other judges, at hearing she’s just fifteen. Blake says she’s “born to be a star.” (I’m sure he’s told all the past winners the same thing.) Gwen throws a cute into the mix as Pharrell draws Katriz a picture to sway her. Blake, the living embodiment of a young grandpa, says he may not draw but he can do the heart sign with his hands. Sorry, Blake, but the picture was too impressive and Katriz picks Pharrell

Performance Rating(★★★)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0EHVoeQ9FEw

Next up is Ethan Butler, 25. He’s recently moved in with his pastor father, mother, and disabled sister. It is his sister who helped Ethan connect with music and he really wants to work with Blake because of his “compassion.” Ethan performs “Beneath Your Beautiful,” and I’m sorry but the lyrics don’t sound like a brother/sister song (Ethan mentioned dedicating the song to his sister). There’s a John Legend sound to Ethan’s voice that’s nice. Blake, and a very excited Adam, turn. Both judges compliment Ethan on how he wears his guitar. That sounds like bro code for something. Ethan actually challenges the judges, asking Adam and Blake what they can offer him as a judge. It’s a great tactic that the contestants should use to make the judges actually judge and sell themselves. Unfortunately, neither Blake nor Adam answers the question, glossing it up in buzzwords and praise for Ethan. Gwen, who didn’t turn her chair, jumps in with another “cute.” Ethan picks Adam.

Performance Rating(★★★)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UO5aTJgP5fU

We see another familiar face with Tanner Linford, 17, a season six contestant who performed Rihanna’s “Stay” last season. Since then he’s performed at county fairs and his own junior prom. Tanner performs “When You Say Nothing At All.” I’m calling it, one of the judges will assume Tanner is a girl and I can’t blame them because Tanner has a high, delicate voice. He maintains control of the voice and the song, but there’s nothing special to the performance; it sounds like something one would perform at a county fair. At the literal last second Blake hits his button, a pity vote for a second chance. This is further emphasized by Blake saying he recognized Tanner. Gwen shrieks because, like I told ya, she thought he was a girl, as did Pharrell. Gwen also ups the cute counter to three. I’m putting down money Tanner doesn’t go beyond the battle rounds.

Performance Rating(★★)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3-J4-sjYtI

Next up is Roem Baur, 37, a stay-at-home dad who performs at night. He actually went to college to study opera and sings in Italian. This guy’s story is great and I hope he’s singing an opera song. He isn’t, deciding to sing Roy Orbison’s “Pretty Woman instead.” As soon as the song starts Adam starts singing in his chair and I vote he performs this song ASAP! The song is good, but Roem isn’t doing anything to differentiate himself from Orbison, regardless of his vocal strength. I’m waiting for him to employ some opera techniques around the high notes but he doesn’t. It’s easy to understand why no one turned, but the disappointment still hurts. We’ll never get to see him sing in Italian! Adam agrees with me – smart man – and says Roem tried too hard to match Orbison.

Performance Rating: (★★★1/2) (gets the .5 for having a baby named Arlo)

After that disappointment we get Jean Kelley, 29. Okay, someone’s going to make a Gene Kelly joke, right? Or am I giving them way too much credit? Jean has the saddest story I’ve heard; her mom collapsed and died during a family trip when Jean was twelve. Jean looks a bit like Lana Del Rey. Will that influence her song choice? Apparently not because she’s singing Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone.” Jean’s a bit pitchy, but her voice is softer and compliments the song better than Clarkson who sometimes strains too much. Gwen and Blake turn. I can’t say Gwen’s choice is unprovoked because she knew Blake was planning to hit his button. Gwen says it’s comforting that Jean and her sound similar, and that they’re rocking similar hairdos. I’m not sure how to take that, Gwen. Jean also challenges the judges, asking them how they’ll get her to the end. Gwen doesn’t bother to answer the question, while Blake says he’s already helped three others make it. So, that means he’s not required to answer an honest query? Where are those three now, Blake? Despite leading us to believe she’s picking Blake, Jean goes with Gwen. Maybe they’re going to coordinate on hairstyles through the rest of the season.

Performance Rating(★★1/2)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkW8kEliZQ0

Chris Jamison, 20, is next. Chris delivers mail on his college campus, and was the self-proclaimed “best pepper shaker” in his high school rendition of Beauty and the Beast. He’s also one of a trio of triplets. He sings John Mayer’s “Gravity.” Chris is more soulful than Mayer, with a relaxed vibe. Blake and Pharrell turn. Carson Daly, who I haven’t ragged on nearly as much as I do at home, starts screaming in Chris’ family’s face after Chris is picked. Adam, recognizing Chris’ falsetto as either a sign of the enemy or something he can use, jumps in by turning. Gwen, apparently feeling left out, also turns leading to a four-chair turnout. Gwen adds two “cutes” in one sentence, topping the cute counter at five! Pharrell is shocked Chris is only twenty, because we haven’t seen anyone younger, I guess. Chris mentions his musical influences, one of whom Adam tried to sign to his label but was rebuffed. I can’t fault the guy for not signing to Adam’s label, since nothing’s really come out of it. Chris must believe in this magic label and picks Adam.

Performance Rating(★★1/2)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tbmNwftjQyU

We next meet Craig Wayne Boyd, 35, who “honed” his skills by playing in a rock bad, only to be told he sounded too country. He’s also a single dad. I’m really enjoying the single parent, both moms and dads, we’re seeing this season. He sings “The Whiskey Ain’t Working” and he certainly sounds country. Blake plays air guitar in his chair before turning. Pharrell, surprisingly, decides to give Craig a turn too. Craig has a nice voice, but if he picks Pharrell he’ll struggle to either sound different or not feel he’s being given a voice. Adam and I both compliment Craig on his sweet fringe jacket. Pharrell, who must also know my mind, didn’t know the song, but can “tell” Craig is special. Blake thinks he’s got Craig in his pocket since they both know Nashville. Craig proves Blake right and picks him. After Craig leaves Adam says he looks like Lynrd Skynrd. Seriously, he and I have a lot in common!

Performance Rating(★★★)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=63VlhndZyeQ

After that is Tini Grey, 38. Tini grew up in Samoa and his father discouraged him from joining the music industry because it’s difficult, putting Tini on the path to becoming an architect. There are a lot of very smart and educated people on this season. When his father had a stroke, Tini decided to pursue music, hoping to continue his father’s legacy. He performs “Sara Smile,” a song that’s worked towards getting several contestants to the battle rounds. Adam seems seduced by Tini’s smooth vocals, and while he doesn’t have the pitch the song calls for, he’s got (to use a term the judges seem to love) a creamy voice. No one turns, and I’m not sure why because Tini exhibited various ranges. Not even Gwen can explain why she didn’t turn. Apparently judging doesn’t extend towards giving the contestants insight into their judging practices. Blake says the falsetto wasn’t strong, which I agree with; the song just wasn’t for Tini’s voice. Sorry, Tini. Hope you find a better song next time.

Performance Rating(★★)

Next we have Toia Jones, 29, a choir girl. Her father died from diabetes complications and he’s inspired her pursuit of music. In her free time she performs in a cover band at casinos and clubs. Carson tries to make a funny about booking her for a gig…right now. Oh, Carson. You slay me! Toia sings “One and Only” with a power and richness to her voice that’s utterly beautiful. There are no excessive runs or theatrics, just pure dynamism. Why aren’t these people turning?! Pharrell finally turns, continues to flaunt the fact he’s the smartest judge of the group. Adam, apparently knowing I think Pharrell is the better judge, also turns his chair. The confidence must be strong for Pharrell because Adam resorts to the flirt. Pharrell combats the flirt by using logic, delivering “a verbal gift covered in spikes,” both praising Adam and telling Toia how the front man will fail her. Touché, Mr. Pharrell. The power of the flirt is broken because Toia picks Pharrell.

Performance Rating(★★★1/2)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTA1OES3nnc

Amanda Lee Peers, 29, is the next contestant. Where yesterday we saw several people who lived in barns or farms, today we get a lot of church-goers. Amanda struggled to reconcile religion with her sexuality, ultimately giving up her church for failing to embrace her after she came out. She’s a definite firecracker. Kudos also to NBC for not shying away from showing Amanda being affectionate with her girlfriend (talking to you ABC). Amanda sings “Put the Gun Down.” She has a honky-tonk, rock voice a la Taryn Manning during the Boomkat years. Yes, I made a Boomkat reference. The judges tend to go for those with raspy voices, particularly Adam. Gwen, unprovoked, turns first and last. No one else turns. Gwen says Amanda is the whole package, and Pharrell is bummed he missed out on her. Adam tries to make up a meme for Gwen’s “stealing” of Amanda, “I just got Gwen’d.”

Performance Rating(★★★)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZXl-9HDp_cM

We get another montage involving contestants who are apparently too happy in comparison to the genuinely sad people with real problems we’ve seen. Gwen takes on, Adam takes another, and Blake takes the third. I’ll remember these people’s names when it’s relevant.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-5MS_PKfjs

Our last audition is Jonathan Wyndham, 22. Jonathan is the one I’m rooting for; he carried a briefcase as a kid and his dad thought he was a dweeb. Hey, dad, briefcases are cool! Jonathan also has a dream of going to every Cracker Barrel in the world. That’s actually a way better goal than winning The Voice! Jonathan sings A Great Big World’s “Say Something.” Do you think Christina Aguilera’s radar pinged? “To the Voice! They need my musical accompaniment!” The performance is decent, but there’s little that can’t be experienced from hearing the band play this live. Jonathan scores a four chair turn. Gwen says he sounded sincere, yet not; the emotion was there, but wasn’t. Seriously, Gwen, it’s okay to make a declarative statement. Jonathan tells Adam he’s listened to Maroon 5 since he was twelve. Okay, I feel hideously old now. Adam says Jonathan’s voice is raw and vulnerable. When Jonathan asks Blake if he likes Cracker Barrel, Blake has the best response of all time: “OMG, we’re meant to be.” This is easily the greatest audition I’ve seen from an entertainment standpoint. Blake, especially, is on fire this season (possibly an influx of alcohol). Jonathan picks Adam and I’m sad he didn’t pick Blake; the man loves Cracker Barrel! Adam probably has no idea what a Cracker Barrel is.

Performance Rating(★★★)

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHHM09E_Big

I’m assuming there are only one or two more nights of auditions. This episode was pretty straightforward. I’m really appreciating the lack of sob stories and over sentimentality. Our cute counter topped out at five, everyone! Until next week.