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The Super Bowl’s over, you’ve just finished three rounds of Buffalo Wing Dip, chips and a case of beer. What comes next naturally? The season premiere of The Voice, that’s what! Xtina has come to personify excess and the American way to me, let’s pick a new melisma queen or king of the airwaves…
The Voice Season 2 premiere is a special, abbreviated Super Bowl edition, so we get a ton of exposition for the morons who missed Season 1 (like me). How is this show different from all the other Karaoke shows out there? 1) The judges pick contestants based on vocal ability. 2) This ‘blind’ picking process begins with all the judges sitting to the contestants’ backs in giant red Bird of Prey seats. 3) The judges all have a bemused disdain for each others’ musical preferences and popularity. My famous drunken rendition of 4 Non Blondes would not get me on this show, then.
Let’s meet the judges:
This show is promoting its primary conceit in such a repetitive way that I just want to shout, “YES, WE GET IT!” Judging on voice only, not appearances…
With a few digs at the competition “All the judges are on the charts RIGHT NOW”
…it’s time to get some contestants in. First the rules must be presented (again, with more detail). Is this some sort of obedience class for cats? Judges sit and listen to the performance. When the judge decides the artist is someone they want on their team, they press the button. If more than one judge presses the button? Artist gets to choose which judge’s team they will join. No one presses the button? Christina gets to tell the contestant they’re too ‘pitchy’ (think Kim Zolciak, Britney Spears or Lana Del Rey). If auto-tune is required, you’re probably not getting in.
Contestant #1 is RaeLynn, a minor from Texas. She’s straight from the farm, in a pleasant sort of way.
Adam gets a look of glee in his eye almost immediately as RaeLynn begins performing Blake’s wife’s hit: “Hell on Heels”. Blake joins with a hit of the button after another verse. Now, I love a performer, and this is a pretty good performance even though country’s not my thing. It’s strange to have such an innocent young girl singing “Sugar Daddy I’m Coming for You”, but I’ve watched a 4 year old perform a virtual strip tease on Toddlers and Tiaras, so I’ll suspend disbelief.
After the song is finished, Blake and Adam need to plead their case to RaeLynn to pick a team. While RaeLynn is painfully polite, we all know what team she will be picking – team Country all the way.
Contestant #2, Jesse Campbell, a formerly homeless father from California.
Jesse has it all – big voice, tearjerker storyline, cute daughter for cameras to pan to often. The moment he begins singing Cee Lo lights up like a Christmas tree. Where RaeLynn was suited to Blake’s style, Jesse is tailored to Cee Lo or Christina’s wheelhouse exactly.
Blake: I was the only dumbass (his words!) who hadn’t turned around!
Christina: You’re a show boater who can follow through! Let me guide you, teach you, give you plenty of camera time…
Cee Lo: I’m going to compliment you in a way so creepy you might get uncomfortable.
Adam: You’re identical to my winner last year, let’s try the same formula again!
In the end Jesse chooses cleavage, and who can blame him?
Contestant #3, Daniel Rosa, is destined for failure on this show from the moment his interview begins. “I came to this show looking for confirmation.” When he began sobbing in his intro, I knew this wouldn’t go well…
While I loved the visual of his ukulele strumming in the intro, the performance itself was cringe inducing. I was actually reminded of my own singing in Rock Band. I’m a legend in my living room, but that’s about it. The performance earns the first ‘pitchy’ critique of the night.
Contestant #4 – Juliet Simms, a raspy rocker makes my skin crawl with goose bumps, the good kind. Juliet is already an artist, and her experience shows through as she performs the shit out of “Oh, Darling”.
Now, while I love the way she performs this song with that raspy, growling character, it makes me wonder how much range Juliet has. Can she bring it with a different style of music, and does that matter? The crowd is going nuts by the end, and only Blake’s not in the running for this contestant.
The pitch contains a weird amount of passive aggressive banter, like the typical Thanksgiving at the in-laws when you bring stuffing but it’s a new recipe:
Christina: I realized by the end that you’re good enough for the other guys to want. Let me hit my button so I can insult Adam for more camera time.
Adam: Christina, you dirty slut. I’m more popular than you, so this singer will want to be with me anyway. Eventually you will see her as competition while I see her as a sex object. Give me my camera time!
Cee Lo: Ignore these fools, I’ll sit back and give you the camera time. Plus I think you’re hot too.
Juliet wisely chooses Cee Lo – and Christina runs over to make ‘peace’ with Adam. Did she take it too far? Not really, I just don’t see why Christina started it to begin with.
Contestant #5, Chris Mann, “Opera Guy”
Chris has a beautiful classically trained voice and a great background story to match. Mom has cancer, and family is behind him all the way! Chris chooses an Italian song?!? Best part of the performance: watching Blake’s expressions as he tries to figure out what language it is. I looked this song up, because it was oddly familiar yet not at all known to me. “Ama Credi E Vai” was written for the closing ceremonies of the 2006 Winter Olympics, and I bet that’s where I heard it before. Thanks Wikipedia!
I give full credit to Cee Lo for turning around before Chris turned on the full juice of the piece, while Christina waited a bit longer. Chris earns major bonus points with the producers by giving an onstage interview perfect for commercials “I just want to be myself”.
Christina: You have a huge voice, you’re the male me! Pick me!!!
Cee Lo: You can be yourself with me, even if you’re a freaky individual, come on, man!
We get three flashes of three losers:
I think the main point of these poor-formances is to give us a sense of empathy for the judges. Sorry, not working for me. Now it’s time for the ‘gotcha’ moment of the night, such as it is.
Contestant #9 is Tony Lucca, former Mouseketeer. He was on the Mickey Mouse Club from 1991-1994, while Christina was only on from 1993-1994. Will she recognize his voice? Should she care? Not that his voice is awful by any means, but Tony has had a career for the last decade as a journeyman artist, touring as a backup singer. I can’t remember the names of co-workers from 5 years ago, so I’m going to give Xtina some slack if recognition doesn’t immediately dawn upon her (and I’m not a fan of Ms. X).
Christina does have a quick glimpse of recognition after a few verses, and is the second to choose Tony after Adam does. Tony even captures the attention of Blake. Finally, Cee Lo looks like he’s about to push the button for a quartet of judicial affection, but Adam loses control and runs over to push Cee Lo’s button.
Tony finishes with flair and looks pleased to have all four judges competing for his choice.
Surprisingly, Christina makes no mention of his Mouseketeer past during the pitch:
Adam: You will have a great career ahead of you – and I pushed two buttons so pick me damn it! I’m losing my overinflated self esteem!
Cee Lo: I didn’t mean it. Sorry, didn’t mean it.
Christina: You have a great voice. I’ll just pretend we’ve never met since I forgot why I know you.
Blake: You’re such a professional with presence, and I can’t just pick all the country artists who make it to auditions I guess.
With the desperation leaving Adam at the thought of having someone on team ADHD, Christina realizes as the chair turns exactly who Tony was…or does she? I think that Christina wanted to avoid Tony picking her as coach at all costs. I mean, this guy is an artist from her past who didn’t have a wildly successful career like she did after MMC. I bet it’s a losing proposition if she doesn’t push the button and a horrifying proposition if Tony picks her as a coach. Her non-committal pitch just proves it to me. Thoughts anyone?
So now Christina hops out of the judge seat and heads backstage to get some face time before Tony can proclaim to the after-audition interview cameras his disappointment in her non-recognition. Right on queue Carson Daly is bringing the question to Tony, and cameras follow Christina on a path back to the contestant green room.
And…we come to the end of our Season 2 opener, and the end of my fill-in on this curious show – am I sad that I’ll miss 1999? Well…I’ll definitely miss seeing this Cee Lo shot!
Who’s your favorite contestant so far? Should Juliet have picked Adam? Should Jesse have picked Cee Lo? Does everything turn Cee Lo on? Discuss, discuss!