The Voice Episode 2.02: ‘The Blind Auditions, Part 2’ Recap

Posted on February 7, 2012


The Voice Titles

Summary: The Blind Auditions continue with a cavalcade of talent and attitude.

** Note: Review contains spoilers if you have not seen the episode.**

KSiteTVNight 2 of The Voice and we’re in a bit of a pickle with the format. All four of the judges/coaches – Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, Cee-Lo Green, and Christina Aguilera – has to select 12 members each for their individual teams to move on to the next round. While this offers a great variety, we are deluged with contestants that we barely have a moment to get to know before they’re shuffled through and we’re on to the next.

I wouldn’t necessarily have a concern with this except that they make an effort to introduce each of the singers they’re focusing on in the episode with a clip package. In some instances, we get a memorable story; in others, a sense that we’re being offered a can of Compassionade. The non-diet, extra caffeinated, full-caloried kind. I’m not heartless or cold, but I also don’t like feeling manipulated. Give me the songs, show me the person, and we’ll get to know their story.

The night kicks off with a medley tribute to the Purple One himself, Prince, by the judges, and it’s more (Cee-Lo) or less (Blake) successful. Nothing particularly memorable, which was a bit grimace-inducing given the supposed disparate styles of the four, but it did fill the room with some energy. Of course, we the viewing audience aren’t actually in the room and the energy is cut to pieces by the audition format for the rest of the episode. I guess I’m scratching my head as to why they included this performance in the episode at all.

The Line (Leland Grant and Hailey Soyland): Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers’ “American Girl”
A cute young duo who have such a strong and easy chemistry that everyone had to ask if they were dating. Of course, he actually tried to date her – that’s how they met – which made the bewildered looks of the two seem oddly funny and awkward. If you’re going to be a guitar-slinger, you couldn’t go wrong with picking a Tom Petty tune, and they didn’t. They have a good, bright energy and the performance was pure fun. It was a nice touch to start with just one voice (his) and then fold her in, and it definitely hooked Christina. I like the duo concept and really like the co-ed aspect of it. It’ll be fun to see what they can do moving forward. The one concern I have is that as connected as the two were, I didn’t think they had the most perfect blend of voices throughout the song.
Chosen: Team Christina

Jamar Rogers: The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”
I’m not sure there’s much to say about Jamar. His backstory says quite a lot – a former heroin addict who has tested HIV positive and now devotes his time to helping feed the poor and needy – and you get the feeling from him that he’s shifted to the kind of selfless and driven without quibbling mentality that such a diagnosis brings to people. He went for it in his performance, and while I think the song got away from him at points, his fire and nice, funky groove should push him far.
Chosen: Team Cee-Lo

Neal Middleton: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles’ (or Gladys Knight’s or Marvin Gaye’s or Creedence Clearwater Revival’s) “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
I feel for Neal – rhyme not intended – the Slash-like rocker who is at what he feels is a “now or never” point in his life. In his early 30s, a wife and child, a passion that’s been dulled by experience of that pesky thing called life but is still trying to fight through with vigor. I’ve been (am) there and his brief moment on the show touched a nerve in me. But he’s also at a crux where he’s stagnated and isn’t pushing himself to that next level. He has one of those great rock star voices but he didn’t it allow it to have any color or range of depth to make him really stand out or get everyone out of their seats. The judges mentioned him singing through the song with a single intensity, which made them like him but not enough to turn around. He also seemed to be hamstrung by doubt on stage, leaving him to be rather stiff. He all but dismissed his dreams at the end but I hope he reconsiders and lets some of that angst and emotion in to have an even more engaging art.
Chosen: No one

Gwen Sebastian: Sugarland’s “Stay”
Here’s one of those pre-packaged deals that had me scratching my head. Gwen is a bit older than a number of the contestants and is in somewhat of a similar position to Neal. At the same time, it’s given her a world weariness that helps and informs her voice. I don’t really get the point they were trying to make about the choice between family and career here. Unless they were playing at natural biological clock tendencies and the time and commitment she’d have to devote at this point to really get her career going – pushing out he timeframe to have children by another few years – it felt like an inflated bit of drama strictly for the point of drama. I half-expected a timeclock to pop up on the screen 24-style to make sure Gwen “saved the day” by getting through to the next round. I wasn’t fully sold on her voice – it was bit ethereal at the start – but she did have a lovely way of drawing out notes and drawing in the audience, something I believe Adam commented on. I like her look and her spunk, though, so we’ll see what she brings to the table.
Chosen: Team Blake

Pamela Rose: Kelly Clarkson’s “Already Gone”
There’s something oddly – cannibalistic isn’t the word – incestuous(?) about contestants in a singing competition auditioning with songs from former contestants/winners of singing competitions. Of course, Kelly Clarkson is the gold standard of the genre, someone who has showed just what an opportunity this can present. She also continues to be a strong anomaly amongst the genre, showing just how much more than a good (or great) singing voice you have to have to succeed. Unfortunately, with Pamela she didn’t even bring that. She wasn’t bad but her nervousness and lack of technique sunk her. She was pitchy and kept swallowing phrases which stilted the whole performance. I wasn’t surprised to see none of the judges turn around for her.
Chosen: No one

Kim Yarborough: Rufus and Chaka Khan’s “Tell Me Something Good”
The Queen Bee of Sass! Everything about Kim is just fun, free, and glowing. And how could it not be? Here’s a woman of a certain age (50) who has been performing for more than half her life. She’s lived, she’s loved, she’s experienced and she feels comfortable in her skin and completely possessed of herself. Every ounce of that shined through in her voice and her performance. Talk about a perfect song to showcase yourself. The Chaka Khan comparisons were not only apropos but well deserved. And I loved that her performance style recalled people like Smokey Robinson and a lot of the Motown groups with the full-bodied singing and the powerful facial expressions. She’s gonna be hoot.
Chosen: Adam

Angie Johnson: Pat Benatar’s “Heartbreaker”
It’s the soldier who sang “Rolling in the Deep”! While I didn’t necessarily favor the video I was quite impressed when the YouTube clip was making the rounds and showing off Johnson’s talent. What the video didn’t quite capture was something she made up for cleanly on the show: her terrific stage presence. The confidence of Angie’s voice is the thing that stands out most about her and it gives her a great rock vibe and such amazing power while out there in front of people. Above that, she has impressive command of that power, which should keep her a force in this for a while. The funny thing is that power seemed to scare of the judges. Kudos to Cee-Lo for taking the gamble. That final note was a killer to end on too. I think the others will be kicking themselves over this one.
Chosen: Team Cee-Lo

Dez Duron: Backstreet Boy’s “I Want It That Way”
It’s hard not to be a little rough on Dez. His father won a Grammy, he went to Yale (and played football for them; ahem, yeah…), and he has that sort of fresh-scrubbed look of the boy bands from the ’90s. The judges didn’t turn around but they inexplicably kept ranting about kicking themselves for not having picked him. Sure, he’s got a marketable look, but did you listen to him sing? He had good moments, but the whole thing was like peaks and valleys, not consistent at all. It was pitchy and his phrasing was all over the place. My biggest issue was for a confident as he seemed in his clips, he didn’t really have a stage presence or personality at all. I don’t think you guys missed out at all, judges.
Chosen: No one

Lindsey Pavao: Trey Songz’s “Say Aah”
I’m a huge Fiona Apple fan, so to say I loved Lindsey is an understatement. I don’t know if that’s going to be a good thing or a bad thing for her as the competition moves along. There’s enough of a difference in her voice that I think we’ll see much more from her. The quirky, lovely tone aside, Lindsey sold herself as an “inventor”, which makes me think we’re going to see her try to play around with arrangements and styling more than any of the other artists. Christina says she wants to “play” with her. I’m hoping that they do allow her to play and not try to shoehorn her into what they specifically think she should do.
Chosen: Team Christina

Hoja Lopez: Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream”
There was a faint warble to Lopez’s voice in the beginning that recalled songstress Adele ever-so-slightly to me but it was clear pretty early on that she wasn’t prepared for this. Her nervousness, instead of feeding her, took over and it hampered her throughout the entire song. That’s the danger in picking someone like Katy Perry to sing. Either you go full out with the pop energy of the original or you have your own unique flavor that puts a stamp on the song. Lopez had neither – or, at least, displayed neither – and right toward the end of the song, as she saw that none of the judges were turning around, she kind of gave up. It’s hard to tell what she’s capable of – her range appeared quite limited – but I hope she finds confidence in herself to improve.
Chosen: No one

Jermaine Paul: Avril Lavigne’s “Complicated”
I’m just going to state this now: I don’t particularly care for Jermaine. They’ve built him up over the last two nights, showcasing him in little vignettes before he performed and really trying to sell us on his background as a former backup singer for Alicia Keys. He has a confidence and wherewithal of the business to make him a force, but I couldn’t help but feel it was overly aggressive. And to be honest, I felt like his performance is what I would expect of a backup singer. He felt like he was trying to hard at points and really pushing. Plus, he has a tendency to really punch that all-too-common vibrato at the end of lines, which I’m not a huge fan of. He got better in the chorus and had a nice ending to the song, so I don’t want to dismiss him outright. I think the combination with Blake is going to make for a compelling progression. I fully expect him to want to go his own way every week, though, so it remains to be seen how much of a team player he is.
Chosen: Team Blake

Angel Taylor: Adele’s “Someone Like You”
Final performance of the night is somewhat of an unenviable position. That coupled with a song – a lovely, gorgeous song – that has been somewhat overplayed in the pop consciousness kind of set the table for Angel to close things out on a down note. Thankfully, she didn’t. While I did get the feeling she was straining at points in trying to contain herself, which she shouldn’t have, she had such a bluesy delivery that worked very well with the song. Cee-Lo pointed out the difficulty in having to stay in a lower register for most of the song but commented on how she did it with warmth, an insightful comment that captured her tone perfectly for me. The thing I like most about Angel is the nice character to her voice, capable of telling stories not just belting out tunes. Admitting the crush on Blake made for cute TV, but I think she made the right choice in going with Adam.
Chosen: Team Adam

Does anyone else feel that the sniping of the judges seems more like it came from stage notes rather than proper camaraderie? I’m finding it a rather unpleasant part of the show right now.

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Posted in: Television, The Voice